Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Ascension of Jesus Christ, 4

"It may be said that there is no incident in the life of Jesus . . . . so essential as the Ascension." --William Barclay, The Mind of Jesus, p. 315.

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2. As head of his church, Jesus ascended so that he could be present with all of his church at all times by the Holy Spirit.

At the end of his time on earth Jesus told his followers, I will be with you always even until the end of the world. Earlier, in Matthew 18, he promised his followers that any time two or three of them were gathered in his name, ironing out their differences, he would be there with them.

Of course, Jesus could never do that in the flesh, as one of us. Though ironic, the Scriptures teach that it was only by ascending to the presence of the Father that the Lord Jesus could be present with all of his people at all times. And he is with us, by means of the Holy Spirit who was sent to live in the heart of every Christian.

In John 14:16-18, Jesus said: And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.

But not only is Jesus with his church by the Holy Spirit, from his exalted position he serves and supports all of his people everywhere. One example of Christ's current service to his church is his provision of human leadership for the body so that each member will be prepared to do the will of God. Paul speaks of this in Ephesians 4:10-12:

He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe. It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.

In Acts 1:1-2, Luke tells Theophilus that in the previous volume, the Gospel of Luke, he had written about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven. The implication is clear. When Jesus ascended, he was not finished doing and teaching. Indeed, the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe (Eph. 4:10), had just gotten started in His great work of leading and instructing the church.


Anonymous said...

That is something really good to chew on.

How does this impact us and is the fact that we might not see it this way lead us to never look for such leadership?

Good thoughts. Thanks.


Frank Bellizzi said...

Thanks for your comment, Darin. And, that's a great question.

Focusing on the connection between Christ's ascension and his activity among his people would have a very positive impact on how we construe all sorts of categories, including human leadership.

Becoming a preacher would be less about going to school and getting hired, and would be more about individuals and churches recognizing those people whom the reigning Christ has given to be evangelists and teachers. That's a much more biblical way of thinking about ordination, much more centered on the exalted Christ.

Matthew said...

Cool picture.