Thinking about Ascension Day may conjure up thoughts of sadness. To imagine Jesus disappearing into the clouds and going far, far away! I think about the way the disciples may have felt seeing their Master Jesus for the last time, keeping their eyes fixed on him like the last rays of the sun, until they could no longer see him, and then the message from the angels.
In John 14-17 this beautiful passage of scripture carries the voice of Jesus into how we can hold the mystery of his ascension. He promised that although he needed to return to the Father, he would be going to prepare a place for each of us. He promised to be with us through the ages, and to never forsake us. And he promised to send the Holy Spirit as our ever present Friend, Counselor and Comforter.
I find myself with Thomas in the room, a spirit crushed with the recent events of Jesus’ terrible death. He did not want to have his hopes raised only to be bitterly disappointed once again. A very special interaction took place between Thomas and Jesus, with an invitation for Thomas place his hands into the very wounds that purchased our healing and life. And a message, Stop doubting, and believe. Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet believe. John 20:24-29.
I have heard of Jesus appearing to modern day people since the day of his Ascension and giving them special graces, messages and encounters of love. For some, it has been on their death bed as a near death experience, and they have then returned to continue the fulfillment of their lives’ purpose. They have seen Jesus and been transformed powerfully through having felt his unconditional love.
Others have encountered Jesus in dreams and visions of the night, that have led to incredible conversions, miracles of healing or prophetic words for the future.
I went through a time a few years ago when I started to really desire to see Jesus in the flesh. Knowing God has no favourites, I struggled to understand why it was I did not experience what I longed for. But I came to a real fellow feeling with Thomas, and felt as though he could be a close relation. Not looking down on him from some high place, scorning his lack of faith. And then the words came to me, blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.
There is a special blessing Jesus promised for us, who do not see and yet believe. Our spirit is with Jesus in the heavenly places – though our earthly minds cannot get to grips with it, we experience it in walking our day to day relationship with Jesus in the spirit of faith. This faith is his gift, not something we conjure up or strive for.
The moments of light, when we know we are encountering God, are true gifts, but even when we don’t see or feel, we can be completely assured and at rest in the completed work of Jesus and his resurrection power. He is faithful to the end and will not falter, no matter how the world falters, no matter how frail we sometimes feel, he has promised to never forsake us and eternally be true to us. He is in us as we are in him. And the Father loves us with the same love he has for Jesus.
The cross is the turning point of history, and the resurrection seals every promise eternally. The Ascension is his way of showing us where to look and keep our gaze focussed while we are earth bound and yet spiritual citizens. Look up. Don’t look to the left or the right, hear God’s voice saying, This is my Beloved Son, whom I love, listen to him. Look up from the daily incidences, from where we stand, look up. Keep our spiritual eyes and frame postioned upward, for the Lord has promised, he is coming again and will return in the same way the disciples saw him leave.
We can be completely assured that Jesus lives for us today! He is seated on the throne beside his Father and our Father. He taught us how to pray, as children in a great family, part of, belonging. He lives to intercede for us and his love has no limit.
“And , when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself.” John 12:32
In which areas of your life is Jesus drawing you to himself?
“…I bore you on eagles’ wings, and brought you to myself.” Exodus 19:4
Though we may not always see with our human eyes, we can know in our spirits, he is King of kings and Lord of lords in the heavenly places, and yet he is here, right now, reaching out for you and for me.
“The same one who came down is the one who ascended higher than all the heavens, so that his rule might fill the entire universe.” Ephesians 4:10
You have gone ahead of us, Bright Morning Star
Song of Heaven, you passed through the gates
With the blood you poured out.
Every instrument played through your being
With the crescendo of souls now redeemed.
Maranatha Lord, we cry,
Come, come again.
The final goodbye on the mountains of earth,
With a last embrace you departed and your friends stood
Watching, as the soles of your feet blessed the sky.
Every word you spoke, each miracle
Every touch, laugh, tear and wound:
Left as a sign for the ones to follow.
All that cannot be seen is now more real
Than flesh on flesh or blood in the veins.
You have drawn me up into the Heavens with you
And you are calling me still.
Maranatha Lord, we cry,
Come, come again.