Where Did Jesus Go?
The church has its own seasons, governed by its own calendar. The Christian year begins at Advent when we mark the importance of the Incarnation. It moves through epiphany towards Lent which starts our expectant journey towards Easter. Passion week begins Palm Sunday as we walk with Jesus through the week leading to his crucifixion. That week is capped off by Easter when we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus.
We celebrate Ascension this week, because the timing of this event is spelled out in Acts 1:1-3.
The resurrection is followed by a 40-day period of time where the resurrected Jesus is with the apostles, and other core followers, teaching them about the kingdom of God. Paul reports in 1 Corinthians 15 that over 500 people experienced Jesus in his resurrected state. It was in these first months after the resurrection that the early church’s understanding of the redemptive mission of God began to shift from seeing the Kingdom of God as a political reality concerning Israel as a nation to a completely different way of thinking about God’s redemptive program.
In Acts 1:4-8, Luke goes out of his way to demonstrate Jesus as eating with them, this is no ghost, no hallucination, this is Jesus saying, “Pass the bread please.” Over dinner, we can see that the apostles are still trapped in an old way of thinking about what God would do by sending the Messiah. They still expected an earthly Davidic kind of kingdom—political, material, and spiritual prosperity. Jesus’ answer shows us more would have to unfold for them to understand what God was up to. In fact, there are 3 things about to happen that will be different.
God is going to pour out his Holy Spirit on you in power so that you are immersed in the spirit in ways you are not now.
Rather than getting government positions, you are to become a Spirit empowered, missionary movement sent out to testify to the world about me and the Kingdom I have ushered in.
Jesus ascends, this is in fact the last moment in the New Testament where Jesus is with his disciples in his embodied state, on earth. He would no longer relate to them ‘bodily.’
Both Peter and Paul speak to where Jesus went in their writings (1 Peter 3:21 and Ephesians 1:20-21). It is clear that Jesus is now, in heaven. Perhaps it is best to say that when Jesus ascended to heaven, he entered God’s dimension—a dimension that includes the Father, the angelic order and the saints. That dimension is “higher”—untarnished, whole, perfect, complete; in that dimension, God’s will is done perfectly, unlike here on earth. That dimension exists simultaneously and in parallel to the plane in which we live. This means, there is a way that Jesus is now both present to us and absent from us in our plane. There will be a future day, as pictured in Revelation 21 and predicated on Jesus’ return, when that which separates God’s dimension and ours is removed and both dimensions exist simultaneously.
Jesus’s ascension was crucial to God’s program for 5 reasons:
When Christ ascended to the Father, he was given pre-eminence over creation as part of creation (Ephesians 1:20-23).
When Jesus ascended, he fulfilled a promise he made to his disciples when he told them he was going to prepare a place for them (John 14:2-3).
Jesus as both divine being & human person creates a way for us to approach the throne of grace with confidence, knowing we will find mercy and grace in our time of need (Hebrews 4:14-16).
The ascended Jesus is uniquely positioned to be our advocate at the right hand of the Father (1 John 2:1 and Romans 8:34).
Jesus actually created more ways for his church to interact with him, not less, by giving us the Holy Spirit who is not bound by space and time (John 14:16-19).
In response we must follow the advice of the writer of Hebrews. 4:16 -“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”