There’s an important moment in the first chapter of Acts where, forty days after Jesus’ resurrection, Jesus ascends (fancy word for, “Jesus goes to heaven”) and leaves his disciples staring into the sky. This “ascension” is kind of a big deal… but why should we care?
It’s celebrated 40 days after Easter every year as “Ascension day” (May 14th if anyone is counting), but for the longest time I would have just assumed that “Jesus ascension” was simply describing his mode of transportation. As in, we ride cars… Jesus can fly!
Acts 1:8-11 shows Jesus final call to his disciples after his resurrection:
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” After saying this, he was taken up into a cloud while they were watching, and they could no longer see him. As they strained to see him rising into heaven, two white-robed men suddenly stood among them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go. (NLT)
The Importance of the Ascension is that Jesus is King!
Last month we saw how on Easter Sunday Jesus won the battle against death and sin and became King ( see Good Friday: When Jesus became King), the ascension is when Jesus sat down on the throne. You see heaven is like the CEO's office; it's the place where the world is governed from. Jesus ascending is not to say that he left us and one day he'll come back, but a more accurate way of saying that he is now ruling earth from his throne and will one day return in body. In other words, the ascension is more about Jesus authority than about his current location.
The picture Luke (the writer of Acts) wants you to think about is the moment when a new king would ascend the steps to receive the crown and sit down on the throne. (If it helps: it’s when Aragorn finally gets the crown at the end of Lord of the Rings) The ascension is not describing Jesus as far away in a distant heaven. In Isaiah 6, heaven is described as the throne room of earth, “…and the whole earth is filled with his glory” (Isaiah 6:3). The picture is of a God on the throne in heaven, which is the place where earth is ruled from.
Without the Ascension the Mission Won't Succeed
So in Acts 1:8, we received our mission, “you will be my witnesses…” But without the ascension the mission doesn’t get off the ground. We need Jesus’ power, authority to accomplish his kingdom mission. Jesus is King and is in control. Right here. Right now. The Ascension is the reason we have access to Jesus power & authority, the ONLY way Acts 1:8 is ever going to be fulfilled is because Jesus has ascended to the throne!
So the angels come to the disciples. There standing and staring as if to say, “umm… what do we do about that?!” And the message comes:
Jesus is King! He’s coming back! And in the meantime… You have a job to do! “Why are you standing here staring into heaven?” (Acts 1:9). If Jesus is king then we have a job to do. Our task is not to stand idly by waiting for him to return, but to get on with the task of proclaiming and living out the rule of Christ here and now.
If Jesus is King then whatever you’re struggling with doesn’t have the last word. How can you invite Jesus’ power & authority into those areas of your life that feel out of control?
How is Jesus inviting you to step into leadership on your campus or in your city? Are there people that God is sending you to as His witness? Are there places where you can participate in bringing the wholeness, justice, and peace of God’s kingdom, as Jesus prayed, “on earth as in heaven”?