“Depths of purpose and layers of meaning saturate everything you do.” Psalm 92:5
Everything that Jesus did was intentional. His every word and action either conveyed a vital message or achieved a strategic objective.
The triumphal entry was loaded with meaning. The crucifixion was beyond purposeful. The resurrection changes everything!
But what about the ascension of Jesus? Does the elevation of Jesus into the clouds have any practical relevance to my beliefs and behaviors? Are there depths of purpose and layers of meaning to the ascension… beyond the fact that Jesus defied gravity and levitated into a higher dimension or parallel universe? The authors of the New Testament thought so. The ascension of Jesus is mentioned 20 times in their writings.
Dr. Luke summarized the event as follows:
He (that is Jesus) was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” Acts 1:9-11
A few days ago, I was asked to guide a discussion group composed of about a dozen theologians. After reading this text, I posed the question: “What would we not know or have if the ascension had never happened?” After a few moments of awkward silence, the conversation headed off into all kinds of interesting and stimulating directions!
For now, let’s reframe the question for those of us without theology degrees: “What do we know and have because of the ascension of Jesus?”
First, what do we know? Because Jesus ascended:
- We know where Jesus is. He’s in heaven seated at the Father’s right hand where he rules with supreme authority over all of creation (Hebrews 1:3, 8:1, Eph. 1:20-23).
- We know what he’s doing. Jesus didn’t ascend to escape, but to rule; not to rest, but to reign. Every day, all through the day, he’s working on our behalf to restore us and all of creation (Hebrews 4:14).
- We know how he’s coming back. He’s coming back the same way he left; personally, bodily, visibly, publicly, triumphantly, and in the clouds (Rev.1:7, Matt. 24:30).
Second, what do we have? Because Jesus ascended:
- We have ready access to him… 24/7 from anywhere and everywhere. When Jesus ascended into heaven the limitations of being uni-present were replaced with divine omnipresence. Jesus is with us and in us. He’s with us in our sufferings, our betrayals, our shame, and our pain.
- We have the ear of the Father. Jesus is at the right hand of the Father where he constantly represents us as our advocate and intercessor. Hebrews 7:25 tells us that ‘He (that is Jesus) ever lives to make intercession for the saints (that’s you and me).’ Hebrews 9:4 tells us that Jesus ascended to the right hand of the Father on our behalf. He’s always advocating for us, mediating for us, and interceding for us. The accuser stands before the Father saying “Guilty. Guilty. Guilty.” Jesus stands before the Father and says “Forgiven. Forgiven. Forgiven.”
- We have confidence about the future. The world might be going crazy right now… but because Jesus ascended to the throne of the universe, we can be confident that he’s working out his plan for the good of his people and the good of his creation. Someday soon, Jesus will finish engineering what he called, ‘the new heavens and earth.’ He’s doing this for the sake of his church. In other words, he’s restoring all things for our sakes. For us.