Ascension of Our Lord

Ascension of Our Lord

Gospel: Luke 24:44-53

A reading from the Gospel of John.
Glory to you, O Lord.

[Jesus said to the eleven and those with them,] “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God.

The Gospel of the Lord.
Praise to you, O Christ.

Now let the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to you O Lord, our strength and Redeemer


Thursday was the Ascension of Our Lord, commemorating the day Jesus, “ascended into heaven,” to “sit at the right hand of the Father,” as the Apostles’ Creed puts it. Every time I read Luke’s account of the Ascension in Acts, when the man in a white robe says to the apostles, “Why do you stand looking up toward heaven?” I also hear my Grandfather in the garden barking at them, “Get to work. You’re burning daylight.”

The concern of Ascension Day is what are we to do now that Jesus the Risen Christ has left? Really, really left. Left and not coming back for a really, really long time. And the basic answer is that we are being sent and it’s time to go. 

It’s time to get busy being the Body of Christ in the world; going about doing good, preaching repentance and forgiveness of sin, announcing the coming of the kingdom of God, witnessing to the resurrection. Jesus was sent to us on a mission of love, and we are being sent into the world on the same mission.

Let’s do a thought experiment—what if Jesus never left? What if Jesus just stayed on earth with us, in resurrection body form, forever? Just going around, here and there, teaching, healing, picnicking on the beach, etc.

It seems to me that if Jesus had never left, most of us would have spent our days waiting for Jesus to do something spectacular, or at least interesting. Instead of being “little Christs to one another,” we would have become part of Jesus’ giant posse. 

  • We would have passed the time staring off in the distance looking for Jesus, wanting him to do something for us instead of lowering our gaze to look at those around us.
  • Seeking to see the Risen Christ appear, we would have inevitably failed to see the Christ directly in front of us, in the faces of our neighbors, in the pain of those in need.
  • Yearning for Jesus to serve us, we would have ignored the call to serve our Lord by serving one another.

But Jesus did leave, Jesus did ascend to the right hand of the Father. He did leave us. But he left us with work to do, with clear instructions in how to do it, and with the promise of the Holy Spirit to guide us in our work and to give us the spiritual strength to do it.


Before he departs, Jesus promises the disciples that they will receive power from God, and they should wait for it. This power will provide all they need to live out the mission he has set forth and sustain them until he returns. The text says they will be “furnished with heavenly power.” Jesus blesses the disciples and departs. The disciples then return to Jerusalem with joy, eagerly awaiting the power that was promised. 

“Furnished with heavenly power.” This sounds good! We could all use some “heavenly power,” don’t you think? Well, according to scripture, Jesus made good on that promise. At Pentecost, God’s power infused the church. Those who profess Jesus as Lord should have that power. The church should have that power.


It is encouraging to think about all this power we are supposed to have, but, if we are honest, the church today doesn’t seem all that powerful. It is clear that the church doesn’t have the same influence it once had. Many would argue that the prominence of secular culture outside the church, along with the infighting and division inside the church, has rendered us irrelevant and powerless. Where is all this power that Jesus promised? 

Some critics claim that the church lacks power today because it does not try hard enough to be relevant. “Many millennials see no need for the church or the faith it proclaims” is often the line given. Clever words like nones, those who don’t claim a religious affiliation, are discussed by gurus at church-growth seminars and mentioned in a vast array of books on church leadership. At these seminars and in these books, marketing strategies are presented to reach these “nones.” 

Many pastors and churches spend a great deal of time, money, and energy trying to make their church experience as enticing and relevant as the TikTok videos that mesmerize the masses.

Others use the old, tired line, “People don’t go to church because it is filled with a bunch of hypocrites.” It is argued that the disparity between the Jesus Christians profess and the behavior they often exhibit renders the church powerless.       

While I would not disagree that there is some merit to these and other reasons given for the lack of power in the church, I believe the overriding reason why the church seems powerless is because it often neglects the very mission Jesus empowers us to live out—the mission we find in this week’s text: “a change of heart and life for the forgiveness of sins must be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.” 


In every organization, every community, every family, every church, power has the potential to turn into a struggle. In every human collective there is the potential for abuse, exploitation and exclusion. 

But, the Ascension calls us to a different way of being. 

It begins with a personal recognition of the value that Jesus places on every human being—including ourselves. That Christ would take on our flesh, live our life, die our death, and then rise and take the place of authority over our human world, indicates the extent to which Christ is concerned to change the human system in which only some are valued, and others count for nothing. 

Then, celebrating the Ascension calls us to work, in our own small corner of the world, to embody the reign of Christ—the justice, equality, compassion, and inclusion that Jesus demonstrated in his life, and that he expresses as Lord of all (not just Lord of some). 

  • This means that we must strive for collaborative leadership in which power is shared and all have the capacity and the facility to participate if they so choose. 
  • This means that we must strive to celebrate all people and their humanity, not just those who are “special” or “important” in some way. 
  • This means that we must learn to value every part of our humanness and teach others to do the same—honoring the beauty and dignity in every person, and seeking to preserve the sacredness in the most intimate of human connections. 
  • This means that, as church, the Ascension calls us to be a community of liberation not condemnation, of celebration not judgment, of this-worldly concern and compassion not other-worldly.

The power Jesus promised before his ascension is evident in the hearts and lives that are changed when the gospel is proclaimed. We are the conduits of the life-changing power of Jesus Christ. When the church refuses to be distracted and focuses on its mission of changing lives with the gospel, the power of Jesus is displayed, and it is powerful! We are “witnesses of these things”!