May 25, 2012
Celebrating the Ascension and Embracing the Supernatural Jesus
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Last Sunday was Ascension Sunday. I was raised in a Christian tradition that did not celebrate the Ascension or Pentecost. Easter was the major ---actually, only-- day of celebration on our religious calendar. Of course, we celebrated Mother's Day and Father's Day during May and June, but celebrations for Ascension Sunday and Pentecost were missing. Why?
I wonder if these days seemed too "magical" or "supernatural" to highlight and celebrate as fact. Did we have a hard time imagining ourselves with Jesus' mother and the apostles as they watched Jesus elevated from their vision into a heaven they could not see? Did we dislike--or even despise-- the idea of loosing and losing control of ourselves in a Pentecost-like appearance of the Holy Spirit? We were ashamed to admit to seekers or non-believers that we believed these were true events because they are recorded in Scripture? Did we not want to open ourselves to subdued laughter and silent mockery by others who did not understand these events?
I suppose all of these things could explain why these special days in the church calendar have fallen out of favor. It's too bad, and it's a trend we should reverse.
The Jesus any of us will ever encounter is truly a supernatural person, as He always was. For those of us living in this time, we can no longer know Him as the carpenter from Nazareth, the teacher and controversial rabbi, or the master storyteller and healer. As Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:16: " Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer."
John, known as the Beloved Apostle, sat next to Jesus at the Last Supper and leaned on Him in loving, but reverent, familiarity .When this same John saw the Ascended Christ and recorded the vision of Him in the first chapter of the Book of Revelation, John wrote these words: " I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet, saying, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last,” and “What you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia: to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamos, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.” Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters; 16 He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength. And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me,“Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last. I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death. Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this."
John was so overwhelmed by the Ascended Jesus he could only respond by falling on his face in awe. Jesus Christ is not "The Man Upstairs" or "The Big Guy in the Sky." His fully expressed presence would overwhelm all of us.
Jesus left the Earth in the same manner as He will return. He is the Eternal Supernatural God-Man who chose to become one of us for a while so that we could be with Him forever. His visible, bodily ascension is the ultimate proof of His origin, His resurrection, His divinity, His power over nature, and a forward witness of His second coming. It is worthy of celebration.
."..while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:9-11).