“As they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven?”
The Season of Easter is almost over and we are in Ascension-tide, which ends at the Feast of Pentecost. Forgiveness is implicit and explicit in the accounts of the Ascension. The fact that the resurrected Christ appears to his disciples at all is very significant. This bunch who when the going got tough, fled and denied Jesus, usually got things wrong and were a motley crew, aren’t having their noses rubbed in their cowardice and faintness of heart. Rather his first words to them are, “Peace be with you”. Just think about it, He must have forgiven them to even bother to come to see them at all. But He comes to them and in fact to all who open their hearts to Him, in mercy. The Ascension simply underlines this mission of mercy.
The ascended Jesus, who sits at God’s right hand, describes a God who’s vulnerable and approachable. When we turn to God in times of distress or temptation we’re not calling out to a deity who’s aloof and can’t relate to what we’re going through. God is right in there, He’s been there, done it, He’s got the tee-shirt as they say. That being the case He is able to comfort us not only by identifying with our pain but also by assuring us that affliction won’t have the final word. All because the Risen and Ascended Christ is with us and that means that nothing can separate us from his love.
For all of us the Ascension is more about letting go than reaching out and grasping. The question for you and me is not, “How do we Ascend?” That’s already been accomplished, through the Crucifixion, Resurrection and Ascension of Our Lord. The question is: “What’s pulling us down?”
What do we need to let go of? Fear, anger, or resentment can weigh us down. The need to be right or in control is a heavy burden to carry. Self-righteousness, jealously, or pride are very effective anchors. Being caught up in perfectionism and the need to prove we’re good enough can become all-consuming. On the other hand it may be indifference or apathy. Many lives are also tethered by addiction.
What is it that holds you down and denies you a share in Jesus’ Ascension? The gravity that keeps us down is not creation, the world, the circumstances of our lives or other people. The gravity that holds us down lies within us. So we each need to look at our lives and identify the places of gravity, and not despair. The very things that hold us down also point the way to Ascension. So our joining in with Jesus’ Ascension begins not by looking up but by looking within.