And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.…
I. THE ASCENSION OF OUR LORD IS IN PERFECT HARMONY WITH THE OTHER PORTIONS OF HIS HISTORY. His birth, the voice from heaven at His baptism, His works, His words, were all supernatural. When He was crucified the earth trembled, on the third day He rose, and then, in opposition to the laws of gravity, He ascended up to His Father. All this is perfectly harmonious. Of old His name was called "Wonderful"; and if you reject what is wonderful in the history of Christ, then there is no Christ whatever. It is the light of the sun that makes that luminary what it is. Extinguish the light of the son, and it becomes a dark, invisible body, revolving uselessly in the depth of heaven. After the sun has set there is twilight. But it grows feebler and feebler every minute, and by and by all is enveloped in the darkness. Now you may eliminate from Christianity the supernatural facts of it, and after you have done that for centuries, very likely, the twilight of the setting sun — the after effects of what Christianity once had been — would remain here; but as for the Christian religion and Church, and the Christ of history, without the supernatural they cannot be.
II. THE CONDUCT OF OUR LORD AT THE TIME OF HIS ASCENSION HARMONISES WITH ALL THAT IS WRITTEN OF HIM BEFORE THAT TIME. "While He blessed them." That was His work. He was like Himself to the end. His heart was not embittered by the Cross. His last look was one of sympathy and love. It was the same at the end as at the beginning.
III. THE ASCENSION IS CONNECTED WITH THE CARRYING ON OF HIS OWN WORK.
1. He ascended "that He might fill all things" — that is, the hearts of men, the governments of the world, all literature, art, science, philosophy, commerce, courts of law, pulpits, with His influence, The facts of the history of the Redeemer, the truths embodied in these facts — have saved Europe from animalism, or materialism, or downright atheism. Thess facts, like leaven, are put into the hearts of men everywhere.
2. Christ has left the spirit of His life here. Fragrance is on the rose, but distinct from the rose. The rose is the fact, the fragrance is something over and above the rose. The landscape is one thing, its beauty of another. There are truths in the Book, but the genius with which those truths are treated is another thing. There are the facts of the Redeemer's life, but there also is the spirit of His life upon those facts — a fragrance, a beauty, a genius, a tenderness, an atmosphere, a divineness which belong to no other facts in the world. It is not the salvation of your souls only that you owe to Him — He has humanised humanity, and He is rectifying and consecrating Europe by the influence of the spirit of His life. Let any artist here say if I am wrong. He has beautified art, and pagan art can never exist again.
3. He ascended that He might send the Holy Ghost down among men. By Holy Ghost I do not mean a mere influence, or power, or energy going forth, but a personality, come down to regenerate the heart and create in it a noble ambition, strengthen it for brave purpose, and consecrate it.
IV. THE ASCENSION INSPIRED THE NOBLEST FEELINGS IN THE HEARTS OF HIS APOSTLES (Luke 24:52). While they looked at the glorious vision they instinctively felt a reverence and admiration that could not be expressed. These feelings are not to become extinguished in Christian hearts. The lowest state of mind, in regard to the Redeemer, is stolid indifference. The highest state to which many people attain, is inquiry concerning Christ. Inquire by all means, but there is a higher state than that. A great number seem never to attain to anything higher than simply believing on Jesus. But our religion means more than knowledge, faith, awe, hope. It means reverence, admiration, transcendent wonder. How many of us are content to live without elevated moments when the soul is lost in wonder, love, and praise?
V. THE ASCENSION TEACHES THAT VIRTUOUS SUFFERINGS LEAD TO AND END IN GLORY. It was becoming that Jesus Christ should have ascended from the Mount of Olives. At the foot of that mountain was the place of His sorrow and agony. The death of a good man is, by far, more an ascension to heaven than a descent into the grave. It is very little after all that the grave shall possess of us. Take a tree, consume it, and then look at the small quantity of ash left. That is the only thing that tree derived from the earth. Where are the other elements? They belonged to the skies and have returned to the skies to mingle with their brother elements. Death is the consuming, and the little heap of ashes, when the burning is over, is all that the grave shall have of us; but the intellect, the will, the conscience, the affections, the imagination, the spirit, the man returns to God who gave it.
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.