A Man in heaven
For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus…
(1 Timothy 2:5 NIVUK)
Paul tells us, ‘in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form’ (Colossians 2:9). His use of the present tense is significant since he is writing several years after Jesus’ ascension. The fullness of the deity continues to live in Christ, in bodily form. Jesus did not shed his humanity when he ascended to glory, rather it continues to give meaning and significance to his heavenly existence. In becoming an authentic human being, the Word became what he never was before, and remains so forever. The significance of this is threefold:
First, one of the reasons Jesus participated in our nature of flesh and blood was so that in the experience of his humanity he could empathise with us (Hebrews 2:17-18). A wonderful consequence of Jesus taking his glorified humanity into heaven is that ‘…we do not have a high priest who is unable to feel sympathy for our weaknesses’ (Hebrews 4:15). Jesus’ retention of his humanity makes even more potent his ability to sympathise in all the moments of our desperation.
Second, the ascension of Jesus was not only his exaltation as a man, but also the elevation of our humanity in him. Jesus has carried our nature to the right hand of God. As Christians, our citizenship is already in heaven (Philippians 3:20); we are already seated in heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6), and we have the prospect of our glorified bodies being there too (Philippians 3:21). As Paul put it when writing to the Corinthians: ‘…just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man.’ (1 Corinthians 15:49).
Third, Jesus’s bodily ascent into heaven assures us of his bodily return to earth. As the angels said to the astonished disciples who witnessed Jesus’ ascension: ‘…why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.’ (Acts 1:11). The ascension of Jesus should fill us with expectancy and excitement that Jesus is going to physically return to this earth with healing in his wings, to establish peace and justice. (Malachi 4:2).
Maybe when the disciples worshipped Jesus and rejoiced at his going away in Luke 24:52, it was because they knew that the ‘Man in heaven’ (1 Timothy 2:5) would empathise with them, assure them of salvation, and would return one day to renew all things.
The ascension of Jesus is too meaningful for it to be the forgotten or neglected celebration. Following the ascension the disciples continually praised God (Luke 24:53), and so it is fitting that it forms part of our worship calendar.
Risen, ascended Lord, you came down to lift us up. In all our struggles lift us up; in all our tiredness lift us up. Lift us out of death into life to be with you for all eternity. For your name’s sake we pray, Amen.
Study by Barry Robinson
About the writer:
Barry Robinson is a Minister in Grace Communion International and Regional Pastor for Southern England.
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