Ascension Sunday

‘Let not your heart be troubled..’

When we looked at this verse on Sunday, we asked the question, ‘Why did Jesus say this?’. To find out why we went back a chapter to chapter 13 of John’s Gospel and found that the context was Jesus telling his disciples that he was leaving them.

In their confusion and fear, summarised by Peter’s, ‘Where are you going?’ Jesus comforts them with these words – ‘don’t worry, I’m going away to do what I need to do, but I’ll be coming back.’

Like many of us though, in the heat of the moment, when emotions are raw and close to the surface these words probably weren’t heard, and, if they were, not understood.  The only reality they heard was that Jesus was leaving them. Imagine the betrayal. These men had grown close to Jesus over a long period of intimate companionship. They had learned to trust him, had seen what he could do, drew a sense of comfort and security from him. They had left comfort and security to follow him as he had asked them too, and now he’s going away.

I guess we can relate to their initial feelings. Those moments of confusion when news we have heard, circumstances we have encountered have left us speechless – the questions that we are left with. What am I going to do? What happens now? How will I cope? Why me?

Not too many weeks pass, and we have Jesus leaving his followers again. This time he is taken up to heaven before their eyes – what we call the ascension – and the response this time is radically different. Luke records it like this:

Luke 24:50-53 When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them.  While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshipped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.  And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.

Sorrow and confusion is turned into joy. The reality of what Jesus has said sinks home. The bodily resurrection of Jesus is consummated by his return to his kingdom, his throne, the place of his glory. His humiliation is over, his glorious reign continues in new and powerful and wonderful ways.

He is now the resurrected and the ascended King of Kings – his role as ruler of all creation has been made clear to his followers. The reality of heaven and life eternal is beyond doubt, his promise has been made clear. He is at work preparing a place for his followers, and the beauty of that place is to enjoy his eternal company.

He hasn’t left his followers alone – he has sent the Holy Spirit to be with us wherever we are. Jesus is not limited by space and time. History isn’t his captive.

That’s the joy – have you experienced it? He longs for you to know him and enjoy him and to take comfort from him that no matter what you are going through, ‘Let not your heart be troubled’.