So, why on earth (or rather, why in heaven) did Jesus shoot off into the sky, instead of just waving a cheerful “See ya later, lads!” to his disciples and strolling off into the sunset? Or, for that matter, simply pulling a disappearing act? The story seems so surreal. Yet, if we take a peek into the book of Acts, Luke offers some clarity: “While they watched, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight” (Acts 1:9).
The disciples, with their jaws dropping and eyes popped out, simply stood there, gazing as he skyrocketed (1:10). Luke’s Gospel brings more insights: “As he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up to heaven” (Luke 24:51). Likewise, Mark wraps it up neatly: “After the Lord Jesus had talked to them, he was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right-hand side of God” (Mark 16:19).
Piece these fragments together, and you’ve got a 4K ultra-HD panorama of the Lord Jesus Christ, gracefully floating away from his disciples and ascending to heaven to enjoy some divine company. It’s almost like he grabbed a celestial lift—”going up”, “taken up”, “elevated”, “received” into the divine penthouse. But here’s the million-dollar question: Why the heavenly lift-off? Why the cloud-hidden magic trick?
Now, before you raise an eyebrow, remember we live in a scientifically enlightened era, and it’s a bit of an outdated idea to picture heaven as some sort of divine attic. So, let’s not get tangled up in the physics of the ascension, but rather focus on the spiritual nuggets it offers.
Think of the Ascension as a divine theatre, a celestial drama unfolding in front of the disciples’ eyes. It’s as if Jesus was saying, “Here, let me show you in 4D what’s going on in the spiritual realm.” The Ascension marked a distinct separation from his disciples, but this goodbye was different from the ones they had experienced over the previous forty days. This time, Jesus wasn’t just stepping out for some alone time—he was catching a one-way ticket to his Father. No ambiguity there.
But the Ascension wasn’t just a farewell party—it was a coronation. As Jesus soared into the sky, his disciples got a front-row seat to his royal promotion. Now, they didn’t just have to take his word for it—they saw it with their own eyes. He was in the divine elevator, heading to join God. He was both literally and metaphorically “going up” and the cloud—a recurring symbol of divine presence throughout the scriptures—swooped in to take him from their sight. So, the Ascension isn’t just about Jesus’s departure—it’s a clear, high-definition demonstration of his exalted status and intimate relationship with God. Fancy that for a divine elevator pitch!
A heavenly promotion
Jesus getting the ultimate promotion—now that’s an epic part of the story! You see, Jesus being bumped up to celestial heights during the Ascension isn’t just some random special effect—it’s the crux of our faith. This divine promotion is highlighted by various contributors to the New Testament.
Let’s start with Paul. He describes how God not only resurrected Jesus from the dead but also gave him a place at His right hand up in the heavenly realm. According to Paul, Jesus now reigns supreme over every conceivable power, authority, might, dominion, and every name known in both our world and the world to come. Talk about climbing the celestial ladder! And God didn’t stop there—He put all things under Jesus’ feet and declared him as the head honcho of the church (Ephesians 1:20–22).
Peter joins the choir too. He reiterates the same idea, tying it to the concept of baptism, saving us through Jesus Christ’s resurrection. Jesus, he says, is in heaven, sitting on the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers bending their knees to him (1 Peter 3:22).
And let’s not forget the writer of Hebrews. He spells out that Jesus, after single-handedly wiping away our sins, kicked back and sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high (Hebrews 1:3).
In essence, Jesus isn’t just some other bloke who’s managed to get a nice office in the sky—he’s been exalted to the right hand of God Himself and stands head and shoulders above all things. The New Testament authors went to great lengths to emphasise just how towering this promotion was.
So, my friend, what’s the takeaway from the Ascension? It’s more than just a spectacular exit—it’s a bold declaration that Jesus is the big boss, the Lord over everything. So, the next time you gaze up at the sky, remember, that’s where the ultimate promotion happened!
What does it mean for us?
So, where do we go from here? What does this celestial promotion mean for you and me? There are a few crucial actions we can take, which echo the response of the disciples themselves. As Jesus was separated from them, they reacted in three remarkable ways: they worshipped Jesus, they rejoiced, and they kept themselves in the Temple, making a public display of praising God (Luke 24:51–53). Now let’s delve into these responses a little deeper.
The disciples’ first response to Jesus’ exaltation was worship. Our reaction should mirror this. Jesus, the Lamb that was slain, deserves our adoration, our praise, and our worship (Revelation 5:12).
