And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.…
Christ ascended —
I. THAT MEN MIGHT BELIEVE IN HIM. For three years He had taught, and with what result? Most of those who believed trusted in Him not so much for spiritual blessings as for the conquest of the heathen invader or for the "loaves and fishes." Now contrast this failure to awaken the faith of men, while He lived on earth, with the success of His apostles after the ascension. The first sermon was followed by the conversion of three thousand souls. The reason of this contrast is not hard to find. While Jesus lived a human life, and performed miracles, He called forth admiration and wonder, but this only prevented a deep spiritual movement in men's hearts. In the Gospels we seldom come across narratives of men convicted of sin and crying for redemption, but after the ascension Christ began to move upon the conscience of the world as "The Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world."
II. THAT MEN MIGHT KNOW HIM AND COMMUNE WITH HIM. Men were won, indeed, by the beauty of His character. But who knew Him? Whose heart throbbed in sympathy with His? Where will you find the record of any real communion on the great themes that were nearest His heart? When He addressed them they but half understood Him. But contrast these disciples after the ascension. Then they began to know Him. They grasped the significance of His coming, His labour and His death. Knowing Him now in the spirit and aim of His great mediatorial life, they communed with Him, and illumined with this new knowledge and inspired by this communion, they went forth to preach the gospel, and it proved itself the power of God and the wisdom of God. We easily understand this. The daily life of men serves as often to conceal as to reveal them. How often a great statesman is not seen in his true proportions until he has been received "out of sight"! How often the child knows not the meaning of a father's or a mother's life until death has separated the parent from them! So it was with the disciples.
III. IN ORDER THAT HIS PEOPLE MIGHT TRULY FOLLOW HIM. While He was with them on the earth the disciples sought to imitate His outward life, to repeat His miracles, and His judgments. I cannot detect a single sign that the mind which was in Christ Jesus was in one of them. The result was that they never became independent of His physical presence. But how different when He had ascended! The impetuous and ambitious Peter lays down his life, like his Master, for the redemption of men. The "son of thunder" breathes forth the spirit of Christ in the words, "Little children, let us love one another." Instead of attempting to imitate Christ's outward life, they sought to drink into His spirit. And so it is with us.
IV. THAT HE MIGHT BE THE SPIRITUAL REDEEMER OF THE WHOLE WORLD. The Church and the world are to become one; the spirit of Christ is to become the dominant spirit of the world's life. In order to achieve this Jesus removed Himself from the limitations of place and time and nationality; and, ascending on high, seated Himself on the throne of universal dominion. And thus it was that when Christ had gone the Church moved forward on the path of universal conquest.
(J. De Witt, 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.