Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands, he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. (Luke 24:45-51 ESV)
Dear friends in Christ,
This Thursday, we will gather together to celebrate Ascension Day. The Church has done this since the very day that Christ ascended back into heaven. We continue the practice today. The reason we do it is so that we all can hear the sections of Scripture that describe Jesus’ ascension. That way we all can hear and remember what happened and understand better what it means.
This is especially important for families. Even though life is busy, a day like Ascension Day, shared together with children or grandchildren, is a wonderful opportunity to teach them what Jesus did and still does for them. Children learn best when the information is presented a simple, clear and focused way. They learn the faith best when they can learn it with the people they trust the best – their parents and grandparents. They learn they best when the lessons are repeated. They learn the best when the lessons are filled with wonder and beauty, joy and singing.
On a day like Ascension Day, either at church together or at home with your family, you can focus them on this one Day in Jesus’ life, and help them see what clear comfort it can give them. When they see that it matters to you that your Lord Jesus has ascended into heaven and He watches over you, they learn that they can trust that He watches over them too. And when you all return to this lesson year after year, the lesson grows in them, even as it grows in you. And when you can share this day not only with your family, but also gather at Church with other families that trust in Christ, then they share in the wonder and beauty of the Gospel in singing and the Sacrament. Each time you come to hear the Word with them, the Holy Spirit strengthens you all in faith in Christ and His grace.
So now that you know to celebrate Ascension Day, it is a good time to review what you will hear when you do. The Bible verses quoted at the beginning of this post from Luke 24 are at the heart of the message. Jesus had risen from the dead on Easter, and had appeared to His disciples in many and various ways over a 40 day period. Now He gathers them together on the Mount to ascend back to His Father. Notice what He does:
- He opens their minds to understand the Scriptures.
- He reminds them that the entire Bible teaches that He would have to suffer and die on the cross and rise from the dead.
- By doing so, He won forgiveness of sins for all people. Now people all around the world need to hear how He saved them, and be called to repent of their sins and believe in Him.
- The Apostles who heard Him teach, also witnessed His death and have seen Him alive again. Jesus is sending them to bear witness to what they heard and saw.
- But this work is too great for them to do on their own power, so the Father promises to give the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus will send to them to strengthen them for this work.
- Jesus then blessed them and continued to bless them as He was taken up to Heaven.
On Ascension Day, we celebrate all these things: That Jesus opens our minds to understand the Scriptures as His Word is read and preached. That the message of His death and resurrection are still proclaimed for us in the inspired Word of God. That the Spirit who strengthened the Apostles to witness for Christ, also draws us to believe that Jesus did these things for us and He keeps us in the faith. And as we are the Church, and are tasked with proclaiming the Word, this is still too great for us to do on our own. We celebrate that the Holy Spirit continues to strengthen us to proclaim the saving work of Christ in our day.
And finally, as Jesus was taken up to Heaven, He was blessing His disciples. How wonderful that He never stops blessing them! He is still blessing us today. All authority in heaven and earth is given to Jesus and He uses His authority to continue to bless His little flock, the Church, all around the world. We are never without His blessing. All that He did for us, He did to bless us. All He does now as He watches over us, He does to bless us. And when He comes again, we trust that all who believe in Him will share in His blessings forever. These blessings are given us in His Word. We taste them as we have Holy Communion. And we praise Christ, for He is good.
So, let us bless the Lord! Thanks be to God!