Today, if you didn’t already know, is Ascension Day. Ascension Day is mostly celebrated by Roman Catholics, in which Jesus is remembered as the God-man who, after forty days in His resurrected state, ascended into heaven in front of His disciples (Luke 24:50-53; Acts 1:6-11). It is a whole day dedicated to remember the exaltation of Jesus (He ascended to the right hand of the Father) and the sending out of His disciples.
Now, most of us don’t celebrate Ascension Day. To be honest, most of us don’t really celebrate any special “Christian” day very well.
Roman Catholics have sixteen days (approximately) they observe throughout the year to focus on a specific event or person. For Protestants, that number is reduced to four (Palm Sunday, Good Friday, Easter, and Christmas), and sometimes five (add Pentecost). But out of these four (sometimes five) we’ve sort of elevated two to be the “big ones.” You guessed it, Christmas and Easter. We’ve even used the phrase “They’re a Christmas and Easter Christian,” to denote someone who’s a nominal Christian!
Anyways, when I said that most of us don’t celebrate special Christian days well, I’m referring to the lack of genuine thoughtful remembrance and reflection of the event or person that should be celebrated. To many, Christmas is no longer solely about the birth of Christ, and Easter is no longer solely about the resurrection of Christ. We’ve definitely added emptiness and removed substance from our special Christian days.
As a young evangelical Protestant who has grown up in the church, I am fully aware of my own apathy towards truly celebrating these days well. Noticing that today was “Ascension Day” made me think about our use (or lack of) of special Christian days. Obviously there are no biblical commandments in which we are told that we must do so, but there are great benefits to the Kingdom if we did it well.
For an example, upon reflecting on Jesus’ ascension into heaven, these three truths beamed out to me:
1) The Father has highly exalted Jesus. Ascension Day reminds me that Jesus was not just a human teacher of good morals, but the Son of God who the Father has exalted and given the Name above all names (Philippians 2:9).
2) It is better for the church and the advancement of the kingdom for Jesus to leave. Ascension Day reminds me that while Jesus was on earth, He explicitly taught that it was better for Him to leave (John 16:4-11) and that we, the church, will do even greater things after He leaves (John 14:12-14). How, why? The Holy Spirit is given to us, the church, only after Jesus ascended to heaven. Instead of Jesus being in one place at one time, we now have Jesus in every genuine believer across the earth.
3) He’s coming back. Ascension Day reminds me that Jesus is coming back in the same way that He ascended (Acts 1:11). Until then, the church (which includes you and I) is to make disciples of all nations in the power of the Spirit.
Reflecting on these truths together is so important, and I would never have thought of them today if it weren’t for Ascension Day.
I’m not asking that we adopt the Roman Catholic idea and hold sixteen or so special days throughout the year, but I am saying that we allow the few special days we already hold to actually bear greater influence on us.
So, on this Ascension Day, may we remember and reflect on Jesus’ ascension and the truths that entails.