Of all the major festivals of the Christian Church, the Festival of the Ascension is probably the most neglected. No one greeted me this morning at WalMart wishing me a happy Ascension Day. Hallmark doesn’t make Ascension cards. There is no Ascension Bunny.
Most churches don’t even have Ascension Day services any more. And can you blame them? I mean, what are we really celebrating on Ascension – that Jesus left?
Actually there is much we can celebrate on this forgotten holiday…
1) Even though Jesus left, he didn’t really leave. He left visibly, but he promised his disciples that he would be with them and us every moment of every day until the end of the world (Matthew 28:20). We just can’t see him.
Jesus left, but he isn’t gone. The all-powerful Son of God who walked on water and calmed storms and raised the dead – our Savior who loved us so much he suffered the punishment of hell we deserve in our place – is and will always be by our side. That’s something to celebrate.
2) Jesus left to prepare a place for us in heaven. On the night before he died, Jesus told his disciples, “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2). Our Ascended Lord is preparing a mansion in heaven with your name on the mailbox. That’s why he came to this earth and that’s why he left on Ascension Day.
Right now, at this very moment, our Ascended Savior is sitting at the right hand of God the Father, ruling over all things for our good (Ephesians 1:22,23). That’s something to celebrate.
3) Jesus left, but he’s coming back. That’s the real lesson of Ascension. As the apostles stood staring at the sky, their mouths hanging open in astonishment, two men dressed in white appeared to them. “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” (Acts 1:11).
Jesus is coming back visibly to judge the world. He is coming back to take us home to heaven. When he comes, we will finally see him. We will finally understand fully. We will finally be free from all the pains and problems of this world. That’s something to celebrate.
In the balcony scene of William Shakespeare’s great tragedy, Romeo and Juliet, two star-crossed lovers were forced to say good-bye for the night. “Parting is such sweet sorrow,” Juliet lamented. She was sad to say good-bye, but boy did she love those beautiful words Romeo whispered to her as he bid farewell. Parting was sweet sorrow.
Ascension Day isn’t sweet sorrow. It’s just sweet. Today we remember that our Ascended Savior is with us wherever we go, that he is preparing a place for us in heaven and that he will come again to take us to be with him in heaven. Now, that’s something to celebrate.
Happy Ascension Day!