Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Stray Thoughts: Ascension Day

Tomorrow is Ascension Day. It celebrates the crowning act of Jesus' work of redemption. But for so much of my life, I attended churches that ignored this day and its significance. And that's why I want to write something about it.

What this day remembers is recorded in Acts 1.
And when [Jesus] had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. Acts 1:9
Okay. So, having finished what He came to do, Jesus goes into heaven to patiently wait there until it's time for Him to come back. Right? Well, not exactly. There's more to the story. (This is why it's important to understand any one part of Scripture in the context of other parts.)

This is what some of the rest of Scripture has to say about Jesus ascending into heaven.
[Jesus], for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2
What is this 'seated at the right hand of the throne of God'?

Another Scripture explains by saying more.
[Jesus] has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him. 1 Peter 3:22
This 'seated' has to do somehow with authority being granted to Jesus.

This from Peter's Pentecost sermon summarizes things well.
Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified. Acts 2:36
Did you catch it? Jesus has been made Lord and Christ. Something happened to change Jesus' status. At one point He wasn't Lord and Christ and then, at another point, He was made Lord and Christ. When was this? It was when He was 'seated at the right hand of the throne of God'. And as a result, Jesus can now say,
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Matthew 28:18
Ascension Day.

Now, for the money question. What difference does this make? Well, Jesus rules from the throne of God. He has 'all authority'. He is Lord over everything. And that everything includes well, everything, all of heaven and earth. So, submission to Him, in everything, is not limited to Christians. Everyone and everything is to submit to Him: every person, institution, nation, organization, government and club. Everything is to submit to Jesus as Lord.

That lays out the game plan for us. We who are Christians are to work at submitting every aspect of our lives to Him. What does He call for in this area of my life? And what about that area? How does His being Lord define my life?

But that is not all. We are also to work at getting everyone else to submit to Him. (That kind of broadens what evangelism is about, no?) And this makes sense since Jesus really is Lord - over everyone and everything.

We work at this knowing that the day will surely come when this goal will be achieved, everyone will submit to Jesus.
For this reason God highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow - in heaven and on earth and under the earth - and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:9–11
So, next time you list what Jesus has come to do, don't just refer to Jesus' birth, death and resurrection. Add His ascension to the end of that list. It really is that important.

And happy Ascension Day!

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