24th May 2023

“As the disciples were looking on, Jesus was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight” (Acts 1.9).

Last Thursday was Ascension Day. Forty days after Easter.

After his resurrection on Easter Sunday, the risen Jesus appeared to his followers on multiple occasions during the subsequent six weeks. Remember the gardener. The locked room. The road to Emmaus. Thomas. Eating fish by the lakeside. Luke records that these were but a few of many appearances during those forty days (Acts 1.3).

And then the disciples saw him one last time, back on the Mount of Olives, the scene of his betrayal. Jesus commissioned them to be his witnesses to the ends of the earth and he promised that they would receive the Holy Spirit to empower their testimony.

Then Jesus was taken up to heaven in a cloud. We recall how clouds in the Old Testament could symbolise the presence of God – the pillar of cloud leading Israel through the wilderness; the cloud over Mount Sinai as Moses received the law; Elijah swept to heaven in a whirlwind (not technically a cloud, but you get the idea).

Let’s not get distracted by wondering if heaven is a place “up there” above the clouds. The message is surely that the risen, flesh-and-blood Jesus was taken into God’s presence. A human being like you and me, living in the eternal presence of God. Jesus did not stop being human after his ascension, he is forever the bridge between humanity and God.

“I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14.3).

Ian Waddington