The story is told of some fellows who were in a locker room. They are startled by the sound of a cell phone on a bench ringing. A man answers on speakerphone and everyone else can’t help but listen. Man says: Hello?
A woman begins talking: Honey, it’s me. Are you at the gym? Man: Yes.
Woman: I’m at the mall now and I found this really beautiful dress. It’s only $1,500. I really like it. Can I buy it? Man: Sure, go ahead if you like it that much.
Woman: I also stopped by the Audi dealership and saw the new models. I saw one that’s just perfect. Man: How much? Woman: $60,000 Man: OK but for that price I want it with all the extras.
Woman: Great! Oh, and one more thing. The house we wanted last year is back on the market. They’re asking $950.000. Man: Well, then go ahead and make a bid, but just offer $900,000 and negotiate from there.
Woman: OK! I’ll see you later! I love you! Man: Bye. I love you too.
He hangs up. The other guys in locker room are looking at him in astonishment. He smiled at them, held up the cell phone, and then asked, “By the way, whose cell phone is this?”
Sometimes we look at events and find them interesting but of little actual importance to us. The fellow whose cell phone it really was may have been thinking that this was a fascinating conversation but of no importance to him and then all of the sudden what had been said was extremely important. Today we are commemorating the Ascension of Jesus Christ into heaven. The actual day of Ascension was on Thursday, May 30th. But we are going to consider it today. Does it matter that Jesus Christ ascended into heaven? We get why it is important that Jesus died on the cross for us. He did that to save us from our sins and reconcile us to God. We get why it is important that Jesus rose from the dead. Through his resurrection God validated all his Son’s words and opened the way to eternal life for all those who believe in Jesus. But 40 days after his resurrection, is it important that Jesus ascended into heaven? The answer is yes.
We see the first reason why the Ascension is important from our Ephesians reading. There we heard that God “seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come.” So in his ascension Jesus took his place as the new king and head of the human race. In creation God had placed humanity as rulers and caretakers of earth but Adam and Eve sinned against God and they forfeited their place as rulers to the evil one, to Satan. But Jesus defeated the evil one and now he is the ruler of all things on the earth, under the earth, and in heaven. And as we say in our creed, “He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God, the Father almighty, from where he will return to judge the living and the dead.” So the Ascension marks the beginning of Jesus’ rule over all creation and that’s important.
The second reason the Ascension is important is that when Jesus was here on earth he had a physical body. And as is the case with our own physical bodies we are tied to one place in space and time; and so was Jesus. If you wanted to speak with him or listen to him, you had to do it at that place where he was. “But at the ascension, Jesus leaves the space-time continuum and passes into the presence of the Father in heaven. He is still human, still our second Adam yet now he has been so glorified that everything he does has a cosmic scope any time-space limitation passes away.” What does that mean for us? It means I can pray to Jesus and He hears me. At the same time I am praying to Him you can pray to him as well. You can be next to me, or you can be in your home or across the state or on the other side of the world. Jesus can hear me, you and everyone who is speaking to him. Now because of the Ascension he is unlimited in his watching over and communicating with his followers.
The third reason it is important that he ascended is that he now has another role. While up in heaven he now is our mediator, advocate, and high priest. He takes our side and prays for us. He knows how tough it can be to live here. He knows the pain and sorrow that we experience. He knows because he has gone through it while he lived here. As our high priest he intercedes for us to God the Father when we repent.
There are a number of other reasons why the Ascension is important to us and I will not take the time to go over them all. But there is one final reason I want to tell you about. When Jesus told his disciples that he was going away he told them that he would not leave them alone or lonely. I want you to imagine with me for a moment what it must have been like to be with Jesus. We see from the gospel texts that people wanted to be near him. He was thronged by those who simply desired to be in his presence. Diane and I were excited this year to see and to have been able to touch the pyramids, structures that were built four thousand years ago. But Jesus, Jesus was God in the flesh. The Apostle John writes that we saw him; we touched him with our hands—there is a sense of awe and wonder about their experience. Jesus wasn’t just a regular guy. People wanted just be with him and feel his presence; because when they were in his presence they were in the presence of God. It had to have been incredible. And his disciples, these men had lived with him; they had lived in the presence of the God-man for 3 years and when he told them that he was leaving them they were very upset. Jesus tells them that he will not leave them like orphans but he will send the Holy Spirit to be with them. The Holy Spirit is the presence of God, the presence of Jesus. Like the disciples we need, we want God’s presence in our lives. It is His presence that gives us the strength to live the life that we are supposed to live. It is his presence that gives us the joy and the peace we need in our days and particularly during those times when our lives are hard and painful. Humanity was made, was created to experience God’s presence. We were made to live in his presence and when we are experiencing His presence life feels right! In His presence everything feels right even when things may being going crazy around us. And just like Jesus promised, when he ascended he did send the Holy Spirit. It is Holy Spirit that we now feel when we come into God’s presence. It is Holy Spirit that we feel when we are truly close to God. We are able to feel God’s presence wherever we go because of the Ascension of Jesus.
So is the Ascension important? Yes, it certainly is. How does it apply to my life today? It applies to you and me right now because we can talk to Jesus, all of us can talk to him anytime from anywhere. He is the one in charge. He is the ruler of all. Those are really important but to me, what is most important is that we can ask Him to fill our hearts and lives with his Spirit, with his presence! It is this Holy Spirit we desire when we ask for peace and joy. It is this Holy Spirit we desire when we ask for wisdom or direction or comfort and we can have these all now because of His Ascension. Amen