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Why the ascension matters

Posted on 9 May 2010 No Comments yet

Where did Jesus go after Easter..?

It began with an empty tomb, a cold, vacant space where the body of Jesus used to be, an empty space which brought confusion and fear to those who loved him most. Jesus was no longer there in the tomb, but where was he?

And then on a dusty twilight road to Emmaus, in a locked upper room, and at the break of day on a lakeside beach, the one who was not there in the tomb was suddenly and wonderfully back with his disciples again. It was the same Jesus, the same and yet different.

But only forty days after the shock of the empty tomb the disciples are once again looking at the space where Jesus used to be. This time their faces are turned upwards to the clouds as their risen Lord ‘returns to the Father’. The Son of Man who had made his home among humankind was now leaving, his work accomplished. Jesus was no longer present in the world, but where was he?

As the disciples stare into the sky two men appear, presumably angels, who ask the puzzled onlookers why they are standing and staring upwards.  ‘Men of Galilee’, they ask, ‘why are you looking up to heaven?’ The question seems to imply that the disciples are looking in the wrong place for Jesus and that they should move on, let go, begin their work… And how tempting it must have been for them to want to stay fixed to the spot and stare into the sky and remember the Jesus they once had.

But this Jesus, no longer confined by space and time, could now be with his followers in a new and powerful way. He had made the journey home from the finite world of flesh and blood to the infinite realm of heaven, and where he had gone all could now follow.

So to this band of bewildered followers he gave the gift of the Holy Spirit, the life-giving gift of the breath of God himself – a gift of heaven to earth. And it didn’t take the disciples long to discover that communion with Jesus through the Spirit, and the work of mission to which he had called them, were two sides of the same coin. The more they trusted, obeyed and worshipped the risen and ascended Lord the more present he seemed to become and the larger the fellowship grew.

And so the Church was born – not to preserve the space where Jesus had once been but to be the space where Jesus was very much alive. ‘On earth as it is in heaven’ is the universal and ageless prayer of the Church and when we pray the Lord’s Prayer we are declaring our trust in the one who is both here and there – here through the Spirit empowering our mission (bringing heaven to earth) and  there with the Father enabling communion (bringing earth to heaven). This is the glorious outcome of Easter. And this is why the Ascension matters….

Becky Bevan

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