The Ascension of Christ
“What goes up still goes down / Where is heaven if the world is round? / The cosmonauts were first in space / to look for God, and find no trace” (Children of Time). For many people, even Christians, the ascension of Christ is a difficult festival around which to wrap our minds. We can grasp Christmas and the virgin birth, and the resurrection of Easter. But as Carl Sagan once quipped, even traveling at the speed of light, Jesus would still be only a fraction of the way of the Galactic core at this point. Where did Jesus go when he ascended?
It’s important to note that, in the original Greek text of Acts 1, there is little emphasis on Jesus going “up” per se. Even the mention of the cloud, which brings to mind a picture of a “going up into the sky,” can give us a false mental picture of the ascension of Christ. A cloud led the Israelites to the Red Sea (Exodus 13:12) – they could hardly have been led by a cloud that was above them! What is being described is an assumption of divine power by Christ Jesus. He is taking on the authority that God has given him, to rule over all things. Hence the cloud, the picture throughout the Old Testament of God’s hidden but powerful rule.
And yet Jesus remains a human being. And this, not the mystery of Jesus “location,” is the great wonder of the Ascension. The One who now holds the past, present and future, the whole of the cosmos, in his hands is God but also human. The great ascension hymn puts it best: “Thou hast raised our human nature on the clouds to God’s right hand / There we sit in heav’nly places, there with thee in glory stand / Jesus reigns adored by angels, man with God is on the throne / Mighty Lord in thy ascension, we by faith behold our own.”
Blessed Lord, what privilege you have given to your fallen creatures, that one of our own should not rule over all things. Help us not to lose faith in him, but be strengthened to serve others as he has served us. Amen.