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The Ascension of Jesus Christ

Posted by on May 2, 2011 in discipleship, scripture, spirit/holy spirit | 6 comments

The Ascension of Jesus Christ

According to the Book of Acts, about forty days after Jesus’ resurrection and a little over a week before Pentecost (the day the Holy Spirit indwelled those 120 believers), Jesus ascended into heaven. Luke says that Jesus rose up into the sky until his followers could no longer see him. (Acts 1:9)

The church often talks about the importance of the resurrection. And, we understand the importance of Pentecost, even if we don’t talk about it quite as much. But, what about the ascension of Jesus? Is it important? Or is it just a blip in the history of the church?

In fact, according to Jesus himself, his ascension is very important.

Several times, Jesus told his followers that he would be returning to his Father. Of course, they probably didn’t understand exactly what he meant when he said that (as demonstrated by their question in Acts 1:6.

Throughout John 14, for example, Jesus tells his followers three times that he is going to the Father. (John 14:2-3, John 14:12, John 14:28) Furthermore, in that same passage, Jesus tells them that he is going away (although not specifically “to the Father”) in John 14:18.

In this passage, while Jesus is talking about going away to the Father, he also continues to instruct his followers about another important event: The Father is sending the Holy Spirit to dwell in his children. The two events seem to be interrelated in John 14.

In John 14:16, Jesus said that he will ask the Father (while he is with him) and the Father will give them the Holy Spirit. In John 14:26, again Jesus said that the Father will send the Holy Spirit to them.

But, while the connection between Jesus going away to the Father and the sending of the Holy Spirit seem related in John 14, Jesus does not directly specify that there is a relationship between the two events. However, when we get to John 16, Jesus specifically says that the sending of the Holy Spirit is directly related to his going to the Father:

I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. (John 16:4-7)

In this passage, Jesus not only connects the sending of the Holy Spirit (“Helper” in the ESV translates a word that Jesus used for the Holy Spirit earlier in John 14:16) when he goes to the Father, but he tells his followers that it is better for him to go away so that the Holy Spirit could come.

While we could speculate, Jesus does not explain why he has to go away for the Holy Spirit to come. However, it seems clear from the passage above that the two events are related. So, without the ascension of Jesus, there would be no Day of Pentecost. If Jesus did not go away to the Father (and leave his followers for about a week), then the church today would not be indwelled by the Holy Spirit.

According to Jesus, it is better for us today that we are indwelled by the Holy Spirit than for Jesus to walk among us physically. As we look back on the time when the church celebrates the resurrection of Jesus and forward to the time when the church celebrates the coming of the Holy Spirit, let’s not forget that Jesus ascended, so that the Holy Spirit could come.


6 Comments

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  1. 5-2-2011

    This week we were talking about the ascension. We concluded that the ascension is a severely underemphasized doctrine in the modern church (if early Christian creeds are any example then it was more valued in historic Christianity). In any case, we decided that the ascension is crucial because it paved the way for the Holy Spirit (as you so clearly explained), it places Jesus in his role as intercessor at the right hand of the Father, and it sets the stage for His glorious return.

    Nice post. I enjoyed it.

  2. 5-2-2011

    Mark,

    Thanks! We talked about the ascension of Jesus Sunday, among other things. How do y’all talk about topics like the ascension?

    -Alan

  3. 5-3-2011

    In this particular instance it was a discussion based on Acts 1–2 with the youth group (no need to get into that here). I was teaching/leading the discussion/learning with them :-)

  4. 5-3-2011

    Mark,

    That’s great! I love discussions, and, like you did in this case, I almost always learn something.

    -Alan

  5. 5-17-2012

    In His role as our intercessor He is fulfilling His position as our Great High Priest and is now at this very moment in the sanctuary not made with human hands interceding for us at the right hand of the Father. He has earned the right to be there by the shedding of His own blood.

    “For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us:

    25 Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others;

    26 For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.

    27 And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:

    28 So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.

    Hebrews 9:24-28

  6. 5-17-2012

    barjonas,

    Thanks for the comment. What’s awesome is that he’s not only a great high priest, he’s also a sympathetic high priest.

    -Alan