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The Ascension and Authority of Jesus

Updated: Nov 15, 2023

Scripture: Hebrews 1:3

The Ascension and Authority of Jesus
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The Apostles Creed, one of the most widely accepted creeds in our tradition, outlines our beliefs about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and the Church. Previously on our podcast, we talked about how many of us grew up reciting the creed but we may not have thought much about what we were reciting. The creed was something we had to know, but why? Do creeds matter when no one understands what they mean? Do traditions matter if no one knows why the traditions began in the first place? You see, the Apostles Creed matters. It’s foundational to our faith as believers and that’s why we’re taking out this time to talk about its meaning and significance. Today’s portion of the creed says this, “he ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the father almighty.”

The ascension of Jesus and the authority that Jesus maintains as being seated on God’s right hand is pertinent to our faith. Some of you may be wondering why.

Let’s start with his ascension. In the Gospel of John 20, we find Jesus having a conversation with Mary Magdalene.

"Jesus said to her, 'Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, "I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God."'

In this verse, Jesus speaks to Mary Magdalene shortly after His resurrection and before His ascension. He tells her not to cling to Him because He has not yet ascended to the Father. This indicates that His ascension is a future event that would follow His resurrection.

Another reference to Jesus' ascension can be found in the Gospel of Luke, 24:

"Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands, he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven."

This passage describes the actual moment of Jesus' ascension. After blessing His disciples, Jesus was "carried up into heaven," signifying His departure from Earth and His return to the Father in heaven.

The book of Acts also offers an account of his ascension.

Acts 1 says this:

"And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, 'Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.'"

This passage describes the visual aspect of Jesus' ascension, as witnessed by His disciples. It also includes the promise that He will return in the same way that He ascended.

The ascension marks the fulfillment of his earthly ministry and his return to the divine realm. I love the fact that there were witnesses to this extraordinary event. Jesus didn’t just say peace out and disappear. He ascended while his followers looked on with amazement; and before he ascended, he gave them an opportunity to understand what was happening.

"Imagine, for a moment, that we are all gathered in a vast open field on a beautiful day, and in the center of this field, there stands a magnificent hot air balloon. This hot air balloon represents the ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Now, think of Jesus, after His resurrection, spending time with His disciples, teaching them, comforting them, and preparing them for what lay ahead. And then, as the disciples stood with Him on a hill, much like this field, He began to rise into the air.

The disciples watched in awe as He ascended higher and higher, His form becoming smaller in the distance, until a cloud eventually enveloped Him from their sight.

But, you see, the ascension wasn't just a physical departure. It was a transition from one realm to another. Just as the hot air balloon rises above the earthly realm into the vastness of the sky, Jesus ascended into the heavenly realm, far above the earthly limitations.

The ascension marked the culmination of His earthly ministry, His victory over sin and death, and His return to the Father's side. And, just like a hot air balloon journey takes us to places we couldn't reach on our own, Jesus' ascension paved the way for His continuous presence with us through the Holy Spirit and His ongoing work in our lives.

As the disciples gazed into the sky, two angels appeared, much like the crew of a hot air balloon, who might ensure a safe and smooth journey. These angels assured the disciples that Jesus would return in the same way they had seen Him go into heaven.

As we reflect on the ascension of Jesus, let us remember that Jesus ascended to a place of exaltation, divine authority, and eternal glory. His ascension is a reminder of His promise to always be with us, guiding us on our journey of faith until the day He returns to us once more."

The followers of Jesus are very much a part of this event, having dialogue with Jesus and witnessing him ascend. This means that the ascension isn’t simply Jesus’ experience, it’s the experience of the believer too. Jesus let his followers know, “hey this is happening,” and he allowed them to be there to see it all unfold.

His ascension is a declaration of victory over sin and death. Allowing His disciples to witness this event served as confirmation that His mission on Earth had been successful. It was a visual and first-hand affirmation of His triumph. And it provided tangible evidence that Jesus was who He claimed to be, the Son of God and the Messiah.

This was a significant moment for the disciples as they had to come to grips with the fact that Jesus’ ministry with them on earth had come to an end. They didn’t have to wonder if maybe Jesus was still around somewhere, hiding out, assuming a different identity. They knew he had ascended into heaven because they saw it with their own eyes. So this marked the beginning of the next chapter of their ministry, where the Holy Spirit would strengthen and empower them to continue in the work that Jesus called them to. This also serves as a reminder for us to do the same. We must also operate under the same divine authority of our ascended Lord, following in the way he has led us.

Jesus told His disciples to wait for the promised Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4-5) who would empower them for their mission. The Church, too, is called to rely on the Holy Spirit for guidance, wisdom, and empowerment to carry out the work of spreading the Gospel and making disciples.

We are also called to live and serve as his witnesses. Just as the disciples were witnesses to His life, death, and resurrection, our role is to bear witness to the truth of the Gospel and the transformative power of Jesus.

When was the last time you told someone what Jesus means to you? When was the last time you testified to a challenge that Jesus helped you overcome? When was the last time you offered your witness to the goodness and mercy of Jesus Christ? Someone needs to know what you have seen, what you have experienced.

And if you’re in the thick of a challenging season right now, if you’ve found yourself in the middle of a storm right now, please understand that someone needs to know how God is walking alongside you because they need to understand that God will walk alongside them too. Just like the disciples witnessed Jesus ascend to triumph over all the things that oppress us and lived to tell others what they saw…. God encourages us tell others what we have seen. God encourages us to tell others what we see right now and it doesn’t always have to be pretty. God is with us when life is peachy and certainly when life is messy.

The understanding that Jesus sits at the right hand of God the father is also incredibly special to us because it affirms Jesus’ divinity and his ability to intercede for us. In the Old Testament, the high priest had a special role in interceding for the people before God. Jesus, as our High Priest, continues this role from the right hand of God. He intercedes on behalf of believers, presenting our needs to God.

We must also understand that in order to save us, Jesus had to be fully human but also fully divine. Salvation would not be possible for us otherwise.

This statement reminds us that Jesus isn’t just our teacher, friend, and healer…he is also our Lord. He is our Lord who is bigger than all of the things that threaten us. He is bigger than sin. He is bigger than suffering and disappointments. He is bigger than sickness and death.

Jesus, as he sits at God’s right hand, has overcome all of these burdens. My prayer for you is that this brings you hope regarding the things that may be weighing on your heart right now. Jesus is interceding for you right now in this very moment. Jesus sees you. He sees what you may be going through and he cares.

Because he serves as our intercessor and advocate, we no longer have to feel bound to the things that oppress us. It’s because of Jesus that we have grace to start over, to try again. It’s because of Jesus that we can pick ourselves up after we fall. It’s because of Jesus that we can achieve things that we never thought were possible, like forgiving those who have hurt us or forgiving ourselves for the mistakes we’ve made.

What does it mean that Jesus ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the father almighty? It means that he accomplished what he said he would accomplish. It means that Jesus is victorious, which means we can be too, if we would put our faith in him to move in our lives. Let us rejoice and give thanks that Jesus Christ is Lord. Every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Thanks be to God.

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