Text: Now it came to pass, while He blessed them, that He was parted from them and carried up into heaven. And they worshipped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. — Luke 24: 51–52
Bible reading: He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God. — Luke 24: 44–53
The ascension of Jesus unleashes great joy. The disciples had just experienced the ascension of Jesus and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. Although Jesus had left them, they were rejoicing. What would have been the reasons for their joy?
Joy in the resurrection
Their joy was based on the fact that the Lord had risen (Luke 24: 34). This is the sign that Jesus Christ is God. We know that Jesus Christ is God and that God is Jesus Christ—this is grounds for joy! We believe in the resurrection and in the ascension of Jesus. For this reason we also believe in our own resurrection and in our own ascension on the day of the return of Christ.
Joy in the promise of Christ’s return
The disciples had further grounds for joy in the promise of Jesus: “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14: 3). This promise applies to all of us: the Lord Jesus has given us the promise that He will come again and receive us to Himself so that we may be where He is, namely in His kingdom. We rejoice in this!
Joy in the sending of the Holy Spirit
Jesus had promised the disciples to send the Helper and Comforter, the Holy Spirit. This Spirit helps us, strengthens us, comforts us, and leads us into all truth (John 16: 13). We experience that the Holy Spirit is active in the word and through the ministry. The Holy Spirit leads us more and more deeply into the knowledge of God. Let us rejoice in this.
Joy in the commission to be witnesses
Jesus told His disciples, “And you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1: 8). He had granted them insight into the plan of redemption. This was a source of great joy for the disciples: salvation is not only limited to our little group! Rather, the gospel is to be spread throughout the whole world! The plan of redemption is universal. This commission—“You shall be witnesses to Me”—not only applies to the Apostles, but to each and every Christian. Jesus Christ needs us! Is this not a wonderful source of joy?
Joy in the help of God in Christ
Jesus told His disciples: “And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28: 20). Those who serve as witnesses to Christ will also experience that the Lord is with them. He helps and blesses them. God has entrusted us with a task. He needs us to be witnesses to Him and fellow labourers with Him. We can only rejoice in this!
May our joy be directed to the great day when Jesus Christ returns and we will experience our own ascension!
* Thoughts from the Chief Apostle adapted for Ascension Day service held on Thursday, 14 May 2015 at Midrand Congregation