This past week churches around the world celebrated the Ascension of the Lord. This day marks the end of the forty days of the resurrection appearances of Christ. Recounted in varied detail in the Gospel witness, Jesus as the Risen One had been with them once again, reconciling and instructing them for the apostolic mission soon to come.
Before his departure, the Risen Lord speaks to the apostles about the coming of the Holy Spirit and the empowering for mission that would occur (Acts 1:1-9). Then he is taken up in a cloud, a sign of God’s powerful nearness. The New Testament has interpreted the meaning of ascension in significant ways, e.g., that Jesus has been exalted to the place of honor at the right hand of God; that he abides in the presence of God and offers intercession for us (Romans 8:34).
In mysterious and elusive imagery, ascension tells us that we have a friend where it counts the most. Humanity has been taken up into the life of God. It was not enough that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us; God is ever bound to humanity by receiving Jesus into God’s own eternal realm. All that marks human life is now a part of God. Because Jesus was made like us in every respect, he has become a merciful and faithful high priest, knowing from the inside out all that would challenge our journey in faith and hope.