As I sit here in my office, I can’t help but notice the busyness all around me. Cars flying by. People walking here and there. Children playing on the playground behind me. Life is busy today. And as I notice this, I can’t help but wonder if any one of these people know today is Ascension Day. Today marks the moment when Jesus Christ completed his work on earth and ascended to heaven to sit at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. Today is a BIG day. Did you miss it?
Ascension. It’s not really celebrated in our society. Even churches will give a cursory acknowledgement of it but it doesn’t get the same headlines that Easter or Christmas receive. And yet, without it, the Holy Spirit would not be with us. Without it, many of the promises of Jesus would not be fulfilled.
Forty days after his resurrection from the dead, Jesus and his disciples went to the Mount of Olives, near Jerusalem. It was there that Jesus explained that He would send a counselor to guide them — the Holy Spirit. He promised them the Spirit but asked them to remain in Jerusalem until the day the Spirit would come (it is called Pentecost).
So when the apostles were with Jesus, they kept asking him, “Lord, has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?”
He replied, “The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
After saying this, he was taken up into a cloud while they were watching, and they could no longer see him. —Acts 1 6-9
It was in that moment that Jesus Christ finished his work here on earth. He would now prepare a place in heaven for each of us. And it is that promise that is the gift of our salvation. To be forgiven for our sins here on earth is incredible but to have a place prepared for us by Jesus to live with him for all eternity is priceless.
So why don’t we celebrate Ascension like we do other Christian holidays? I think it’s because we have stopped believing in resurrection power and promises that come with it. We have stopped believing that we have been raised with Christ. We talk about our time with Jesus as if it’s in the future. When we do that, we deny him in the present.
So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. —Colossians 3:1-3
“Seek the things that are above…” One translation (the NLT) says it like this: “Set your sights on the realities of heaven.” How much of a reality is heaven in your life? Do you focus on the things of the world so much that you miss out on the reality of what Jesus Christ has done for you? The resurrection is not the end of the story. He defeated death but he did much much more. And we neglect to honor that when we focus on things of this world.
Author Stephen Seamans said of Colossians 3:1-3, “Paul was not merely making a suggestion. In the original Greek, the verbs are in the imperative mood. That means he was giving a command. They are also in the present tense, which implies continuous ongoing action. Paul, then, was insisting that the Colossians do this, keep on doing this, and do it always. His concern was not that these young Christians would be too heavenly minded, but not heavenly minded enough.”
Why should we be so focused on heaven when we live here on earth? Because that is where Jesus is. And that is where our hearts should be. If we continue to only think of Jesus as the earthly being, we will fail to live into the new creations that we are.
We can’t see all things through the risen Christ if we only see him as the earthly Jesus. We cannot stay stuck here in this world, in all of the dismay that surrounds us. We must glue our eyes to heaven, not as a “when is He coming back” but rather as a “that’s where my heart is.”
So, if you haven’t already, take a moment to acknowledge the Ascension. Take a moment to give thanks for the fact that Jesus Christ continues to reign and that we are right there with him. Take a moment to worship the Lord our God.