The Ascension of Christ & the Surprising Nature of the Kingdom of God

by Angela Lambert

May 28th, 2017; The Ascension of the Lord

 Acts of the Apostles 1:1-11

In the first book, Theophilus, I dealt with all that Jesus did and taught until the day he was taken up, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them by many proofs after he had suffered, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. While meeting with them, he enjoined them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for “the promise of the Father about which you have heard me speak; for John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” When they had gathered together they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He answered them, “It is not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has established by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight. While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going, suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.”

Meditation Reflection:

Christ is so humble in His Incarnation that we, like the apostles in today’s passage, can forget the awesome reality of His divinity.  For most of His earthly life, Jesus chose to veil His divinity.   He humbly lived among us as one of us, choosing a life of poverty and sacrifice.  Even when condemned to crucifixion, He told Pilate that He was not powerless in the situation (John 18:36).  Jesus chose to be sacrificed to save us.  He could have saved Himself, as those taunting Him urged, or defended Himself as Pilate suggested, but love kept Him on the Cross.

Christ came down from heaven to be a ransom for our sins.  At the completion of His mission however, He ascended back to heaven to reign in glory as the Son of God. Because of His humility during His earthly life, we overlook at times His divine dignity and His rightful place in Heaven.  Beyond anything we could have imagined, He promised to prepare a place for us there as well!

Jesus kept surprising His apostles and He continues to surprise us.  They imagined the savior as someone who would overpower their persecutors and restore things to how they used to be during the best time in Jewish history.  It took a while for them to accept that He would die and rise again.  Confused and scattered at His crucifixion, they rejoiced in awe at His resurrection.  Overwhelmed with joy that Christ was alive, and excited by His show of power they still imagined that they would enjoy the booty of His victory in an earthly kingdom.  Finally, they thought, now He will bring to fruition all our hopes and desires.  Thus, they ask, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

Jesus did not come to stay on earth however, but to bring us back to Heaven.  He does not put new wine into old wine skins (Matthew 9:14-17).  His kingdom exceeds our imagination.  The experience the Jews had under King David provided a foretaste and glimpse of the kingdom of God.  Jesus reveals that God has much more in store for us.

In order for them to receive the Holy Spirit and to begin their new life in Christ, they had to let go of their previous hopes and plans.  To rule in the Kingdom of God meant to surrender worldly power for the power of the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit which transforms lives with saving grace, Truth, peace, and love.    No other nation or religion has had the same universal, enduring, transformative effect, of the Christian faith.    The only explanation for this miracle is the Holy Spirit.

Jesus makes all things new (Revelation 21:5).  As we celebrate the Ascension of Christ into heaven, we let go of our desires for Jesus to make things how they used to be, or how we wish them to be.  Christ’s physical absence grieved the apostles and we too can be grieved by the absence of tangible comfort and security.  However, by letting Jesus ascend to Heaven, they received Him back even more intimately and powerfully in their very souls on Pentecost when they received the Holy Spirit.

Christian discipleship means sharing in Christ’s death that we might also share in His resurrection.  But it doesn’t stop there.  Discipleship means accepting the unanticipated, unimaginable “new” that Jesus has for us.  He wants so much more for us than we can plan and blesses us with so much more than we deserve.  By surrendering our grip on control in our Christian walk, we get to live in the freedom of gift.  There are no words to describe this freedom and joy other than surprise; or as John puts it: “From His fullness have we all received, grace upon grace” (John 1:16).

Consider:

  • When has God surprised you?  How have His plans for your life exceeded your own expectations?
  • In what areas of your life do you struggle to surrender control?  Consider what underlies your resistance.  Is it fear of the unknown or of change, distrust, lack of faith, perfectionism, pride and the desire to accomplish things yourself, or vanity and concern for what others will think?
  • Reflect on your life from the point of view of the kingdom of God rather than the kingdom of earth.  Re-value wealth and status from this perspective.  What is truly valuable?  What is true greatness?
  • Consider God’s love for you.  He has prepared a place for you, provided the Way, opened the gates, and given you the Holy Spirit and the Church to guide you and empower you.  He has done everything in His mighty power to be with you and shower His love upon you.   What can you do to be with Him and love Him in return?

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Each day this week, be open to God’s surprises.  In the morning, offer your day to God and surrender control to Him.  In the evening, reflect back on the day and recount when you were resistant or when He surprised you.

~ Written by Angela Lambert © 2017

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Related Posts:

Longing for Nearness to the One We Love…Scripture Meditation for the Solemnity of the Ascension

Behold, I Make All Things New

The Spiritual Merry-Go-Round

 

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