And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.…
I. ITS HISTORICAL CIRCUMSTANCES AND CHARACTER.
1. As to the historical fact. If, like Matthew and John, the other evangelists had omitted to tell us of the ascension, yet we could not have conceived of any other sequence of the resurrection; we could not have imagined the life of Christ to have wasted away in old age or sickness, much less to have died a second time. It was needful —
(1) To His redeeming triumph, that His conquest over death should be final.
(2) To His redeeming reward, that glory should follow His humiliation.
(3) As a soothing to our Christian feeling, that His body, broken and bleeding on the Cross, should be uplifted and glorified.
(4) As an historical basis for apostolic preaching, and as a doctrinal element of most important practical influences. And that which our reason must have concluded, Scriptural testimony confirms, not to mention the allusions of the Prophecies, the Psalms, and the Epistles, and our Lord's own predictions in John, which can only be understood of a bodily enthronement; we:have here the explicit declaration of two inspired writers, and all the disciples were witnesses of this departure; while three only beheld His transfiguration, and none His resurrection.
2. As to its circumstances —
(1) The time selected was the fortieth day after His passion, the mystic period of Moses' abode on the Mount, of Elijah's sojourn in the wilderness, and of the Redeemer's own temptation — an interval after His resurrection long enough to furnish indubitable proof of it, to restore the agitated disciples to calmness, and to instruct them in the truths associated with His death and resurrection.
(2) The place. Once more our Lord accompanied the eleven across the brook Kedron, and along the path which He traversed to His passion. Once more, as He ascended the well-known track to Bethany, the guilty city would rise to His view, until perhaps they reached the spot "where He had sat down and wept over it; there the temple reared its head; there was the scene of His trial, and "the place that is called Calvary, where they crucified Him"; immediately at His feet was the garden of Gethsemane; while not far distant was the scene of His tenderest human friendships.
(3) There was doubtless a studied adaptation to the thoughts and feelings of the disciples in the mode of this leave-taking. There is always a gloom about final separation from those we love; but its circumstances greatly determine the character of our recollections. We see through the wasting and parting tabernacle, the beamings and breakings through of celestial glory, the moral glory of faith, and hope, and triumph overpowering, the pain and dissolution; then the recollection is not so much of earthly life departing as of heavenly life commencing. And thus we may imagine the Redeemer selected the circumstances of His final departure, and we do not wonder that "they returned to Jerusalem with great joy." We might easily have imagined grander circumstances. There was not, as at His birth, a multitude of the heavenly host; no chariots of fire, nothing that could divert attention from His own identity and glory. The disciples would probably have been dazzled and confounded had it been otherwise. And there is delicacy and encouragement in His parting attitude; He, their Saviour and friend, without any array of terrible magnificence, leaves them, and enters heaven in the act of blessing. And thus the most timid is taught to have confidence in our great High Priest. Let us not, then, think, when conscious of His departure, that it is necessarily in anger. The cloud that receives Him may but be the vail that hides the richer blessings still which He is preparing to pour out upon us.
II. ITS MEDIATORIAL AND DOCTRINAL IMPORTANCE.
1. The Ascension is the final historic attestation of the validity and acceptance of the Atonement. A moral attestation is continually going on in the effects which the preaching of the Atonement produces. But the Ascension is a direct personal attestation to the sufficiency of Christ's expiatory death.
2. The Ascension was the necessary introduction of the Mediator to the scene and reception of His mediatorial reward. Mark tells us that "He was received up into heaven, and sat at the right hand of God." "God hath highly exalted Him."
3. Christ ascended that He might bestow the promise of the Father, the gift of the Holy Spirit.
4. He ascended that He might, as our High Priest and Intercessor, "appear in the presence of God for us."
5. He ascended to reign as Mediatorial King, to superintend the providence of the world, to be "head over all things to His Church," and to "expect until His enemies shall be made His footstool."
6. He ascended according to His promise, to "prepare a place" for His disciples in His "Father's house."Conclusion: learn —
1. How to conceive of the spiritual world, a world in which human nature shall be glorified as it has been glorified in Christ.
2. How precious the encouragements of our Christian life. We have "boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus." "We have not a High Priest who cannot be touched," etc.
3. The attitude and temper of our Christian life. The effect on the disciples was an effect not of sorrow but of joy.
(H. Allon, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.