He Ascended to Heaven

Hear the word of the Lord:

The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.  After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. (Hebrews 1:3)

To which of the angels did God ever say, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”? (Hebrews 1:13)

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.  Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16)

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.  It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf.  He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 6:19-20)

Such a high priest meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. (Hebrews 7:26)

We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by man. (Hebrews 8:1-2)

When Christ came as high priest of the good things that are already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation.  He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. (Hebrews 9:11-12)

For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. (Hebrews 9:24)

Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.  But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.  Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool, because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. (Hebrews 10:11-14)

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:2-3)

Today is the feast of the Ascension.  On this day, forty days after Easter, we celebrate the literal, physical, bodily ascension of Jesus Christ.  This is what we confess in the Apostles’ Creed: He ascended to heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.

There are a number of passages in the New Testament that deal with the ascension of Jesus Christ.  Above, I have quoted the ones that come from the book of Hebrews, because I want to emphasize one particular aspect of the ascension.

On this day, nearly two thousand years ago, something happened that had never occurred in the history of the universe, something that had never occurred in eternity past.  And now, you say to me, “Yes, I know; you already said it; it was the ascension of Jesus Christ.” Yes, I know I said that already; but there is something else, something more specific, more amazing, more awe-inspiring.

Here’s what I mean:  On this day, for the first time in the history of the universe, a human being entered into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God.  A real human being.  With hair, and skin, and bones, and fingernails, and ear lobes, and eyelashes.  A real live human being.  One who had once been connected to his mother by an umbilical cord.  One who knew what it was like to cry, and hunger, and thirst, and feel happy, and feel sad.  One who knew what it was like to go through incredible sorrow, and feelings of abandonment.  One who had long striped scars on his back, a circle of holes around the top of his head where thorns had pressed through.  One who had prints in his hands and feet where nails had once been.  One who had a large depressed spot in his chest where a spear had once been.

This human being, this man, the first one to ever do so, entered into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God.  He went where no man has gone before.  And there he began the process of interceding for the rest of us humans.  And whenever we think about Jesus Christ—interceding for us, advocating for us, praying for us, pleading for us—how wonderful it is to know that the one who is doing this interceding, this advocating, this praying, this pleading, is one of us.

Jesus Christ, our “Holy man in heaven.”

Jerry Shepherd
Feast of the Ascension
May 29, 2014

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