Celebrating Ascension Day

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See also: An Introduction to the Church’s Liturgical Calendar.

In the Western Church, we observe Ascension Day on the fortieth day after Easter Sunday, which also places it between the sixth and seventh Sundays of the season of Easter—also called Eastertide. To offer greater congregational participation in services celebrating the Ascension, the festival may be commemorated on the Lord’s Day which follows. Certainly it is an integral part of our joyous proclamation of Jesus’ Easter triumph.

Ascension Day calls us to celebrate the glorious entrance of our Savior into heaven.

Ascension Day calls us to celebrate the glorious entrance of Our Savior into Heaven while His disciples watched, after He had completed His earthly ministry and post-resurrection appearances. In Heaven He is exalted to the right hand of God the Father, where He exercises all power and authority on our behalf, serving as the Mediator between God and man. We sinners would be terrified in the presence of an almighty and holy God without a mediator—One Who is our divinely-appointed representative and intermediary Who pleads for us, reconciling us to God and transacting “the whole affair of our salvation,” as Dr. Adam Clarke observes in his Commentary on the Bible (I Timothy 2:5–6). Charles Wesley also cheers our hearts with his description of Jesus’ heavenly ministry:

He ever lives above,
for me to intercede,
His all-redeeming love,
His precious blood to plead;
His blood atones for all our race,
and sprinkles now the throne of grace.

In other words, Jesus ascended to Heaven on our behalf, even as He had once descended to earth on our behalf, so that we might have eternal life in both this world and in the world to come. So, in the words of the old English prayer book, we pray:

Grant, we beseech Thee, Almighty God, that like as we do believe, Thy only-begotten Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ to have ascended into the heavens, so we also in heart and mind may ascend thither, and with Him continually dwell, Who reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, world without end. Amen.

As the divinely-appointed mediator between God and man, Jesus exercises three “offices” or functions which fulfill the Old Testament types of prophet, priest, and king. These offices He began to discharge while He was here on earth, and He will continue to discharge them until He returns to judge the world in righteousness.

As the old Methodist Discipline urges, we should preach Christ “in all His offices”—prophet, priest, and king!

As our prophet, He is our lawgiver proclaiming both what God commands and what God forbids—in other words, He sets forth both the law and the gospel. As our priest, He pleads our cause before the throne of infinite justice, presenting Himself as the sacrificial Lamb upon Whom the Lord has laid the iniquity of us all. He continually intercedes for His dear ones, while at the same time He blesses us with the heavenly benediction. As our king, He orders the course of history to His glory, rewarding righteousness and punishing evil. In this world it often seems that His judgments are delayed, but He shall rectify all things at His coming. If we are to be faithful stewards of the gospel, as the old Methodist Discipline urges, we should preach Christ “in all His offices”—prophet, priest, and king!

Adapted from the God’s Revivalist. Used by permission.

Larry Smith
Dr. Larry D. Smith served as a GBS instructor and editor of God’s Revivalist from 1995 until his retirement in 2016. He lives in Cincinnati, OH, with his wife, Carol (Wiseman) (’78 BA).