An Active Ascension
[The ascension] is easily said and understood that the Lord ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God. But they are dead words to the understanding if they are not grasped with the heart.
We must, therefore, conceive of his ascension and Lordship as something active, energetic and continuous, and must not imagine that he sits above while we hold the reins of government down here. No, he ascended up [to the throne of God] for the reason that there he can best do his work and exercise dominion.
Had he remained upon earth in visible form, before the people, he could not have wrought so effectually, for all the people could not have been with him and heard him. Therefore, he inaugurated an expedient which made it possible for him to be in touch with all and reign in all, to preach to all and be heard by all, and to be with all.
Therefore, beware lest you imagine within yourself that he has gone, and now is, far away from us. The very opposite is true: While he was on earth, he was far away from us; now he is very near.
The Ascension of Christ: Weakness in Strength
Frederick Farrar, in examining paintings depicting scenes from the life of Christ, first suggests that the ascension would be better left unpainted. But pondering why artistic renderings of the ascension fail adequately to represent the event leads Farrar to the heart of the matter. He concludes that the main thought in the ascension ‘is that Christ has forever taken into the Godhead the form of the Manhood’. This thought so thrills Farrar that he appends to his commentary this enigmatic but triumphant fragment of a poem:
Tis the weakness in strength that I cry for! my flesh that I seek
In the Godhead! I seek and I find it! Oh Saul, it shall be
A Face like my face that receives thee; a Man like to me
Thou shalt love, and be loved by for ever; a Hand like this hand
Shall throw open the gate of new Life to thee! See the Christ stand!
Confusion about the Ascension
If we’re not careful, we might mistake the meaning of Jesus’s ascension. It sounds kind of like a retirement send-off—like Jesus finishes his work and sits down to enjoy the fruits of his labor, but that isn’t what happens at all. Jesus ascends to heaven to complete his work in transforming worship, standing in the presence of God as our perfect Priest.
The author of Hebrews tells us that the former generations of priests did their work imperfectly. They themselves were imperfect (Heb. 7:27), and they were destined to die, unable to escape the grip of the curse (Heb. 7:23). But Jesus is sinless and conquers death. “Consequently, 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” (Heb. 7:25).
The End of Jesus’ Ministry?
The ministry of Jesus does not end with his resurrection. In his ascension he does not abandon his humanity. He is not the ascended Lord apart from everything that has happened between his incarnation and resurrection. Borrowing an insight from Gerrit Dawson of First Presbyterian Church, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, we can say that by his ascension the past incarnate ministry of the Jesus who was raised from the dead becomes through his Spirit present to every age and person. The earthly ministry of Jesus that was past and particular now becomes present and universal.
The Supreme Political Event of World History
The ascension of Jesus was the supreme political event of world history. He ascended not so much to a place as to an office. He departed from the arena of humiliation and suffering to enter into his glory. He, in one moment, leapfrogged from the status of despised Galilean teacher to the cosmic King of the universe, jumping over the heads of Pilate, Herod, and Caesar Augustus. The Ascension catapulted Jesus to the right hand of God, where he was enthroned as King of kings and Lord of lords.
Still Looking for inspiration?
Consider checking out our quotes page on the Ascension. Don’t forget, sometimes a great quote is an illustration in itself!