Summary: What is the significance of the Ascension?
The Ascension of Jesus
In the previous passage, we have a record of the last earthly meeting of his disciples which came at the end of a forty day period after the resurrection. There were many appearances of Jesus during this time in both Galilee and Jerusalem. At one time there were 500 people at one time which witnessed that Jesus was alive according to Paul in 1 Corinthians 15. These appearances included allowing the disciples to touch Jesus and see that he was really alive and not a ghost. He ate with them as well. Obviously, there was something different about this in that he appeared to them in the midst of a locked room. But it was a body, nevertheless. This gives us a clue as to what life in heaven will be like. As Paul notes, it will be in a glorified body. It also appears that we will eat and drink with Jesus. The resurrection is not some sort of soulish existence apart from a body.
We also saw that Jesus probably has one more lunch with his disciples before the ascension. It may have been a reminder of the first communion in which He promised that he would sup with them once more in the Kingdom of God. He used this last occasion to teach them one more time before He left. The church had to be sure of the reality of Jesus’ resurrection and ascension as well as to have confidence that He would come back for them when the Father was ready.
Teaching the kingdom of God was Jesus’ primary activity on earth, not His miracles and healings. He wanted the disciples to understand that the Old Testament promises of Christ were the first proof of the reality of the Kingdom. This is not to say that the miracles and other proofs are not important. But the disciples needed to know that God is sovereign and had this whole matter planned well in advance as well as that He perfectly executed this plan. This ability of God to deliver on His promises is the sure foundation of faith. The disciples were going to face much hostility. They needed to be sure.
Jesus’ last words were those of commission. After telling the disciples to put their trust in God’s provision to bring the Kingdom according to the timing and means He had set, Jesus told them that they were to go everywhere to tell people about Him, to continue Jesus’ mission of doing and teaching. The first fruit of true faith is to obey the gospel.
Exposition of the Text
The text says that after He had charged the disciples that He was taken up into heaven. There was great brightness, clouds, and the appearance of two shining men (angels). This should have reminded Peter, James and John of the transfiguration as well as the two angels who appeared to Mary at the tomb. In the transfiguration, it was Moses and Elijah who appeared and witnessed to the “exodus” Jesus was about to encounter in Jerusalem. The two angels at the tomb witnessed to Mark the good news of the resurrection which they were to proclaim to the unbelieving disciples. This time, it is the apostles who are called to continue in this mission of witness.