This Sunday at North Life we are planning to celebrate the Ascension of Jesus, an often overlooked event between the resurrection of Jesus and the Day of Pentecost but…vitally important to our faith. In fact, it is the climax of the message entrusted to the local church “received up into glory” (1 Ti. 3:16b). As one author put it, “It’s Jesus’s ascension into the presence of God that gets all that He accomplished ‘down here’ to count for us ‘up there’ with God. Without Jesus’s ascension, there would be no true access to God, no full measure of the Spirit, and no great salvation. The ascension is a link in the chain of salvation as essential as Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection.” Wow!
With that being said, what would Jesus pray over us if we could audibly hear his ascended voice today? I believe the answer is found in John 17:
These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.
I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word. Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee. For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me. I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine. And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them.
And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled. And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; (That’s us!) That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.
Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me. And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.
There is so much theological and practical truth of the ascension just oozing from this prayer of Jesus!
The ascension of Jesus not only elevates the significance of His prayers for us but our prayers in His name. An example of what it means to have your prayerful confidence in the ascended Jesus is Hugh Mackail. He was a Presbyterian in Scotland in a bloody decade (1660s) when that was viewed as seditious. He was tortured with what they called the boot to force him to reveal other members of his band. His leg was inserted into an iron case and then a wedge of iron was inserted between his knee and the case snugly. When he refused to answer, the executioner struck the wedge with a mallet. Eleven times the mallet was struck until Mackail’s leg was shattered. He said, “I protest solemnly in the sight of God, I can say no more, though all the joints in my body were in as great anguish as my leg.” The leg would not be much use to him anyway. He was sentenced to be executed. His final words were famous and became the cry of some of the later martyrs.
Here’s what he said: “Now I leave off to speak any more to creatures, and turn my speech to Thee, O Lord. Now I begin my intercourse with God, which shall never be broken off. Farewell, father and mother, friends and relations! Farewell, the world and all delights! Farewell, meat and drink! Farewell, sun, moon, and stars! Welcome, God and Father! Welcome, sweet Lord Jesus, the Mediator of the new covenant! Welcome, blessed Spirit of grace, God of all consolation! Welcome, glory! Welcome, eternal life! Welcome, death!”
The term ascendant refers to “rising in power or influence.” I dare you to ask the following question: “What could the Lord do/be through believers and churches willing to prayerfully join the original martyr Stephen (Ac. 7) in being anointed with a fresh vision of the ascended and enthroned Christ?”