Today is Ascension Day! Today, Christians around the world remember the final scene of Jesus’ ministry on earth: his ascension to heaven.
Ascension Day is the 40th day following Jesus’ resurrection. On this day, Jesus completed his God-given mission, charging his disciples with a task that Christians today continue to work towards: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the good news to every creature.”
Before he was taken up, working in the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus instructed the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he showed them that he was alive with many convincing proofs. He appeared to them over a period of forty days, speaking to them about God’s kingdom. While they were eating together, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem but to wait for what the Father had promised. He said, “This is what you heard from me: John baptized with water, but in only a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
As a result, those who had gathered together asked Jesus, “Lord, are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel now?”
Jesus replied, “It isn’t for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has set by his own authority. Rather, you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
After Jesus said these things, as they were watching, he was lifted up and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going away and as they were staring toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood next to them. They said, “Galileans, why are you standing here, looking toward heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way that you saw him go into heaven.” — Acts 1:1-11 (CEB)
Matthew’s account doesn’t describe Jesus’ ascension, but does contain this memorable final charge to his followers:
Jesus came near and spoke to them, “I’ve received all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything that I’ve commanded you. Look, I myself will be with you every day until the end of this present age.” —Matthew 28:16-20 (CEB)
Some churches commemorate Ascension Day with special services or prayer vigils; others don’t. But either way, you can celebrate Christ’s ascension to heaven by dedicating yourself to obeying his final command. What are we waiting for? Go and make disciples!