But don’t think the Ascension was the first time Jesus was worshipped. Throughout his time on earth, during his ministry and following his resurrection, he was adored by many (Matthew 28:17, 14:33; 15:25). Even the man born blind, whom Jesus healed, expressed his faith by worshipping Jesus (John 9:38).
These words hold a potent lesson for us. It’s clear that, according to scripture, Jesus should be worshipped. We’ll do so in the Kingdom, and we should do so now. That’s why we sing hymns honouring Jesus, and why it’s vital that any new hymn books continue to celebrate this principle.
Now, I know some folks might feel a bit uneasy with this. After all, we worship God, right? Does worshipping Jesus somehow take away from God? Well, the apostles didn’t think so. They worshipped both the exalted Jesus and God, seemingly in the same breath (Luke 24:52-53). The two go hand in hand.
Philippians chapter 2 reinforces this point. Jesus humbled himself, was obedient unto death, and as a result, God “highly exalted him”. He was given a name above all names so that at the mention of Jesus’ name, every knee should bow and every tongue should confess Jesus as Lord. This act, we’re told, brings glory to God (Philippians 2:8–11).
John 5:23 puts it quite simply: “That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him.” Jesus’ exaltation by God and his association with the divine name means that worshipping Jesus also means honouring God. And that’s something worth rejoicing about, isn’t it?
In their witnessing of Jesus’ ascension, the disciples’ second response was one of joy, as depicted in Luke 24:52. They returned to Jerusalem “with great joy.” This response may seem perplexing at first glance—Jesus had just left them, after all. Why were they filled with joy in his absence?
The answer lies in the powerful promise of Christ’s return, which was shared with the disciples as Jesus was taken up into heaven (Acts 1:11). Angels assured them that, just as they saw him leave, so too would they see him return. This promise of the Second Coming offered hope and sparked joy in their hearts. Moreover, they held onto Jesus’ words that he would always be with them, spiritually, until the end of the world (Matthew 28:20). Knowing that Jesus was continually with them in spirit would indeed have been a source of immense joy.
These are lessons we too can hold onto and find joy in. We can rejoice in the promise of Jesus’ return and the restoration of the Kingdom. We can also find joy in the spiritual presence of Jesus in our lives, right here and now. His ascension and exaltation do not imply that he has become distant or disinterested in us. Quite the contrary, in fact.
Being exalted to the right hand of God, Jesus serves an important role on our behalf. As Paul wrote in Romans 8:34, “It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.” As our intercessor, Jesus is not some far-removed ruler but an active helper, advocating for us before God. This intimate communion of Jesus with God, coupled with his role as our advocate and helper, should fill us with the same joy experienced by the disciples. Jesus’ exalted position doesn’t distance him from us, but rather, it further enables him to serve us, providing us an access to God we wouldn’t otherwise have. It is indeed a cause for joy to know that the anointed King is also our mediator and helper with the Almighty.
Continuing the work of Jesus
In the final response to Jesus’ Ascension, as recorded in Luke 24:52, the disciples made their way back to Jerusalem where they actively praised God in the Temple. They were heeding the final command that Jesus had given them prior to his ascension – to spread the Gospel (Mark 16:14). Despite the angel’s mild reproach in Acts 1:11, asking them why they were still gazing into heaven, the disciples were diligent in their mission. They moved with faith, understanding that they were to wait in Jerusalem until they were imbued with the Holy Spirit (Luke 24:49). This didn’t stop them from praising God publicly and spreading the good news, their joy manifesting itself through their actions.
Just like the early followers of Jesus, we, too, are called to let our joy, a result of Christ’s exaltation and continuous spiritual presence, permeate every facet of our lives. Moreover, we share the responsibility given to those early disciples – to spread the good news of the Kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ. As instructed by Jesus, the Gospel should be preached to all.
Christ’s exaltation serves as an encouraging testament for us to emulate his humility and service, as emphasized in Philippians 2. Just as Jesus was exalted by God following his self-humbling, we, too, are promised exaltation if we choose humility and service in our lives. We are called to be servants now with the promise of being kings and priests in the future.
The hope we find in God’s work through Christ is further illuminated by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Colossians (Colossians 3:1–4). He encourages us to set our hearts and minds on things above, where Christ sits at the right hand of God, not on earthly matters. Our lives are “hid with Christ in God”, and we are promised to appear with Christ in glory when he returns. The exaltation of Jesus, our Lord, should motivate us to focus on heavenly matters and guide us to live our lives cognizant of who our Master is. It’s an invitation to live not for the temporal, but for the eternal, knowing our true life is with Christ in God.