By Barbara Rainey
This Thursday, May 21, 2020, marks forty days since Resurrection Sunday, the day in the Bible when Jesus left the earth for heaven. But for most Christians, Ascension Day is uncelebrated, unnoticed, even unknown. We know the Easter story, but do we know the Ascension story?
For centuries too many have missed this critical event that deserves a bit of hoopla of its own—for at least four major reasons. Here is Ascension Day explained.
1. The ascension of Christ signals Jesus’ momentous completion of His Father’s will and work here on earth. After the Resurrection, Jesus appeared many times to His followers during these days. Paul records some of these appearances: “… He appeared to Cephas, the twelve, … then to more than five hundred brothers at one time …” (1 Corinthians 15:5).
Because God always works precisely and intentionally, there are reasons not yet known to us why Jesus stayed on earth for exactly 40 more days. It is clear He demonstrated His deity to these hundreds. I imagine everyone listened intently to His every word having witnessed His rising from the dead. Wouldn’t you?
2. Before Day 40 Jesus continued to fulfill the Father’s purposes by preparing His followers for the church age to come. We also know His most important last words were spoken as a command to His disciples just before He rose up into heaven, “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). The baton was passed from His physical presence in a single location, a single body—to His spiritual transforming presence in believers from every tongue, tribe, and nation.
This command is often called the Great Commission, or the great task of every believer to share the Good News of Jesus. When I was in college and learned about Jesus I eagerly gave Him my heart and life. But I also learned almost in the next breath about the Great Commission, the opportunity that was now mine to be part of changing the world by introducing many to Him. It made sense … there were others just like me who didn’t know Him.
After college graduation I joined a ministry called Cru and have been a part of a lifelong calling to make Him known. Just a couple weeks ago I traded texts with Jane, a woman who was one of my first disciples. God gave me the privilege of sharing with her how she too could know Jesus. And she’s been walking with Him ever since. It’s been a great joy to watch her from afar making a big impact as the women’s ministry leader at her church.
Celebrating Ascension Day means celebrating the wonder of His call to use each of us in ways as amazing and significant as His first century disciples.
3. Ascension Day also signals the beginning of Jesus’ intercession for us before the throne of God! Hebrews 7:25 tells us, “He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” Every accusation made by our enemy, the father of lies, is met by the living Christ’s victorious rebuttal before the seat of all authority in heaven. Now that He resides in heaven once again, “God has highly exalted Him.” What bold confidence that should give all of us who love Him to know He is defending us always!
4. Most exciting for me personally, the Ascension signals the commencement of a future-filled promise. John 14:3 reads, “ … if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am you may be also.” For over 40 years I’ve carefully decorated and redecorated my own home; therefore this idea of a place prepared for me—by Someone who knows the depths of me better than I do—fascinates me.
Someone once said, “if He’s been gone 2000 years what mansions must He be preparing for us for all those years, and He’s not finished yet!” It’s beyond my imagination. Still the simple hope of that beautiful glittering possibility reminds me to anticipate all that lies ahead with expectation and joy. The Ascension was simultaneously a striking ending and a marvelous beginning.
These four promises related to Ascension Day make me want to throw a party! I wish I didn’t lose sight so easily of the hope I have in Christ. Remembering the benefits that are mine because of Ascension Day is a great encouragement to keep looking up because as the angels said to the disciples, “This Jesus…will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).
A verse I’ve been hanging onto in recent weeks, “fixing your eyes on Jesus the Author and Perfecter of your faith …” (Hebrews 12:2), fits perfectly with Ascension Day. Where should I be fixing my eyes? On Jesus. And where is He? Up! He is in heaven, so lifting my eyes to heaven, looking up, brings hope to my soul in these days of immense change in our world.
May you find a way to mark this day in your life. Read the story in Acts 1. Remind your family or friends about this day and what it means for you as a believer. Or for six specific ways to celebrate with your family, click here.
Happy Ascension Day!!!
To read a sample chapter of Barbara's new book, My Heart, Ever His, or to purchase the book click here.
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