Today, across the world, many churches will be celebrating the Feast of the Ascension, the day on which the Resurrection appearances of Christ ended and he was taken back into heaven.
However we understand that to have taken place, what the Ascension signals to us is a transition. It was the point at which the earthly ministry of Jesus and his post-Resurrection appearances to the disciples came to an end. And yet, paradoxically, it marked the point from which the presence of Christ would no longer be confined to a specific time or place. They would never again be separated from him.
Christ would be taken into every corner of the world by those who knew him, and who would come to know him, through the eyes of faith. No doubt it was a scary moment for the disciples. They had already experienced what it felt like to lose their Lord at the crucifixion. Having had their grief turned to joy through the resurrection appearances the prospect of losing Jesus again would have been a source of fear and apprehension.
We can almost feel the sense of paralysis when we hear the words of the two men in white robes who spoke to the disciples as they gazed up to heaven and tried to take in what had happened.
‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up towards heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven’ (Acts 1.11)
Inadequate though they must have felt, in the days to come the disciples would begin to realise the implications that the call of Jesus would have on their lives. Strengthened by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost – which we commemorate in ten days time – those first disciples would become the vanguard of the Christian movement that would take the good news of Jesus Christ into every corner of the world.
The Ascension of Christ means that he is not bound by time or space and that his love and peace can be known by all people. He is present with his people in every age and place and through them – through us – he is made known to others. We are his ‘Plan A’ and there is no ‘Plan B’.
In a very real sense, the Feast of the Ascension reminds us that the responsibility to make Christ known in the world was handed over to us. But let us not feel daunted. In the strength of the Holy Spirit, sent by the Father in Jesus’ name, we can do this through the kindness and compassion that we show to others through our words and deeds.
Happy Feast of the Ascension!
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