In Christian teachings, Easter is the holiest of its yearly observances.

That is when Christ rose from the dead, as he had told his disciples he would. During the next 40 days, according to scriptures, Christ made numerous appearances in several locations.

Jesus appeared first to Mary Magdalene in Jerusalem (Matthew 28:9-10, Mark 16:9, John 20: 14-17), to two disciples on the Road to Emmaus (Luke 24: 13-32), to Simon Peter (Luke 24:34, First Corinthians 15:5), to His disciples in the evening of the first day (John 20:19), and a week later to Thomas and the disciples (John 20:26). He appeared to James (First Corinthians 15:7), and to Peter and the Apostles in Galilee (Matthew 28: 16-20, John 21:1).

All totaled, the resurrected Jesus was seen by more than 500 people, according to scriptures.

During those 40 days, Jesus spent time teaching the disciples about the Kingdom of God. He informed them they would receive power from the Holy Spirit to be His witnesses to the ends of the Earth.

In short, He was preparing them for another significant event.

 

The Ascension to Heaven

It’s not enough to celebrate the Risen Lord on one spring Sunday and then forget about what comes next. The ascension is crucial, and it’s life-changing and eternity-changing for Christians.

• Jesus' ascension established him as the reigning king over all powers in all ages, according to the scriptures. God "raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come," (Ephesians 1:20-21).

• The ascension gives believers access to God's throne for mercy and grace. "We have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens," (Hebrews 4:14).

• The ascension provides an advocate on Earth whose presence is limitless. In John 14: 16-17 Jesus comforts the disciples with the promise that the Father will send another advocate, the Spirit of Truth.

• The ascension gives gives Christians the gifts of Christ's victory over death.

• The ascension keeps Christians longing for His return. Jesus promised to return in the same way he came.

The Ascension of Jesus (which will be observed on May 30 in 2019), marked the end of Jesus’ Earthly ministry and the beginning of his spiritual ministry, according to scriptures. It was the moment He turned over the responsibilities of spreading the Gospel to His disciples, the men who had followed Him and who had been taught by Him. The ascension was the moment the disciples finally wholly grasped the message Jesus had been relating to them.

The Ascension occurred at Bethany on the Mount of Olives (Luke 19:29), and marked the completion of what is called the Paschal Mystery of Christ. His work of redemption was done through His passion, death, resurrection and, finally, His ascension into heaven.

On the Mount of Olives, Jesus promised His followers they would soon receive the Holy Spirit. He instructed them to remain in Jerusalem until the spirit had come. Then Jesus blessed them, and as He gave the blessing, He began to ascend into heaven, as described in Luke 24: 50-51 and Acts 1: 9-11.

Jesus' ascension was a literal, bodily return to heaven, the scriptures say. He rose from the ground gradually and visibly, observed by many intent onlookers. As the disciples strained to catch a last glimpse of Jesus, a cloud hid him from their view, and two angels appeared and promised Christ’s return “in just the same way that you have watched Him go,” Acts 1: 11.

 

Apostles’ reaction

The ascension had a significant impact on the disciples. Up to the moment that Jesus ascended to heaven, the disciples seemed to be puzzled, trying to figure it all out. But after the ascension, they worshiped Him. The traveled back to Jerusalem with great joy. They maintained a regular presence in the temple, worshiping God.

The reaction may be surprising. Jesus had just left them, yet the disciples were happy. More than happy, they were filled with joy.

Why? After all, when Jesus told them at the end of John 13 He would soon leave them, they were deeply troubled.

Jesus buoyed their spirits by saying, “You are not losing Me, but I am going to be with you in a different way through My Spirit,” (John 14-17).

The disciples accepted Jesus ascension, for they had accepted His word about the promised One to come. Their doubts and fears were gone. They were convinced of who He was. They knew that He died to forgive them of their sins. They knew He was alive from the dead. In His resurrection, they had hope in victory over death.

They trusted Him. For these reasons, Jesus’ departure gave the disciples joy.

 

Believing in Christ

To skeptics, the story of Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension to heaven are merely a story. Perhaps, a fantastic one.

To Christians, the story forms the basis of their faith.

As Apostle Paul said, if Jesus Christ was not raised from the dead, we are the world’s most pitiable fools, and rather than following Christ, we ought to “eat and drink, for tomorrow we die,” (1 Corinthians, 15:32).

Christians take heart in the story because Christianity is based on historical events. Something happened in history, and all that man is, believes and does is based on those events.

Chief among those historical events is the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Because Christians believe in the resurrection, they live resurrection lives — lives that reflect hope in the resurrected Christ and eternal life.

 

mspence@chieftain.com

@MSpenceSpts