This week sees Ascension Day on the church calendar. Once again I want to highlight this largely forgotten event.
The ascension of Jesus Christ literally changes everything. Jesus, as the writer to the Hebrews says, was the express image of the invisible God, and then again a few verses later he was made like his brothers in every way.
Very God, Very Man. God incarnate in human flesh.
Cut off from God Jesus came to restore the broken link. To do that he took on flesh, real human flesh, experienced trial and temptation as a man dependent on the Holy Spirit. Fought off the devil and his minions by the Spirit and the Word. Learned obedience through the things he suffered, all the time in perfect union and communion with the Father in the power of the Spirit.
Then he took to Himself our sin and it’s sentence. He died in our place atoning for our sin. The “Just for the unjust.”
The third day the price having been paid and accepted He rises again. Not a ghost, but real true Man with flesh and blood.
But the job is not done until He is received into Heaven.
Several days later He ‘ascends’ to “My Father and your father” as he put it. He went home and he took redeemed and healed humanity with Him, back into the ‘heart’ of God. Flesh that Paul says was “made sin for us” so that we could “become the righteousness of God in Him.” Flesh, redeemed, transformed and united with God forever in full and unfettered fellowship.
Fully God, fully Man, He remains. Forever God, forever Man. As the hymn writer put it, “God has gone up on high with a triumphant noise…. God in the flesh below, for us He reigns above!” (Charles Wesley)
It’s staggering and of great encouragement to think and know that in the heart of the Holy Trinity we have a true and wonderful representative and advocate. As the hymn writer puts it:
Before the throne of God above
I have a strong, a perfect plea:
a great High Priest, whose name is Love,
who ever lives and pleads for me.
My name is graven on his hands,
my name is written on his heart;
I know that while in heaven he stands
no tongue can bid me thence depart.
When Satan tempts me to despair,
and tells me of the guilt within,
upward I look, and see Him there
who made an end of all my sin.
Because the sinless Saviour died,
my sinful soul is counted free;
for God, the just, is satisfied
to look on him and pardon me.
Behold him there! the risen Lamb!
My perfect, spotless righteousness,
the great unchangeable I AM,
the King of glory and of grace!
One with himself, I cannot die;
my soul is purchased by his blood;
my life is hid with Christ on high,
with Christ, my Saviour and my God.
Charitie Lees Bancroft (1841-1892)