Luke is the only gospel writer to record the ascension of Jesus. This is not an aspect of Jesus’ ministry that we talk or think about very much, but it is so important that it is forever codified in the creeds and confessions of the historic church. The Heidelberg Catechism (1563) explains the ascension of Jesus like this:
How does Christ's ascension into heaven benefit us?
First, he is our Advocate in heaven
before his Father.
Second, we have our flesh in heaven
as a sure pledge that he, our Head,
will also take us, his members,
up to himself.
Third, he sends us his Spirit as a counter-pledge, by whose power we seek the things that are above, where Christ is,
seated at the right hand of God,
and not the things that are on earth.
In other words, the ascension is the key to the Christian life! The ascension is the “detonator” which made all the effects of Jesus’ risen life available to us and every believer in every time and place. The ascension is also the great transition, when the ministry of Jesus shifts from simply being the local ministry of a single man to a world-wide ministry of a global community. We’ll explore all these aspects of the ascension of Jesus this Sunday.
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36 While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
37 They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 38 He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 39 Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”
40 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41 And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate it in their presence.
44 He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”
45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
50 When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. 51 While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. 52 Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.53 And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.