Ascension Day – Thursday 21st May

What is the significance of Ascension Day?  40 days after Passover and 10 days before Pentecost, is the ascension of Jesus into heaven.  This is only recorded by Luke, who refers to it both at the end of his Gospel and at the start of the book of Acts.  What happened, and why did it need to happen?  Jesus tells his disciples that the Holy Spirit will shortly come upon them in great power and then they will be His “witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  Jesus then leaves His disciples on the Mount of Olives by ascending into heaven so that all this could happen, and the next phase of God’s plan could be fulfilled.  That is, Jesus would no longer be with them in a physical sense but, rather, in a spiritual sense.  Jesus would be able to live inside them so that they could achieve even greater things than Jesus did.  Why?  Because Jesus would be working through not one physical body but the whole body of believers, all over the world, the Church.  Jesus had to ascend to mark this transition in a tangible way.  The 40 days of resurrection appearances had to come to a definite end and the ascension to heaven was the way that this was done.  At the time of writing, everyone thought that heaven was above the clouds and that is why Jesus went up into the clouds to show his disciples where He was going, to be with his Heavenly Father, in glory.  No doubt, Jesus’ plan was to prove, once again, to them his divinity and underline the fact that he would return one day.  In this way he would allay their worries, fears and sorrows.  This clearly was the case, as the disciples returned to Jerusalem rejoicing.

God living above the earth was part of Jewish understanding.  In Psalm 47 we read “God has ASCENDED amid shouts of Joy.”  In Ephesians, the Apostle Paul emphasizes the way that the ascension demonstrates the divinity of Christ, “[God] raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far ABOVE all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the age to come.”

What is the significance of Ascension Day?  It is the fulfillment of God’s remarkable plan of salvation.  It is therefore a cause of great joy and celebration where we can join in the happiness of the first disciples. Luke records, “Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with GREAT JOY.”

New Testament reading for this day: Acts 1:1-11

Gospel reading for this day: Luke 24:44-53

Epistle reading for this day: Ephesians 1:15-23

Psalm for this day: 47