Ascension Thursday | Why it Matters

Today marks one of the most commonly overlooked days in the church year. Ascension Thursday marks the end of the Easter season as we remember the ascension of our Lord, Jesus Christ, into heaven. If we give some deeper thought to this significant historical event I think that we’ll find our worship can become more informed, significant, and above all bring greater glory to God.

Acts 1:1-11 gives us the Biblical account of the Ascension whether or not you choose to continue reading, I’d highly suggest making it a practice of reading this passage each year on the 40th after Easter. Give it read, and then continue on as I briefly think through the practical and theological significance of this event.

 

Why it matters and What we miss when we forget it… 

One of my go to resources for the liturgical calendar is the The Worship Sourcebook out of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. In their introduction to the Ascension they write on its theological significance:

“Christ’s ascension means that in heaven there is one who, knowing firsthand the experience of suffering and temptation, prays for us and perfects our prayers. The ascension is a witness and guarantee of our own bodily resurrection, as well as an invitation for us to set our hearts and minds “on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God” (Col. 3:1-2) to rule over all things in heaven and throughout the universe (Eph.1:10, 20-23). Finally, the ascension of Jesus serves as the prelude to Pentecost, when the power of the risen Christ came upon all believers through the Holy Spirit.”

Rather than dive deeper into purely theological reflection, I’d like to simply list out five practical applicable reflections, that I pray will help to deepen your understanding of the ascension and inform your worship in way that brings about greater glory to God.

1) The ascension assures us that the one who sits at the right hand of God the Father can relate to us in our humanity. Christ lived a fully human life and experienced pain and temptation. While He Himself was sinless, Jesus’ earthly life was greatly impacted by the brokenness of humanity. The one who intercedes for us, the perfecter of our prayers knows what we are living through.

2) The ascension gives us hope for the resurrection that is to come. Christ died,  rose again, and ascended into heaven. Christ didn’t raise to life so that he might simply die again. His life continues.

3) The ascension should motivate us to exalt the name of Christ. We need the ascension should point us to consider the humility that Christ endured and then bring about the glorification that is due. Paul’s Christological Hymn in Philippians 2 is probably the text the stands out the most regarding this thought:

Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus,

6 who, existing in the form of God,
did not consider equality with God
as something to be used for His own advantage.[a]
7 Instead He emptied Himself
by assuming the form of a slave,
taking on the likeness of men.
And when He had come as a man
in His external form,
8 He humbled Himself by becoming obedient
to the point of death—
even to death on a cross.
9 For this reason God highly exalted Him
and gave Him the name
that is above every name,
10 so that at the name of Jesus
every knee will bow—
of those who are in heaven and on earth
and under the earth—
11 and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,[b]
to the glory of God the Father.

4) Christ’s Ascension means that we are left on earth to continue in the ministry of Christ.  Jesus parting words commissioned his followers to make disciples among the nations throughout the earth (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:47).

5) Christ’s Ascension paved the way for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Christ didn’t give us the task of continuing his work on earth to then leave us to do so on our own might. This supernatural event resulting in the establishment of the church of Christ, was divinely orchestrated. The Holy Spirit, the same power that rose Christ from the dead now lives within us. Equipping us to continue in God’s kingdom work until Christ comes again. This outpouring reminds us  that the Church is from God, not man.

 

Hymns for the Ascension 

Rejoice the Lord is King 

Crown Him with Many Crowns 

All Hail the Power of Jesus Name 

Alleluia! Sing to Jesus

Before the Throne of God Above

Christ Whose Glory Fills the Sky 

Glorious and Mighty 

 

 

 

 

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