Happy Himmelfahrt Day! Himmelfahrt is German for Ascension Day, which we celebrated last Sunday, May 28. Forty days after His resurrection from the dead, Jesus ascended. In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus’ ascension lasts one verse: While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. In Luke’s sequel, The Book of Acts, Jesus repeated His teaching that His kingdom was not of this world. Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit. And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven” (Acts 1:9-11).
Sometimes it’s easier to explain what Jesus’ ascension means by what it doesn’t mean. Jesus’ ascension isn’t like Buzz Lightyear flying through Judean airspace shouting, “To infinity and beyond!” In His ascension, Jesus isn’t like Superman, leaping cumulonimbus clouds with a single bound. Jesus doesn’t tap His communicator and say, “Beam me up, Scottie.”
Rather, Jesus’ ascension is when... God seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all (Ephesians 1:19-23).
If we’re looking for a picture or glimpse of Jesus’ ascension in stories, think of the coronation scene at the end of Tolkien's The Return of the King. The One Ring has been destroyed, Sauron is defeated, and Aragorn ascends the throne having conquered the enemies of Middle-earth; elves, dwarfs, men, and hobbits gather for the victory feast. Jesus’ ascension is a heavenly homecoming, a joyous party that He shares with us.
Or think of Jesus’ ascension like the ending of C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Aslan sacrificed himself to save Edmund and Narnia from the White Witch’s treachery and the deep magic. Aslan rose again, cracking the stone table; death worked backwards. Winter had ended. Spring had sprung. And Aslan, the Son of the Emperor beyond the sea, was victorious. And he shares his victory with the Pevensie children, enthroned as kings and queens of Narnia.
In Jesus’ death, our sin and death are dead. In Jesus’ resurrection, the hope of our resurrection is guaranteed. And in Jesus’ ascension, a new chapter in cosmic history has begun, writes C.S. Lewis.
In Jesus’ ascension, human nature is exalted at God’s right hand, enthroned in glory. Jesus sits at the right hand of God’s power, not a place, but a constant exercise of God’s power on your behalf. In His divine and human nature, Jesus rules heaven and earth. The Savior Who bled and died to save you now sits at God’s right hand, as your advocate, brother, and redeemer. The Lamb of God is slain and yet lives—for you. The Lion of Judah has conquered sin and death—for you. Christ our advocate ascends to live, intercede, and prepare a place for you with Him.
As Lewis observes, Jesus’ ascension is yet another example of the joyous surprise that is the Gospel and the new creation in Christ crucified and risen. Behold, I am making all things new!
“The picture [of the Ascension and Resurrection and the ensuing New Creation] is not what we expected - though whether it is less or more probable and philosophical on that account is another question. It is not the picture of an escape from any and every kind of Nature into some unconditioned and utterly transcendent life. It is the picture of a new human nature, and a new Nature in general, being brought into existence. We must, indeed, believe the risen body to be extremely different from the mortal body: but the existence, in that new state, of anything that could in any sense be described as 'body' at all, involves some sort of spacial relations and in the long run a whole new universe. That is the picture - not of unmaking but remaking. The old field of space, time, matter, and the senses is to be weeded, dug, and sown for a new crop. We may be tired of the old field: God is not (Miracles, 244).”
A blessed Ascension of Our Lord to you!