Why Did Jesus Have to Leave?
- Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Luke tells us in his gospel account of the ascension (24:50-53): "Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God." We notice here the complete fulfillment of what Jesus had predicted--the fullness of their sorrow that had completely engulfed them at the hearing of the news of His departure, had given way not only to contentment, not only to acceptance, not only to joy, but to a great and fulfilling joy. They returned from their last sight of Jesus with their hearts filled with elation. How can that be? The obvious answer is found in that the disciples came to understand the significance of the ascension. As hard as it was to fathom, they came to believe that Jesus' absence from them was of more benefit than His bodily presence with them, the reason being where He was going and what He was about to undertake.
In John 3:13 Jesus declared, "No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man." That verse sounds difficult at first glance when we realize that in the Old Testament, Enoch ascended into heaven in the sense that he was carried there, as was Elijah when the chariots of fire lifted him up into the heavens. When Jesus speaks of ascension, He's not speaking of merely "going up." He is speaking of something in technical terms. He is thinking in terms of the Psalms of Ascent that celebrated the anointing of a king (Pss. 120-34). When Jesus says no one ascends into heaven, it is true that no one ascends or goes to heaven in the same manner or for the same purpose that He went there. He was lifted up on clouds of glory in order to go to His Father for the purpose of His coronation as our King--as the King of kings and the Lord of lords. He ascended into heaven to fulfill His role as our Great High Priest, interceding for His people daily. So as He sits at the right hand of the Father, exercising His lordship over the whole world and His intercession before the Father on behalf of His people, He improves our condition dramatically. Not only this, but before Pentecost could come and the Holy Spirit could be poured out upon the church, empowering the church for its missionary enterprise to the whole world, it was necessary for Christ to ascend so that together with the Father He might dispatch from heaven the Holy Spirit in all of His power.
Excerpted from "The Ascension" and used by permission.
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