The Ascension and Exaltation of Christ
E. L. Lovering, Ilfracombe
THE history of the life of our Lord Jesus upon earth did not end, with His death but with His ascension into Heaven. He remained in the world 40 days after His Resurrection, and during that period Me appeared several times to His disciples, and gave them " infallible proofs " that lie who was dead was alive again. Gathering them together for the last time, Luke tells us (ch.24. 44-53) that having set the seal of divine authority upon the whole of the Old Testament Scriptures, and opening or unravelling their minds to understand them, He gave them His last commandment to wait in the city of Jerusalem until they were clothed with power from on high. Then He led them out, until they were over against Bethany ; and from that very familiar and hallowed spot, He, with uplifted arms in the attitude and act of priestly blessing, parted from them and was borne up into heaven.
The manner of His going. How comprehensive are the Scriptures in this. " He parted from them " displays His own personal act and power, and so He was " carried up or borne up " into Heaven (Luke 24. 51, R.V.).
Further, Acts 1. 9 declares that as the disciples were looking, gazing upon Him and drinking-in His words to them, " He was taken up and a cloud received Him out of their sight." Mark tells" us that " He was received up into Heaven and sat down at the right hand of God " (Mark 16. 19).
The Ascension was a promise. When Peter and John had arrived at the sepulchre on the resurrection-day, and beheld the empty tomb, they went again unto their own home. Mary Magdalene, however, stood alone without at the sepulchre weeping, that is literally ' sobbing.' It was then that, stooping down and looking into the tomb, she saw two angels in white sitting one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. Soon the Lord Himself appeared to her and gave her the promise of His ascension. " Take not hold of Me," He said, " for I am not yet ascended unto the Father : but go unto My brethren and say to them, I ascend unto My Father and your Father and My God and your God " (John 20. 17, R.V.). Then she came to them and told them that she had seen the Lord and " how Me had said these things unto her." " These things " were not the facts of His resurrection, for of this they were already assured, but the announcement of His coming ascension. The disciples had seen an empty grave; Mary-had seen a living Lord.
The practical message of the Ascension for us, His children, now is surely that it is—
(1) a call In witness, for did not the Saviour say to His disciples " ye arc witnesses of these things " (Luke 24. 48), and, further, " ye shall receive power, when the Holy Ghost is come upon you : and ye shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem and in all Jud
Yes, we have a living and exalted Saviour ; let us tell it around, beginning at ' Jerusalem,' our nearest neighbours and our friends, and then to the uttermost part of the earth.
(2) a call to worship. As the blessed Saviour parted from His disciples and was carried up to Heaven, we read that " they worshipped Him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy and were continually in the temple, blessing God " (Luke 24. 52, 58). The epistle to the Philippians tells us that "God highly exalted Him and gave unto Him the name which is above every name; that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things on earth and things of the world below, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father " (Phil. 2, 9-11). The call is to " set your mind on the things that are above, not the things that are upon the earth," and " to seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated on the right hand of God " (Col. 3, 1, 2, R.V.). What wondrous things are at God's right hand for us! There is:
(a) repentance and remission of sins, for " God did exalt Him at His right hand, a Prince and a Saviour for to give repentance to Israel and remission of sins " (Acts 5. 31).
(b) the Holy Spirit, for " being at the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He hath poured forth this, which ye now see and hear " (Acts 2. 33), His ascension gift to His people. His promise was, " and 1 will make request of the Father and He shall give you another Comforter (or Helper) that He may be with you for ever, the Spirit of Truth " (John 14. 16). What a precious and wonderful gift is the Spirit to us !
(c) Christ. Paul in his letter to the Romans throws out a challenge—" who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? Shall God that justifies ? Who is he that shall condemn ? Shall Christ Jesus that died, yea rather, that was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us ?" (Rom. 8. 34). At God's right hand there is one who intercedes for us. The apostle prayed that the saints in Ephesus " may know the exceeding greatness of His power to usward who believe, according to that working of the strength of His might which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and made Him to sit at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all . . ." (Eph. 2. 19-21). There is spiritual power at God's right hand for us. Through the risen and exalted Saviour we are assured of victory over every foe, for Peter encourages us to be ready to suffer for righteousness’ sake, remembering that Christ also once suffered for sins, the J list for the unjust; and is now at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven ; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto Him " (1 Pet. 8. 14-22).
The Psalmist wrote many years before, " The Lord said unto my Lord. Sit thou at My right hand, until I make. Thine enemies Thy footstool " (Ps. 110. 1).
In Old Testament days the High Priest moved about in the tabernacle ministering in the holy place but it was never his privilege to sit down, for his work was never fully accomplished. Year after year there was a renewal of sacrifice, but " we have such a High Priest, who sat down on the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens, a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man " (Heb. 8. 1, 2).
Then the covenant was written upon tables of stone, but now God " will put My laws into their mind, and on their heart also will I write them " (Heb. 8. 10).
Finally, let us in the Christian race look off unto Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and hath sat down at the right hand of the throne of God " (Heb. 12. 2). Surely, such a Person bows our hearts in adoration and in worship !
(3) a call to work. We recall the words of the two men in white apparel as they spoke to the disciples gazing up into heaven, " Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing into heaven ? This same Jesus, which was received up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye beheld Him going into heaven " (Acts 1. 11).
Matthew Henry the expositor writes, " He calls them men of Galilee, to put them in mind of the rock out of which they were hewn. Christ had put a great honour on them in making them His ambassadors. But they must remember that they are men— earthen vessels, men of Galilee, illiterate, looked upon with disdain. Why stand ye gazing, rude and unpolished men, as those who are frightened and perplexed, astonished and at their wit's end ? Christ's disciples should never stand gazing. They have a sure rule to go by, and a certain foundation to build upon. They should never be at a loss."
So while we wait for our Lord to come again, let us work for Him below, not weary in well-doing, but buying up the opportunities and redeeming the time.
We joy to see Thee, Lord, arise
Triumphant through the opening skits ;
And hoar all heaven united own
Thee worthy to ascend the throne."