5 Ways the Ascension of Jesus Comforts Christians Today
Before he was taken up, Jesus turned to his disciples, raised his hands, and blessed them:
And he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy,and were continually in the temple blessing God. (Luke 24:50-53)
Not only did Jesus bestow a blessing on his disciples, he ascended to heaven as he was speaking it. What an image! As Jesus floated upward, slowing vanishing from sight, his words rang forth, “The Lord bless you and keep you…May he give you peace.”
Even as Jesus receded from view, his disciples still heard him blessing—and for good reason. This cloud elevator to heaven was not just some simple means of transportation. Rather, this was Bethany—the place of triumph. Here are five ways the ascension brings comfort to every Christian today:
1. The ascension is the confirmation of Jesus’ glorification in his resurrection.
Jesus’ ascension is his entering his heavenly kingdom as Lord and King. Luke records Jesus telling his disciples,
You are those who have stayed with me in my trials, and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (Luke 22:28-30)
The Father had covenanted with Jesus to assign him a kingdom, and the ascension is Jesus being crowned with all authority in heaven and earth.
The ascension trumpets that Jesus has won. As we look out at this world, we see chaotic evil, tragic accidents, sin increasing, and the church struggling. To the eye, it seems as if Satan is winning. He completes all his passes and always gets the first down. But the ascension shows us that Jesus is standing in the end zone with the ball, and the scoreboard reads: Satan 0, Jesus 100.
2. The ascension is our assurance of Christ’s vindication.
The ascension is our assurance that our Savior is working all things for his glory and our everlasting good in him. Moreover, the ascension is our Lord’s vindication over the world’s judgment. On the cross, through Pilate, the world rendered its judicial verdict on Christ, declaring that he was a failure and didn’t have the right to life.
This conclusion the world still shouts at us as it scorns the truth of Scripture and denies the lordship of Jesus. What does the world say about our faith in Christ? We hear that Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, his death wasn’t a sacrifice, or we don’t have to believe in him because all religions lead to the same place and so on.
All these lies are “amens” to Pilate’s judgment. Yet, the ascension is the Father’s vindication that Jesus is the Righteous One and there is no other name by which to be saved. When a lower court renders a wicked and false verdict, it is the duty of the higher court to overturn that decision. Thus, the ascension is the heavenly court’s reversal of the world’s corrupt judgment.
3. The ascension looks forward to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
The ascension confirms for our faith that the Jew who was nailed to the tree is also our Lord and Savior enthroned in glory forever and ever. The name in which we pray is the highest name in heaven and earth and below the earth: Jesus Christ. Furthermore, the ascension reminds us that Jesus is absent from us.
He is in heaven and we are on earth. We believe in Jesus. We love our Christ and Savior, but we do not see him. We cannot touch him or eat with him in his bodily presence. The ascension pinches us with the painful truth that the work of Christ is not quite finished because he still needs to bring us home to live with him.
The absence of Christ makes us question how he helps us. How can he protect us if he is not with us? Yet, Jesus told his disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the promised power from on high (Acts 1:4-8). The absence of Christ looks forward to the presence of the Spirit. The ascension anticipates Pentecost.
4. The ascension means that Christ is now present with us by his Spirit.
Christ now dwells in the beauty of Zion as we shuffle our feet in the dust of this dirty world. Yet, Christ is present with us by his Spirit. The Holy Spirit makes Christ present with us. How does he do this? The Spirit does this by applying to us the benefits of Christ. Jesus’ body remains in heaven, but the riches of his grace fill our bank accounts.
The Spirit makes us alive by the life of Christ. He works faith in us by Christ’s creative might. The Spirit writes the name of Jesus on our foreheads in baptism. He covers us in forgiveness, righteousness, holiness, and knowledge. The Spirit feeds us with the heavenly manna of Christ’s body in the Supper.
5. The ascension testifies that Jesus is coming back.
We don’t see Jesus, but we are by no means left alone and impoverished. Rather, the Spirit makes our cup overflow with the delicious wine of Christ’s grace. Yet, even though Jesus is present with us by the Spirit who lives within us, the Spirit reminds us that this is not enough. We cannot be kept at a distance forever. Our faith needs to become one of sight.
Thus, ascension testifies that Jesus is coming back. Just as he levitated to heaven on a cloud, so also on a radiant cloud Jesus is returning. The seventh trumpet will blow, heaven will open, and Jesus will ride his cloud chariot back for our deliverance. Jesus smiles on us now in the benediction, but then we will see his face beam on us face-to-face.
Our bodies will be raised in glory as his body, and Jesus will openly acknowledge our names before heaven and earth that we are his and he is ours. Jesus has entered his glory, and he is coming back to bring us into his same glory forevermore.