In the first chapter of Acts, Luke records the bodily ascension of Jesus. The ascension is an important moment for many reasons, but it’s a healthy reminder of a couple realities that we can miss if we aren’t paying attention.
First, the ascension reminds us that the resurrection wasn’t just a stall tactic. Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, but the truth is that Lazarus would still one day be subject to the grave. But the resurrection of Jesus doesn’t work like that. When Jesus rose from the dead, he reversed the story—we no longer move from life to death, we now move from death to life.
Second, it’s crucial to see that Jesus bodily ascended. We proclaim it in our creeds, yet somehow we lose track of our belief in a bodily resurrection. Maybe we just spend so much of our lives feeling trapped by the temptations and weaknesses of the body. But Jesus is resurrected with a body (though it is transformed and does things that normal human bodies can’t) and when he leaves, he doesn’t shed that body and let his ghost float up to the right hand of the Father.
So we should, like the disciples look up and remember Jesus’ ascension.
Unlike the disciples, though, we shouldn’t stay there, with our necks craned up to the sky, waiting for the next big thing. As we head toward Pentecost on Sunday, we are reminded that we are the next big thing. We’ve been talking about keeping the feast of Easter all through these fifty days, but what a shame it would be if we thought that meant just hanging around the table swapping old stories about the glory days.
As we move into this new season, we continue to keep the feast by accepting Christ’s active and living presence in us through his promised Holy Spirit. Jesus promised his followers that they would do even more amazing works than he did—do we believe that?
There’s a great song by Pierce Pettis that turns a common phrase on its head—it’s called “God Believes in You.” The disciples are so filled with belief in Jesus and his power, having seen what he’s done, that they forget that Jesus believes in them. He believes in them so much that he goes, leaving them his Spirit to empower and bless the church’s work in the world.
So don’t linger looking up at the sky for too long—there’s a great work to be done!