Acts 1:9, Matthew 18:20, Matthew 26:26-28, Luke 10:16
Our reading today comes from Acts chapter 1, beginning with verse 9,
After Jesus said this, he was taken up before their very eyes and a cloud hid him from their sight. (Acts 1:9)
Sometimes monuments are built at the end of a war to show that you won a war, they call them triumphal arches. You’ll see these in Paris or London, sometimes other great cities. And the earliest one we know about was made two hundred years before Christ. Triumphal arches was kind of a way of symbolizing that not only had you won the war, but someone from your land, from your country, had gone on to gain this victory. And the general would often ride his armies through that triumphal arch in a great parade.
Think about Jesus ascension into heaven, sort of like the triumphal arch for the Christian church. Jesus now has defeated sin and death for us, and his ascension into heaven is sort of like his way of declaring his great victory over these evil powers for us. We’re told they were looking up intently into the sky as he was going. Try to imagine the disciples looking as Jesus ascends up through the clouds into heaven. What a sight that must have been.
And this shows that the victory that Christ has won is all complete. It’s all done. As he said on the cross, it is finished. But imagine for just a moment that you were trying to buy a house and let’s say that a very wealthy relative of yours stepped forward and said, I’ll pay for the house for you. And at the same time, you decided I’m going to keep going to various banks and see if I can find a loan for the house. Your relative might say, well, why are you concerned about still paying for it? Because I already paid and bought for the whole house for you. There’s no reason to have to go out and still seek for money.
A lot of times people feel like going to heaven is something they still have to work on, as if there’s something they still have to do and something that has to be done to make that happen. But Jesus has come and already won that for us. He’s already paid for our entrance into heaven and he just gives it to us free. He doesn’t want us going through life anxious, thinking that somehow there’s still something left undone that we have to do.
And his ascension into heaven is sort of like the victory symbol or monument for us that we really already have heaven now waiting for us. The fact that Jesus has ascended into heaven doesn’t mean that he’s confined there, it doesn’t mean that he could never come back. Our Lord Jesus is both true God and true man. He can do things with his body that we would never dream of. And Jesus is not closed up in heaven the way some people may think he is. He tells his church of believers on Earth where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of you. (Matthew 18:20) He tells us when we take the Lord’s Supper, this is my body. This is my blood given and shed for you for the remission of sins. (Matthew 26:26-28) He says to those who preach his word, he who hears you, hears me. (Luke 10:16) And that’s why when Jesus ascended to heaven, he promised that he would be with us always through those special ways, through the means of grace, the way he still comes and visits us, even though he has ascended into heaven.
Jesus’ ascension also serves as a prototype for you. We as believers in Christ also get to go through that triumphal arch. We also get to go on our way to heaven through a similar ascension. And God will come and take us out of our graves and bring us along with our Savior. And so this beautiful day of ascension is a wonderful symbol to us. Not only that, Christ has completed his work to pay for heaven for us, but it’s also a future signal to us that we will someday go through that same beautiful arch as we gain the victory in our life in heaven. Amen.