Devotional Word for Thursday, May 21, 2020
This is it. Ascension Day. Can you think of any Ascension Day texts? We tend to think the only text that deals with Jesus’ bodily ascension is in Acts 1. That is the main text, no question about that. Yet, there are lots of other texts that have the Ascension at their heart, but we don’t realize it. Let’s look at the text from Acts, but also at a few of the others and make some observations and applications.
Acts 1:9-11 is the main text. And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. As they were gazing intently into the sky/heaven while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. They also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky/heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.
Here’s the first thing we need to observe. Four times in verses 10 and 11 the same Greek word is used, the word ouvrano,j. It is the word for heaven. It is unfortunate that some translations (including the NASB which we normally use) twice translate ouvrano,j as sky. Yes, the disciples’ eyes were looking towards the sky, but they were looking to heaven! Something more than material reality is taking place. The disciples know it. They’ve been prepared for it. What they know, and what we should know, is when we talk about the Ascension, we’re talking about Jesus ascending to heaven.
Here’s how Paul writes in Ephesians 1 about what took place at the Ascension: . . . when He [God] raised Him [Jesus] from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. [Eph. 1:20-21] The Ascension was the enthronement of the Lord Jesus. It is what the first verse of Psalm 110 speaks of. The Lord says to my Lord: “Sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.” Though the fighting is not over, the war is won! Whether you’re talking demons and devils, or tyrants and dictators, or bullies and toughs, or scoffers and mockers: All of the enemies of God and of His Son are doomed! The Ascension is the coronation of Jesus as King of kings and Lord of lords. That is a precious, powerful truth we need always to cherish and hold on to.
Psalm 110:1 is the very verse Jesus asked the Pharisees about during Passion Week. He wants them to consider who is being referenced in Psalm 110. He asks them, If David then calls Him “Lord,” how is He his son? They are silent. The text says From that day on, no one dared ask Him a question. [Matt. 22:41-46] Psalm 110 was in the mind and heart of Jesus during Passion Week as He went steadily towards Golgotha’s cross. Hebrews 12:2 explains it perfectly: . . . [Jesus] for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
That’s really good news for us. We only have time today to mention two elements of that good news. In Romans 8:34, the apostle Paul highlights one consequence of the Ascension and Enthronement of Jesus. He writes, Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Paul explicitly mentions Jesus’ sitting at the right hand of God, that is, Jesus’ enthronement that occurred on Ascension Day. From that position, Jesus continually makes intercession for us. That’s really good news for us. We must remember it.
The second text is from John’s Gospel. Jesus speaks of His ascension in John 16:7. It’s Maundy Thursday evening and He’s preparing the disciples for what lies ahead. Among the encouragements He gives them is this: But 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. Jesus, of course, is speaking about the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity. Jesus tells the disciples not to lament His leaving this earth.
As an aside, don’t we often wish Jesus were present here where we could see and touch Him? What Jesus speaks in John 16:7, He also speaks to us at such times. We need to hear Him. It’s to our advantage that He’s not here with us physically. The Holy Spirit is, and He is working. That’s how we became Christians in the first place: the work of the Holy Spirit. Billions and billions of individuals have been rescued from the domain of this world, from the dominion of the devil, and transferred to the kingdom of God’s well-beloved Son, the Lord Jesus, by the work of the Holy Spirit. He continues His work today, certainly all around the world, but also in us and through us. Praise be to God. Jesus’ Ascension is really good news for us, but it is also Good News for the world. The world has hope because of Jesus’ enthronement.
Jesus’ Ascension really happened. There was a day, a particular day, when Jesus was enthroned at the right hand of God. It was Ascension Day. That reality changes reality. There’s more to be gleaned from Jesus’ Ascension, but that enough for today. Three points: 1) Jesus is reigning now; 2) Jesus is praying for us now; and 3) He continues to send and direct the Holy Spirit now.
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, You are King and Lord of all. You reign over heaven and earth. We give thanks for that reality. We continue to ask You to reign over us. Help to be faithful witnesses and workers for Your kingdom’s spread in this world. Though the battles are ongoing, we give praise that You already are declared Victor! Thank You for making us Your servants by the transforming work of the Holy Spirit, who with You and the Father, lives and reigns one God forever and ever. Amen.