Summary: Five great reasons the Ascension is such an important event in the life of Christ and for our redemption.
The Ascension of our Lord, 2009
The Rev. Jerry Kistler
St. Stephen’s Reformed Episcopal Church
Five Reasons to Celebrate
I’ve said it so many times before that I think I’m starting to sound like a skipping CD, but tonight is the great Christian feast, the holy day of holy days, the climax of the Church Calendar, because the Ascension is the climax of Christ’s redemptive work on our behalf. I’ll say it again: if the Ascension didn’t happen, Good Friday and Easter don’t mean anything. I say this over and over because I still don’t think the majority of Christians really get it. The Ascension is only a very minor holiday in most of the Church, and not celebrated at all in wide sections. So once Hallmark starts making Ascension cards, and the department stores start putting out Ascension decorations the day after Easter, we’ll know we’ve finally gotten our message through. But until then I’ll keep harping out my usual tune of how important the Ascension is in the whole scheme of our redemption.
You know, the usual way we talk in the Church about observing the feast days is that we celebrate the feasts, and Ascension is no different. Tonight I think we can identify from Scripture five great reasons to celebrate this very holy day.
The first great reason to celebrate tonight is that the Ascension means that Jesus truly is Lord. This is a truth the Ascension teaches us, but it’s one that so much of the Church doesn’t really believe anymore. They may confess it in the Creed, they may confess it as part of their theology, but they don’t really believe it. They look around at the way things are going in the world, they read all the terrible news in the newspapers, and they conclude that Christ’s reign must be something that will only be accomplished in the future; it can’t be a present reality. But the Scripture is clear on the point. Christ has ascended to take His throne at the right hand of His Father.
So what is He doing up there? Is He just sort of hanging His legs off the edge of eternity twiddling His thumbs, waiting for His Father to let Him reign? No! Jesus said just before He ascended, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” And St. Paul says “He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. (1Cor. 15:25-26). Well, if the last enemy to be destroyed is death, and that happens, as Paul says, at Christ coming again with the resurrection of our bodies, then He is reigning now, and is currently in the process of bringing all things into subjection to Himself. Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords. He’s not waiting to become Lord. And that’s a real reason to celebrate, because that gives an optimistic view of what’s going on in the world, and an optimistic view of the progress of history. No matter how dark and dreary the world may seem to get, no mater how anti-God, anti-Christ our culture seems to be going, the reality is that Christ really is in charge; He really is in control, and He is bringing history to His appointed end. He rules in the kingdoms of men and gives them to whomever He will. He is reigning to restore all things; He is reigning to destroy all things that impede His perfect rule in this world. That’s the great message of the book of Revelation. Christ is Lord now, and that is the number one reason to celebrate this great event in His life.
Well, the second reason to celebrate the Ascension is that it means He’s coming back. The angel said to the disciples as they watched Jesus ascend and vanish into the clouds that He would come again in the same manner in which He left. Well, why? If He’s reigning now, why does He need to return? The answer is: He will return to bring His kingdom to consummation. In that same passage that I quoted earlier from 1 Corinthians, Paul says when Christ returns, “then is the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father,” after having put an end to all rule and authority and power (1 Cor. 15:23-24). This is the consummation of the Kingdom. This is when all enemies will have been destroyed, including death itself. This is when all things will have been restored, and Christ’ heavenly reign will be here on the earth, because His return will signal the reunion of heaven and earth. That’s the new heavens and the new earth, when all things will be restored and the break between heaven and earth that occurred at the Fall will be healed and rejoined. That’s the hope the Ascension gives us, and that’s a second reason we have to celebrate this Ascension.