Ascension Day: A Reflection on Acts 1
Ascension Day is a big day for TCF. It marks Jesus’ enthronement above every other power, dominion, and authority. Every dispute about his status as King of Kings and Lord of Lords has been definitively settled. Jesus is Lord of all, he is our Lord, he is Lord of our enemies, and he is even Lord over the conflicts we have with our enemies.
As we read in Acts 1:1-11, the disciples believed that when Jesus was lifted up he was taken on a cloud from them and to the God of Abraham. His ascension was not merely to Israel’s throne, as they might have once hoped, but to the heavenly throne that is over every other throne.
Ascension Day therefore marks the beginning of the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham way back in Genesis 12: that he and his descendants would be a blessing to all the people of the earth. And here we are, literally at the ends of the earth, grafted in as the people of the God of Abraham.
Yet we are still asking, along with the disciples, “Are you now going to restore the kingdom?” (Acts 1:6). Are you finally going to heal our hurts, overcome all our fears and divisions, and prove to the world that we are right and they are wrong?
Jesus responds: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (v.7-8). Notice that Jesus doesn’t answer their question as they asked it. He refuses to meet their expectations, and ours, not because our demands are too big, but because they’re far too small. God’s plan was never simply to take the side of one people or one issue over against another. Instead he is doing away with the system of conflict entirely. He is creating a new people bound together not by blood or race or national pride or political ideology, but by baptism into the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Jesus doesn’t take a side in the conflict because he’s already Lord over all conflicts— and Lord over all of us who have conflicts. If Jesus is the Prince of Peace, then communion, not conflict, is the ultimate truth of the world.
If Jesus has left us our conflicts, it’s not because he has yet to conquer them, for he has already ascended to his heavenly throne above all other thrones. But rather, he has left us our conflicts because we need them! We need to learn to pick up our cross and follow Jesus, to allow him to use our conflicts as the crucible within which we become a people formed in his image—people of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
In the meantime, as we continue to grow into these gifts of the Spirit, we have the opportunity, in the midst of our conflict, to witness to Jesus’ Lordship over conflict, in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. Thanks be to God.