His ascension is not His separation from His people, but the ascension of His throne and the beginning of His reign as the head of the Church which is His body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all.
Christ ascended, not to depart from earth, but to take the throne of His Kingdom on earth. He sat down at the right hand of God. Gods reign does not consist in sitting upon a distant throne! It consists in omnipresent power and authority. To sit at His right hand means to share His Authority and Omnipresence.
Here was a magnificent triumph over the law of gravitation. Here was the royal ascent by which our Solomon went up to the house of the Lord. The everlasting gates lifted up their heads and the King of Glory entered in. It was all of a pieceHis life, His death, His resurrection, His ascension, all were triumphs.
The ascension of Elijah may be compared to the flight of a bird, which none can follow; the ascension of Christ is, as it were, a bridge between earth and heaven, laid down for all who are drawn to Him by His earthly existence.
When we see the only-begotten Son, clothed in a body like our own, exalted above all the heavens, in that sight we have before us the all-glorious and controlling center of all the spheres, the key which interprets the testimony of prophecy, the gathered first fruits of a new and redeemed world.
With the ascent of the Saviour into heaven, from which this anniversary day receives its name, He has entered upon the real and undisputed possession of His royal reign, in which from this time on He rules over all things that are in heaven and on earth.
His Ascension marked a stage in His revelation, but it only brought Him nearer to us. To have lingered among the early disciples would have limited His mission and sequestered Him from the later Church. As the Resurrection opened the grave, the Ascension opened heaven.
Our first impressions are to consider the Ascension of our Lord as the very greatest event connected with His appearance on earth. To our own mind, undoubtedly, nothing could be so solemn, so exalting, as the changing this life for another; the putting off mortality and putting on immortality; and all this we connect with the thought of the removal from earth to heaven.
The Ascension was the appropriate bloom and culmination of the Resurrection. Had Christ, after the Resurrection, died a natural death, or had He simply disappeared from view into unknown obscurity, the Resurrection, as a proof of His divine power, and pledge of His undimmed and undiminished existence would have gone for nothing. And the Ascension of our Lord has some most precious lessons for us.
In public, in the daylight, on holy Olivet, the Lord finished with glory the career which He began in obscurity. He finished His earthly career, but not His human life. His ascension perpetuated His incarnation. He did not evacuate His human body, but carried it with Him to the right hand of Godwith its nail prints and its thorn scars. Touched with a feeling of our infirmities, our great High-priest has passed into the heavens. There He ever liveth to make intercession for us. With His pierced hands He is able to save to the uttermost them that come unto God by Him.
To ascend on high must have meant for Christ a large increase of His quickening influence, more power to act beneficially on human minds and hearts, to purify and energize, to inspire and elevate, as hitherto He had not been able. That was His supreme ambition, the height for which He sighed; and was it not even thus that He went up gloriously at last from the cross and the grave, mounting from thence to be a greater saving and subliming force than He had ever been before, to beget repentance and remission of sins beyond what He had ever done?
By the Ascension all the parts of life are brought together in the oneness of their common destination. By the Ascension Christ in His Humanity is brought close to every one of us, and the words in Christ, the very charter of our faith, gain a present power. By the Ascension we are encouraged to work beneath the surface of things to that which makes all things capable of consecration. Then it is that the last element in our confession as to Christs work speaks to our hearts. He is not only present with us as Ascended: He is active for us. We believe that He sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty.
The ascension of Christ added distance to definiteness in worship. Definiteness we must have, as ever craving for a theophany, every instinct of idolatry proves. Lord, show us the Father and it sufficeth us is prompted by this feeling. The Incarnation is Gods response to this human need. But imagine Jesus living on indefinitely after the resurrection, even under the earthly conditions which obtained during those forty days! Worship demands the far distances of God; it protests against the little, the near, the material. It must love but it must look up. It cannot live without the note of spirituality and universality, if not mystery. The ascension, the passing of Christ within the veil, answers this need. So does a full-robed Christianity add to definiteness of knowledge the outreach of imagination and home.
We celebrate this day the Ascension of our great Judge into heaven, where He sits upon His throne and has all the world before Him; every human soul, with its desires and aims, its thoughts, words, and works, whether they be good or bad. Every man who is running now his mortal race is from first to last before the eye of Him who as on this day ascended with human nature into heaven. Shall we grieve that the Visible Presence is withdrawn, and that there is no longer on earth the mighty and mysterious Personage who put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself and discomfited through dying the enemies of God and man? Not so! There is no reason for sorrow that He quits the earth on the wings of the wind. We could not detain Him below, we would have Him as our Mediator within the veil. This and this only, can secure to us those spiritual assistances through which we ourselves may climb the firmament.
Christ is already in that place of peace, which is all in all. He is on the right hand of God. He is hidden in the brightness of the radiance which issues from the everlasting throne. He is in the very abyss of peace, where there is no voice of tumult or distress, but a deep stillnessstillness, that greatest and most awful of all goods which we can fancy; that most perfect of joys, the utter profound, ineffable tranquillity of the Divine Essence. He has entered into His rest. That is our home; here we are on a pilgrimage, and Christ calls us to His many mansions which He has prepared.