Matthew 28:19-20b – Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. (NKJV)
Today is Ascension Day, a Christian holy day to which not much attention is given here in North America. Most calendars don't even make note of it. However, in most of Europe, it is an actual holiday, a day off from work, and some churches still have worship services on that day. In many places, though, it has become just a long, long weekend, and the real reason for the holiday is observed by only a few. It is like so many Christian holy days now, just another day off.
There are a number of stories about Jesus and His followers after His crucifixion, burial, and resurrection. Jesus was seen by many in different locations at different times. He explained to His people what His mission was all about, and He gave the great commission to go out and spread the good news, even to the ends of the earth. Then the time came for Jesus to leave this earth and to return to His Father in heaven. He said:
Luke 24:48-51 – "And you are witnesses of these things. Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high." And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. Now it came to pass, while He blessed them, that He was parted from them and carried up into heaven. (NKJV)
I wonder what those followers of Jesus thought as a cloud hid Him from their sight. I wonder if they felt alone again, like they were on their own. I wonder if they had the same feeling of depression that they'd had after the Lord was buried in the tomb. Or did they really understand this time that Jesus really was Who He said He was?
Acts 1:10-11 – And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven." (NKJV)
As they all returned to Jerusalem, they were not sad any more. He had returned to the Father, but His work on this earth was only just beginning.
As I contemplate these events, what I notice are the promises that Jesus gave them. Those promises are also meant for us. I realize how important it is for us not to lose hope when we are in distress. God has promised us that He will be with us always, that He will give us the power of the Holy Spirit to be His witnesses, and that He will return in the same way that He left. That is the assurance of the gospel.
Prayer: Our Father in heaven, we thank You that Jesus came to earth, that He taught, healed, and comforted, and that He promised to be with us always. We thank You in His name. Amen.
Listen to this devotional
Listen while you read: "Praise The Lord Ye Heavens Adore Him" (Lyrics)