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Acts 1, 1-11. The former treatise have I made, 0 Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which He was taken up, after that He through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom He had chosen : to whom also Ile shewed Himself alive after His passi'n by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God : and, being assembled together with thein, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith He, ye have heard of
For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. When they therefore were come together, they asked of Him, saying, Lord, wilt Thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel ? And He said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hatb put in His own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you : and ye shall be witnesses unin me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. And when He had spoken these things, while they beheld, He was taken up; and a cloud received Hiin out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two mrn stood by them in white apparel; which also said, Ye men of Galilee, wby stand ye gazing up into heaven ? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen llim go into heaven.
e commemorate this day the Ascension of
our Lord Jesus Christ, concerning which we confess in our Creed: “I believe in Jesus Christ, who ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right band of God the Father Almighty; from thence lle shall come to judge the quick and the dead.” The celebration of this day was therefore instituted not only that we, who daily peruse the Scriptures, might be reminded of the ascension of our Lord, but also that our children, who are constantly
growing up around us, and that the common people might be taught the ascension of Christ into heaven, so that by the keeping of this festival they might learn, together with us, how it happened and what blessings flow from it.
St. Luke gives a full and vivid description of the events of this day, so that we become intimately acquainted with the time, place and persons connected with the occurrence, and can clearly understand how it all happened. We are told how the Lord, when He had tarried with His disciples forty days, mostly in Galilee, after the time of His resurrection, during which days He ate with them and taught them of His kingdom, now assembled them on mount Olivet near Jerusalem, and gave them the command, as St. Luke narrates, not to depart from the city, but there to await the outpouring of the Holy Ghost, after which they should go into all the world to preach the Gospel. When He had finished these sayings, "He was taken up; and a cloud received Him out of their sight.” He thus ascended on high, with His body of flesh and bone, just as He had stood before His disciples. While they stand full of amazement at this occurrence, at this unheard of flight of a human body into the air, even as a bird would soar aloft, two angels come to them and tell them to return to their homes, that now the ascension was completed, that their Lord and Master would not return to the earth again until He came in a cloud, even as He had now ascended in one, to judge the quick and the dead. These are the outlines of the incidents as recorded in the first chapter of the Acts, and as you, my beloved, just heard from the words of our text.
In this event we ought to notice, first of all, the miraculous manner in which Christ ascended on high, how He went aloft into the air as a bird flies upwards, and then vanished out of the sight of His disciples. Surely, it is an uncommon, yea an impossible thing for men to fly upwards into the air. The human body is so constituted by nature that it tends downwards, like a stone or any other heavy material. Now Christ had after His resurrection also a real body of flesh and bone, which could be touched, as He Himself says Luke 24; yet it was a body which could, according to its constitution, move upwards or downwards at will and with equal
From this fact we can learn what kind of body we are to receive after death. Now our bodies are heavy, clumsy and sluggish, but after the resurrection we shall obtain new bodies, which shall also be constituted of flesh and bone as to all their parts, but which at the same time shall not be heavy nor unwieldy, but as easily transferable from place to place as are now our thoughts. We see how this was with Christ after His resurrection; neither the rock over His grave, nor the closed doors, could prevent His passage; He sweeps through with lightning speed, and no one knows how it happens. He appears wherever He desires to do so, and is invisible at His pleasure. Now He is here, presently He is in some other place; He walks in the air as well as upon the ground. Such excellence is also in store for our bodies after the resurrection; albeit they shall be immortal, no more in need of food or drink, and never disturbed by disease.
Let us now consider the reason of this ascension of Christ, what He wished to achieve by it, and how its benefits can be enjoyed by us during our life on earth. The ascensiou of Christ, His going upwards, indicates first of all, and beyond all doubt, that He will have nothing to do with this world and its kingdoms; else He would have remained here, wielding the power of earth!y kings and potentates. But He leaves all this below, and ascends into heaven, where we see Him not. By this He teaches us what His kingdom is and how we should regard it; that it is not of this world, as the disciples at first imagined that it would yield them wealth and power and honor, but a spiritual, eternal kingdom, in which He distributes spiritual blessings to all who are His subjects.
Let no one become a Christian with a view of thus obtaining earthly treasures and honors. The Office of the Ministry, Baptism and the Lord's Supper were not instituted for any such purpose; nor did Christ come upon earth, or ascend again into heaven, that He might establish such a transient, temporal, worldly kingdom. He had a higher, nobler aim, which was to bless us with heavenly gifts, with the forgiveness of sins, with righteousness and everlasting life. Such are the blessings in store for us through Christ, who would not remain on eartlı, but ascended on high to establish a spiritual, invisible, eternal kingdom.
This was prophesied long before by the Holy Ghost in the 68. Psalm, to which St. Paul refers when he, Eph. 4, speaks of the ascension and spiritual dominion of Christ. These are the words of
the Psalmist: “Thou hast ascended on high, Thou hast led captivity captive: Thou hast received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also, that the Lord God might dwell among them.” This is a brief but very comprehensive passage, which we ought to consider attentively and remember with care. St. Paul does this so beautifully and appropriately when he thus dwells upon the former portion of the passage: "Now that He ascended, what is it but that He also descended first into the lower parts of the earth ? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that He might fill all things.”
How are these words of St. Paul to be understood ? Simply thus: Because we derive such glorious benefits from the ascension of our Lord, as we shall hear presently, we ought also to know the source of such grace and blessings. Neither our good works nor saintly life have merited them; on the contrary, Christ alone, by His coming from heaven, by laying aside His heavenly glory when He became man in our behalf, and finally by His death upon the cross achieved for us the enjoyment of these gifts of grace. To such benefits St. Paul refers in the words just quoted, in which he speaks of the going down of Christ into the lower parts of the earth. Such expressions are in full harmony with each other; for he who is already on high needs not ascend on high. The declaration of the Holy Ghost concerning Christ : “He ascended far above all heavens" indicates therefore that He first descended to earth and humbled Himself for us. Hence these words of St. Paul correspond well with those of the Lord Himself, which we considered a