Stained glass window at the Annunciation Melkite Catholic Cathedral in Roslindale, Massachusetts, depicting Christ the King in theregalia of a Byzantine emperor

Ascended & Exalted Like No Other

“It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept.
I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” — Isaiah 49:6

READING

Acts 1:3–11 (NIV)
3 After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.
4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.
5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
6 Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.
8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them.
11 “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.”
  • Jewish officials did their best to control and shape the message about the empty tomb. But they had no control over the resurrected Jesus. Over a 40-day period, Jesus appeared numerous times to various individuals and groups, presumably to encourage them and to teach them those things they had not been ready to learn before the crucifixion. At the end of 40 days, Jesus had one final appearance and one word of instruction before returning to the Father in heaven.
  • Jesus ascended to heaven but did not leave us alone.
  • The disciples had been with Jesus for three years of solid training. They saw Him perform miracles and heard Him teach. Yet, when we look at the disciples’ words and actions during Jesus’ trial, it would appear they never heard or saw much that made a difference to them. They doubted. Wandered. Feared. And ran.
  • Thankfully, everything changed after their Friend and Savior rose from the dead. For 40 days, Jesus spoke to them and gave them a crash course in the kingdom of God. I suspect the disciples absorbed more in those 40 days than in their previous three years with Jesus. Suddenly, Jesus had their undivided attention.

REFLECTION

  • For someone who walked on waters, cured, made miracles and defeated Death, it looks natural not to die again — the ascension seems like a proper conclusion of Jesus prophetic ministry
  • He returned to the Father, where he came from. The ascension was an act of exaltation, fulfilling another prophecy
  • 40 is a Bible coded number; cloud is a recurring image of the presence of the Spirit of God

QUESTION?

— If you could have Jesus teach you one thing, what would it be?

“Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself” — Luke 24:27; also see vv. 44–47.

READING

Ephesians 1:7–10,18–23 (NIV)
7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace
8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, 9 he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his
good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ,
10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment — to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.
18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people,
19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength
20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms,
21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.
22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church,
23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.
  • The Letter to the Ephesians was written by the apostle Paul, most likely sometime between A.D. 61–62 during his imprisonment in Rome. Ephesians 1:3–14 makes up a single, exceedingly complex sentence in the original Greek language. It’s as though once Paul started writing about the wonder of God’s plan of salvation, he couldn’t find a place to come to a stop. This passage falls naturally into three sections: the work of the Father in planning our salvation (1:3–6); the work of Christ in accomplishing our salvation (vv. 7–12); and the work of the Spirit in securing our salvation (vv. 13–14). Remember, however, that everything in these verses flows from the words, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 3)
  • The first ultimate reality we need to see with our heart-eyes is the hope to which he has called you. God took the initiative to call us as individuals to salvation (1:4), which means we can look forward to a glorious future hope: the fulfillment of eternal life guaranteed by the Holy Spirit. The second ultimate reality we need to see is the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people. The Israelites had previously been spoken of as God’s inheritance (Deut. 4:20; Zech. 2:12). Now Christians are also called God’s esteemed possession. Paul did not think of this merely in individualistic terms; rather, we are all among the saints. We are part of a family of believers, in the local church as well as the worldwide collection of believers who compose the body of Christ. The third ultimate reality we need to see with our heart-eyes is his incomparably great power for us who believe. Only divine power is sufficient to bring the two previous realities to fulfillment. Thus, Paul prayed that believers would understand the vast power that God has deployed on their behalf.

REFLECTION #2

1 John 2:1

2 My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father — Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

1 Peter 3:22

21 and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also — not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God.[e] It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand — with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.

Matthew 26:64

64 “You have said so,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

Matthew 28:18

16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

1 Timothy 2:5

5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time. 7 And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle — I am telling the truth, I am not lying — and a true and faithful teacher of the Gentiles.

CLOSING

Gladden us with holy joy, O almighty God and make us rejoice with devout thanksgiving, for the Ascension of your Son is our exaltation, and where the Head has gone before in glory, the Body is called to follow in hope. We make our prayer through our Lord Jesus Christ who lives and reigns in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.