The Reading: Acts 1:6-11
“… he was lifted up …” (v. 9) RSV
If you stand in a lift you can only go up or down, but if you’re going to heaven is it ‘up’? Famously, the first Russian astronauts did not find God up above the bright blue sky. Why? Because neither God nor heaven is geographically or spatially ‘up there’.
And yet when Jesus prayed it says he looked “up”, or, “lifted up his eyes to heaven” (John 17:1). So there is no doubt that spiritually speaking God is above us. But when Stephen was being stoned to death he gazed not so much up as “into heaven” (Acts 7:55) RSV.
That is why when Jesus bodily ascended to heaven it was not so much upwards and upwards, but upwards and inwards. His ascension was not a matter of levitation (though that could have been possible), for he was “lifted up” (v.9). The cloud of angels took him through the veil into the ‘heavenlies’.
This may still seem strange to us, though the resurrected body of Jesus seems in no way to have been limited to the restrictions of our mortal bodies. St Paul says that when Jesus returns at the end of time we too (who are alive) “will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air;” (1 Thessalonians 4:17).
The disappearance of the risen Christ in bodily form was an historic and visible act. It signified much of which we shall look at during the weeks that lie ahead.
Dear Lord, help me to learn much more of the meaning of your glorious ascension for me and your Church. Amen.
1 Who else ascended into heaven?
2 Kings 2:11-12
2 Read Luke’s simple description of Jesus’ departure