Ascension 2021: Let’s not stand still, but carry on
Whether witnesses are believed or not is something everybody has to decide for themselves. What counts is the credibility of their testimony and whether they themselves believe their own account! The disciples, who witnessed Jesus ascend into heaven, stuck to their version of the story and refused to budge even a millimetre.
Nowadays, people find the story hard to believe. One could concede that the ascension of Jesus—like all miracles of faith—can neither be understood nor explained scientifically. It is a matter of belief. And the question is allowed: is it even possible to be a Christian without faith?
Let us imagine the following scene. After His resurrection Jesus Christ, who had died, stepped into the upper room in which the disciples had gathered. They had locked themselves in and were hiding because they were full of fear and felt completely helpless and lost. Their faith had been severely affected. They had bargained with a lot, but this was far beyond them. Their beloved teacher was no longer with them. He had left them. They were on their own now.
And then this Jesus Christ came and brought His disciples back to the reality of faith. He substantiated His claim, made His mission clear to them, and accompanied them for a while longer. It would be fascinating if only we could travel into this exciting time with a time machine!
A second farewell
And then, forty days later, they had to take leave of Him again. This, however, was completely in different. The Apostles, and with them the congregation, seemed a lot more cheerful, were full of enthusiasm, and full of eagerness and expectation. This is one of the reasons why Ascension Day is so important: it testifies of a burning faith!
Those watching as Jesus was taken up were comforted and strengthened and were then sent out into their world of faith. They were no longer alone but felt the encouraging backing of a brave fellowship: “And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven’” (Acts 1: 10–11).
This is telling Bible verse, and a call: “Why do you [just] stand there?”
Don’t stand still, keep going
Ascension is a religious festival that celebrates movement. Christians are not to stand still and gaze into heaven. No, they are urged to get on with the Christian work. There is still so much to be done. Christian faith does not want to be smothered in platitudes or the arduous weighing of true and false. This is tiring and leads to restless sleep. Christian faith wants to live, to be alive, to jump for joy, and infect itself and others. Following Christ does not lead to inaction but to the Christian mission to proclaim the gospel: His ascension is our ascension, His resurrection is our resurrection. Whether people actually think this is possible or not is relatively beside the point. The exhortation to us Christians today is: do something with it; this is about you, your ascension!
Learning from missionaries
There are wonderful examples of people who set out to do great things in the name of their faith. Here is a recent example. An Apostle in India died of COVID-19 and the Chief Apostle was able to write in the obituary: “In his 25 years of working as an Apostle, he travelled more than 850,000 kilometres mostly by motorbike to serve the brothers and sisters. No journey was too long and no sacrifice too great. He worked diligently and motivated his fellow brothers to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. He established many congregations, and he often stayed with the brothers and sisters to care for the souls entrusted to him.” There are many such testimonies of courageous women and men, of courageous children and committed young people, of missionaries and heroes of faith.
Christians, don’t fall asleep, don’t just stand there, keep going. This is the message of Ascension Day!
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