By Gabriel Osu

Ascension is the final appearance of the Resurrected Jesus to His disciples, forty days after the Resurrection. From the Mount of Olives he went up and was received into a cloud, having previously commissioned his disciples to take the Gospel into the whole world (Acts 1:9; Lk. 24:51; Mk. 16;16) Jesus was visibly taken up into heaven from the Mount of Olives; a brief summary of the same fact is given in Luke 24: 50-53. Acts 1:3 give the time and Acts 1:12 and Luke 24:50 the place of the event; thus in both cases Luke was referring to a concrete historical happening. The Ascension of Christ was on June 5 this year.

Ascension of Christ

The Ascension was a dra-matic departure of the ri-sen Christ from His earthly, bodily ministry among his followers. Since his birth in Bethlehem by the miracle of the Incarnation, Christ had lived physically on earth. But 40 days after the resurrection, His earthly ministry ceased with His ascension into heaven (Mark 16:19; Luke 24:50-51; Acts 1:9-11). To a large extent the ascension was for the benefit of Jesus’ fo-llowers. They could no longer expect His physical presence. They must now wait for the promised Holy Spirit through whom the work of Jesus would conti-nue.

Jesus departure into hea-ven was a bodily ascension in His resurrection body. Stephen and Paul both re-ported seeing Jesus in bo-dily form after His ascens-ion (Acts 7:56; 9:27; I Cor. 15:8). The ascension mark-ed the beginning of Chri-st’s intercession for His followers at the right hand of God. There He makes continual intercession for all believers (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 4:14; 6:20; 7:25). Although Christ is not physically present with His people today, He is no less concerned for them or less active on their behalf. Christians enjoy peace, hope, and security because Christ is their advocate with the Father (I John 2:1)

The ascension set in mo-tion the coming of the Holy Spirit with His gifts for believers (John 14:16-18, 26; 16:7-15; Acts 2:23; Eph. 4:11-12). God determined that the presence of Jesus would be replaced by the presence of the Holy Spirit, who could be everywhere at the same time. Jesus followers now enjoy the presence of the spirit and the operation of the spirit’s gifts through them. One additional result of the ascension is that Jesus be-gan His heavenly reign at the right hand of the Fath-er (I Cor. 15:20-28). This reign will last until His Second Coming, when He will return to the earth as the reigning Messiah (Acts 3:20-21).

Finally, the ascension of Christ is the pledge of His Second Coming: “This same Jesus who was taken up form you into heaven, will so come, in like man-ner as you saw Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). Jesus will return to earth in bodi-ly form just as He ascend-ed into heaven. If even thousands of interviews with eyewitness were published, with full colour pictures to support the sta-tement, there would alw-ays be room for doubt.

Actually it is not important whether there are few or many witnesses. This is a matter of faith and faith is something personal. We doubt, not because there is not enough evidence be-cause the event over-whelms us. How can we believe in a resurrection? The evidence neverthe-less, is there and has with-stood recurring criticism and even modern students.

Those whose own exper-ience has prepared them to accept the most funda-mental truth: the living God loves people and rest-ores them to life. Some per-sons are predisposed to believe because they have experience that God him-self walks with them in their trials and gives the hope when everything seems lost. Because of this, they recognize in Christ the ideal human being and understand that he had to suffer before reaching his glory. The have learned the ways of God and that is why they believe the wit-nesses of the resurrected Christ.

It is not more difficult to believe in Christ’s resur-rection than to believe in his words, for both go together. “Those who believe have overcome the world”, John the apostle says (I Jn. 5:5). This me-ans overcoming the false meaning that most people give to their existence due to their ignorance of God. Whoever believes has overcome the fears each of us has when we have to pass through uncharted paths, when we have to set reason aside and entrust ourselves to God’s hands.

Believe in the Resurrect-ion of Jesus Christ, believe in the Gospel—so that it will be well with your soul! Believe and your way to salvation may be assured.

*Msgr. Osu is Director, Social Communications, Lagos Catholic Arch-diocese.

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