St Paul's Anglican Church, Tuscaloosa, Alabama

blog: archive

May 29, 2014

Christian Calendar

The Neglected Jesus Story

by Lanier Nail

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Ascension.  One of the benefits of following the church calendar is that we are often forced to contemplate specific moments in the life of our Lord that we otherwise pass by without much reflection.  The ascension of Christ into heaven may be the most neglected episode in the life of Christ relative to the amount of ink the New Testament authors spilled tracing out its implications.

It is my conviction that our lack of understanding of the import of the ascension is tied to many of our deficits in our common cultural understanding of Christianity.

When we discuss the ascension in sermons and Bible studies, we often only reference it as the backdrop to the Great Commission.  Once Jesus tells his disciples what to do next, the narrator has to explain why we do not see him anymore – he ascended into heaven.  He had to “get out of the way” so the Holy Spirit could come and empower the Church for the Commission.  Yet when we read the New Testament as a whole, we see that the first Christians considered the ascension to be the crowning achievement of Jesus’ life and not simply the required “trip” to get from earth to heaven.

I will use the next several blog posts to try and unpack some of the major themes the New Testament writers attached to the ascension.  It is my conviction that our lack of understanding of the import of the ascension is tied to many of our deficits in our common cultural understanding of Christianity, especially here in the States.  In the meantime, ponder these words from Peter, one of the eyewitnesses of the Ascension:

Jesus Christ … has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.” – I Peter 4:22

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