Summary: want us to look at three primary passages this morning. These three texts, taken together, form a composite picture of the Ascension.
I heard recently about a church that was putting on an Easter Cantata. When they came to the climactic scene of the Ascension of Christ, the actor playing Jesus was to be slowly hoisted out of view through an opening in the ceiling. The cue for the guys pulling the rope was when he said, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
The flight upward was progressing smoothly, until the stage crew briefly lost their grip on the rope and the actor nearly dropped back to the stage. With enviable stage presence, he remained in character as his feet dangled inches from the floor and his bewildered disciples looked on in horror. Without skipping a beat he said, “Oh, and one more thing…love one another.” Immediately the rope yanked him up into the ceiling and out of sight.
We don’t think much about the Ascension of Christ, but we should. It’s not just an afterthought but a cornerstone teaching of Scripture. We celebrate the Incarnation on Christmas; we recognize the Crucifixion on Good Friday; we rejoice in the Resurrection on Easter; but we don’t really give much attention to the Ascension. Actually, I found out that some churches do include this on their church calendar, but because it’s normally celebrated 40 days after Easter, and it falls on a Thursday, it doesn’t get the prominence it deserves.
The Bible records two other ascensions. Both Enoch and Elijah detoured death and went straight to heaven (see Genesis 5:24; 2 Kings 2:11). One day a girl in Sunday School was asked to tell the story of Enoch. This is what she said: “Well, one day God and Enoch were just walking together and it came close to the end of the day. And God turned to Enoch and said, ‘We’re closer to my house than to yours. So why don’t you just come home with me?’” It may have happened just like that (story from Melvin Newland).
When Jesus ascended into heaven it was unique. First of all, He actually died. Secondly, He came back to life. Third, He was taken up into heaven. 1 Timothy 3:16 contains a brief synopsis of the Savior’s work: “He appeared in a body, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory.” One way the early church determined to never forget what their faith was based on was by putting together the Apostle’s Creed. Let’s stand and recite this summary statement of Christian belief together. Believers first stated this right before they were baptized as part of their confession of Christ. What we read may be a bit different from what you remember because this is the “Modern English Version.”
I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come again to judge the living and the dead.