Introduction: There is no more important event in the Bible’s record of history than the Ascension of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ – when He rose to the right hand of God after forty days of post-resurrection ministry. For further proof of the important reasons why Jesus ascended to God’s right hand, consider these accomplishments of our Savior in Heaven – all made possible because He returned to Heaven on our behalf. This list will serve as our reflection for Monday and Tuesday of these Bible notes. Before reading each paragraph, remind yourself of these words: “Because He ascended…”,
- Jesus intercedes for us by asking the Father to send the Holy Spirit in all His blessed effects on believers: “He lives forever to send the Holy Spirit unto his disciples. Without this constant effect of the present mediatory life of Christ the being of the church would fail, it could not subsist one moment. For hereon depends, 1. All saving light to understand the word of God… 2. All habitual grace, whereby the souls of the elect are quickened and regenerated; 3. All supplies of actual grace; which the whole church hath from him every moment, and without which it could yield no obedience unto God; 4. All spiritual gifts… 5. All comfort and consolation…” (John Owen, An Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews, vol. V, p. 536).
- Jesus intercedes for us in our sufferings: “The Father always hears him; and we have not a deliverance from trouble, a recovering of health, ease of pain, freedom from any evil that ever laid hold upon us, but it is given us on the intercession of Jesus Christ” (John Owen, Works, Vol. 2 p. 145).
- In respect of our continual need for access that we can never merit or maintain in our own strength: “Are not the saints on earth, being sinful, unfit to come into the presence of the King? Yes; but the glorious Advocate introduces them, procuring them access by His interest in the court; ‘For through him we have an access, by one Spirit, unto the Father’ (Ephesians 2:18).” (Fisher’s commentary on the Westminster Shorter Cat. Q & A 59).
PRAYER FOR THE BEGINNING OF THIS WEEK OF BIBLE NOTES: “Thank you for the GREAT GIFT of sending your Holy Spirit, from your right hand, Father, through the merit and at the request of Jesus Christ, your Son and our Savior. Thank you that you know when to send the Spirit as a wind of the new creation (John 3:8) or a wind-storm of fire to give courage and ability to your church to preach your Word (Acts 2:2). Thank you also, that by the wind of your Spirit, you bring holy earthquakes to produce reverent fear in your people, and to engender in them a fear of sin, and a sense of need for your grace (Exodus 19:16-20). Thank you also for the gentleness of your Spirit, coming to us in our despondency as a still, small voice, able to ask the probing questions that we need to consider (1 Kings 19:12-13). What a privilege for us to have the richest of worship experiences, worshipping you as One God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.”
Wednesday: read John 16:13 and Acts 1:1-3. In Christ’s post-resurrection ministry for forty days, He solidified the tottering faith of His church before going back to heaven. After the shock of the Cross, His disciples needed Christ to give, “many convincing proofs of His resurrection” as well as “teach about the Kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3). But now here is the question: How does Christ continue to strengthen His church now that He has disappeared into heaven? The clouds of Acts 1:9-11 have hidden Jesus from our sight. We don’t have the privilege of seeing Christ for forty days alive or to experience “our hearts burning” as He teaches us the Scriptures! Ah, but we do! By His Spirit Christ now exercises a world-wide ministry as Prophet, Priest and King! May we rejoice that, because Christ is now at His Father’s right hand, His ministry on earth in our midst is more effective than when He was on earth! Now His Spirit instructs deeply in our hearts! Though our ears cannot hear His earthly voice, His Spirit leads us into all truth (John 16:13).
Meditate and Pray: Sing this great hymn (# 141 in our hymnal) in which we pray for the Spirit of Christ to faithfully instruct, feed, correct and save His church through His written Word. We may be sure He will because of His Ascension!
God, in the Gospel of His Son,
Makes His eternal counsels known;
Where love in all its glory shines,
And truth is drawn in fairest lines.
Here sinners of a humble frame
May taste His grace, and learn His name;May read, in characters of blood,
The wisdom, power, and grace of God.
The prisoner here may break his chains;
The weary rest from all his pains;
The captive feel his bondage cease;
The mourner find the way of peace.
Here faith reveals to mortal eyes
A brighter world beyond the skies;
Here shines the light which guides our way
From earth to realms of endless day.
O grant us grace, almighty Lord,
To read and mark Thy holy Word;
Its truths with meekness to receive,
And by Its holy precepts live.
Thursday: read John 20:11-18 and Acts 1:1-3. If we need further proof that Christ’s heavenly ministry of intercession was uppermost in His mind after rising from the dead, notice how He tells Mary that she was to go and tell the disciples that He was literally already ascending in John 20:17. His instructions are clear on this point: “Say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” The reality of His ascension was so present to Him because He knew that it was there in the heavenly Holy of Holies that He would effectively control our destinies, convert our hearts and preserve our faith. Never before had the human race had a physically present Mediator in God’s court in heaven until Jesus ascended to that post at the right hand of God! This, then, is why Jesus speaks in the present tense: He so wanted to be there, knowing that there He would exercise a world-wide reign over sinners – rather than remaining localized on earth, limited to being in one place at a time.
Meditate and pray: “Lord Jesus, thank you for your eagerness that we should be saved, preserved and redeemed by your intercessions for us in heaven. Thank you for how eagerly you looked forward in John 20:17 to beginning the business of interceding in heaven on our behalf. Thank you that every day you are up early to order and shape the daily experiences of our lives – quickly forgetting our failures and sins against you from the day before in order to begin afresh with us each day as a day of grace! Who would not want to follow such an eager Savior who has gone in John 20:17 not only to His Father but to ours as well to be our Advocate there! Thank you Jesus, Amen!”
Friday: read Luke 24:50-53. What causes the disciples’ joy at the Ascension of the Lord Jesus? It was the posture of blessing which He adopted as He was taken up from them. With His hands raised He blessed them, and, “while He blessed them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven.” Who can tell on a daily basis what such blessing means on our lives, as He “lives to intercede for us”, and tirelessly keeps His hands raised to carry our every need in prayer to the Father? Jesus is no mere Moses, whose hands grew weary every time the battle went poorly for Israel in Exodus 17:11!
Meditate and Pray: “Lord Jesus, we thank you that with your Father and the Holy Spirit it is your will to keep watch over your people – even as you did over Israel in the past (Psalm 121:3-4). Thank you also that your watch-care is an active oversight, and that you can intervene at any point of need. Please, therefore give us boldness to enter into your throne room when we need your help in our time of need (Hebrews 4:14-16). Most of all, thank you that your aid is timely: never premature or tardy. Please, therefore, order the events of our lives according to your heavenly timetable, and persevere with your Father in asking for all that we need at every moment. Amen.”