John 17.4-5 – “I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.”
Tomorrow is Ascension Day. It is an overlooked, if not ignored, day in far too many of our faith expressions. It’s over looked because we don’t really know what to do with it. It looks like a great option for Jesus, and yet we’re left without his physical presence.
But there is much for us to learn from this day and we could find our faith encouraged and challenged if we consider what is taking place on this day. By the way, if you skip over to Luke 24, you’ll find the Disciples rejoicing in the Ascension of Jesus. To them, it brought great joy, and here are some reasons it can be joyous to and for us.
- Jesus talks of finishing the work the Father gave Him to do – When you’ve finished a job, or a task, especially if it was a significant project, you know there is great joy and a sense of accomplishment. When Jesus returns to the Father he does so filled with joy. His joy, John tells, us is the disciples have received him, they’ve received the Father. They aren’t a perfect group of people, they don’t have it all together on every aspect of life, but they belong to the Father, and with that great things can happen. Jesus goes home with joy for them . . . and for us in His being. Think of it, if you’ve received His testimony, Jesus rejoices over you.
- Jesus has been obedient, or faithful to the work the Father gave Him to do. In relationships of love we know that there’s great joy when we’re able to fulfill the wishes of the one we love. Often we can hear the scripture call us to be obedient to the Lord and our spirits place this language within the context of not breaking God’s laws. Jesus shows us a holy different aspect – being obedient to the Lord is taking up the work He has given, and doing it in a way that brings Him glory. Jesus didn’t go around concerned with breaking the laws of God – this Pharisees did that. Jesus went on His way propelled with doing the work the Father had given Him to do. Today, what has the Lord given you to do? Are you at work finishing it?
- Jesus asks to be “re-gloried.” Paul says in Philippians 2 that Jesus emptied himself of the great glory he had before the world so that he could take on the form of a servant and head to the cross; in this way Jesus did something completely foreign to his very nature. Now He is unafraid to ask the Father if he can take on the fullness of who He is, if the fullness of His Personhood can be regained. Paul will say that the Father “highly exalted Him.” This was the Father’s good pleasure. In Jesus’ prayer, we see an update on the prayer of the prodigal son. When he came home he asked to be a servant in his father’s house. Jesus, the faithful son, returns and says – can I be who I am made to be? There is a time for us to come to the Lord in repentance, like the prodigal. There is also a time for us to come before the Father and say – who did you make me to be? Can you do more than forgive my sins, can you bring about the destiny for me that corresponds with how things were meant to be? Jesus takes up His true identity when He returns to the Father. And through his prayer he leads us to pray for the revelation of all that God would have us be?
- Jesus descends as the heavenly person, in his ascension He takes up the earthly person. This is ultimately what the Father has for us; sharing in the Glory that existed before the world itself existed. When the disciples saw Jesus jet set through the clouds they began to see their destiny. This gave them great courage when they faced persecution, or sickness. This gave rise to the lyrics; this world is not my home. Not that it diminished their sense of responsibility in this world at all; but it brought the weight of glory upon their shoulders. Jesus’ ascension brings that weight to us.
- How do we bear this weight? How do we become the people we are destined to become? How do we complete the work of the Father in the way of the Father? Through the gift of the Holy Spirit! Jesus said he would depart, but he wouldn’t leave us as orphans. He wouldn’t leave us to figure it out on our own, or work it through in our own strength, with our own wisdom. With His ascent, the Father sends the Spirit to all who have and all who look to receive Jesus. The Spirit brings the ministry of Jesus to the place where we’re at, and the Spirit begins this great work of getting us fit to jet set.
These are just a few reflections on the Ascension of Jesus. Maybe you have some observations you’d like to share? If so, feel free to post them here.
If you’d like to commemorate the Ascension in some way at your home, try launching a balloon, or buy a bird from the pet shop and let it free, or light some candles, blow them out and ponder over the changing of the light, from something visible, to something smellable.