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Ascension Day

Thursday, May 1, 2008 is Ascension Day. It is forty days after Easter and marks the day that Jesus and his followers walked from Jerusalem toward Bethany for what would become a unforgettable spiritual experience.

Mark’s gospel summarizes the amazing spiritual events of that day. Afterthe Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat atthe right hand of God (Mark 16:19). Luke’s gospel adds the detailthat He raised up His hands and blessed them (Luke 24:50). In Acts, Luke givesmore detail to the conversation they had on the walk out of Jerusalem, aboutkingdoms and the Holy Spirit coming on them (Acts 1:6-9).

Park Cities Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas has a beautiful stained glass windowdepicting Jesus’ ascension into heaven. Jesus has one hand held high revealingHis nail wound. I didn’t realize how biblically correct that stained glasswas until bringing together all these scriptures that tell us about the ascension.One of my friends whose husband’s funeral was held in that church toldme how she found great comfort looking up to the stained glass and noting thatone hand was raised to heaven and the other was touching the ones who are stillon earth.

This day was very important to Jesus. The followers seemed to be a little surprisedby what happened, but Jesus had spoken about it clearly. John’s gospeldoesn’t give any record of the actual day of Jesus’ ascension, butit quotes Jesus on three different occasions foretelling of that special momentwhen He would return to heaven (John 6:61-62—Jesus foretells the ascensionwhen the disciples were finding His teaching that He was the Bread of Life washard; John 7:33-34—when the Jewish leaders were trying to seize Him andkill Him; John 14:28-31—when Jesus was eating the Last Supper with Hisdisciples).

The epistles note this momentous spiritual occasion (1 Peter 3:22; 1 Tim. 3:16;Heb. 4:14) that was witnessed by many, unlike the transfiguration that was onlywitnessed by Peter, James and John.

Take some time to reflect on this day. What would it have been like if you werethere? In the forty days since His resurrection, Jesus had appeared to individualsand groups, eating, teaching, confirming His resurrection. The ones who saw Himin Jerusalem that day had no idea that He would ascend to heaven. They walkedat least two miles (Bethany was 2 miles away), and I’m sure He talked tothem. Did they know this was their last meeting with their risen Lord?

I love the way He left them, His arm raised in a blessing. I heard a definitionof blessing this week that brings greater light to His act—a blessingis when God tilts the favor of the universe in your direction. He went upto heaven with His eyes of love on the people He had chosen to be His witnessesto take the gospel into all the world. Imagine what He saw as His feet left theground, His face looking down upon the earth. He saw Jerusalem, Samaria, Judeaand the utterparts of the earth as He left His followers to take His messageof love and redemption into all the world.

Copyright © 2008. Deborah R. Newman. All Rights Reserved

 

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