Ascension Snips and Clips

So much gets left on the cutting room floor–hence “snips and clips” in my title–when preparing a sermon. Here is a fascinating, orthodox, and devotional article by John F. Maile, called “The Ascension in Luke-Acts,” taken from the Tyndale Bulletin 37 (1986). Its gist is to engage in a scholarly, but pious way, with the value and biblical basis for believing, and loving, the doctrine of the Ascension of Jesus Christ.

In particular, I love this quote, below. As you read, notice how the author makes a theological connection between the Ascension in Luke’s Gospel and the Ascension in Acts.

In that regard, this is biblical scholarship that promotes the reading of your Bible, and loving more deeply, and obeying more fully, what it teaches; this is theological scholarship that exalts Christ and His Bride, the Church:

The ascension is the explanation of the continuity between the ministry of Jesus and that of the church. It is often said that the ascension accounts mark an ending and a beginning. It might be more accurate to say that they present the point of transition at which the story which has begun in the earthly ministry of Jesus in one mode becomes the same story continuing in a different mode. It is this note of continuity which is central. The ascension must be understood in the light of the implication contained in Acts 1:1, that as the Gospel recounted what Jesus began to do and to teach, so Acts will recount what he continues to do and to teach. In this context it is also important to observe that for Luke this ‘going away’ of Jesus at the ascension does not lead to an absentee Christ, as is frequently asserted; rather, and this helps to explain the joy of the disciples in Luke 24, as H. Schlier puts it so well, Luke ‘…show(s) that the parting is more than a farewell, indeed basically not a farewell at all, but the withdrawal to a greater nearness’. (emphasis mine)

As you think about what the “going away” of Jesus means for you, I wonder: are you left with the thought that His going away is a “withdrawal to greater nearness”? Paradoxical as it may sound, what we need is not a physical Jesus present with us (for we would find reasons to doubt him, fear him, and forsake him, like so many other far more godly people before us). What we need is the power of a victorious and ascended Christ through His Holy Spirit in our very real day to day lives, congregations, and callings.

May God have mercy on us as we ask for such power from on high, to appropriate, and experience, the victory that is ours in Him.