The miracle of Ascension
The Ascension is the sign of Jesus’ victory—his exaltation. The event is so important to Luke’s story that he actually narrates it twice—to end his Gospel and to begin the book of Acts.
Luke wants to leave his readers in no doubt about one simple fact: Jesus left his disciples not through death on the cross, but through conquering death on the cross. The proof of his victory was not only his Resurrection but also his Ascension. It’s not that the Resurrection is less important than the Ascension. It is that, in some way, they are one continuous divine act. Resurrection is the beginning of ascension; ascension is resurrection completed.
If Jesus had only been raised from death, then he would have been like Lazarus—a miracle had been performed—a man had been raised from the dead, only to come back to the form of his previous human life. Jesus might have gone back to Galilee to teach and heal, or he might have—as some of the disciples hoped on Ascension Day—raised an army to overthrow the Romans. The miracle would have been no more than a curious divine detour in the universal human journey from birth to death.
But in his telling of the Ascension, Luke’s point is not so much that Jesus has been raised from death, but that Jesus has been raised to a whole new kind of life where the old order of things, dominated by death, is behind him. There would be no need for more teaching or healing, for the kingdom had come. There would be no need for armies, because Jesus’ enemies had already been defeated at the cross.
Do you remember reading or perhaps seeing The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe for the first time? How did you feel when you heard the Stone Table crack? When you stood with Lucy and Susan staring at the very-much-alive-again Aslan? When you heard him speak of the “deeper magic from before the dawn of time” that made death work backwards? That eruption of crackling joy and deep yearning is what Luke wants his readers to feel!
This joy is grounded not simply in the story’s beauty, but in its beautiful truth.