Today is the day we celebrate the Ascension of our Lord. Jesus is lifted into heaven, leaving instructions for his disciples to await the coming of the Holy Spirit, as he is blessing them.
We are now forty days after Easter and ten days before Pentecost, reminding us of the forty days Jesus appeared on Earth after his resurrection. It’s the day we remember Jesus, after appearing to his disciples, is no longer with them on Earth. The disciples do not get Left Behind. Rather, he is present with them and with us in a new way, through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Now I think that with the Ascension it’s tempting to get caught up in issues of levitation rather than the theological meaning Christ’s Ascension has for us. In the modern quest for the Historical Jesus, one could ask what the disciples actually saw, or what the Ascension would look like on 35mm film. Curious minds also could wonder how exactly Jesus ascended into heaven. Did he have a beautiful balloon? Did he have a George Jetson rocket pack or one of those personal hover devices powered by a vacuum cleaner that used to be advertised in comic books? Were the clouds cirrus or cumulus? If gravity were suspended for Jesus, why didn’t the disciples standing right next to him float away, too?
These questions are fun to think about and imagine, but they are really missing the point. Ascension is less about flying away and skyward journeys than it is about Jesus and his divine role. It’s not a science fiction tale, but rather a story of faith.
“Lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven” (Luke 24:51). Notice that this happened while he was blessing them, as opposed to after he blessed them. It seems that Jesus hasn’t finished blessing his people. He is still doing it. This is the gift of the ascension—Christ’s blessing on us forever. Amen.