“After saying these things, Jesus was lifted up into heaven.”
Thursday, 20 May 2021
On the Ascension, we read that Jesus was “taken into heaven” or “lifted up” or “carried up”. We cannot understand this in isolation from a single text. We must look at the whole of Scripture to understand what this means.
In Old Testament, to be “lifted up” means to be “enthroned.” At the Ascension, Jesus is, therefore, enthroned as the manifestation of God’s kingship over the universe.
Jesus doesn’t get “lifted up” to “on high” but, rather, it is the action of God that enthrones him. It might be best, therefore, to understand the Ascension not as a “lifting up” at all but as an “enthronement”. God takes Jesus back into the space of the divine in his physical body. The human Jesus is now in God’s presence.
What does this mean for us? Humanity (we) are taken into God’s presence. By the Ascension of Jesus in his physical body, in his humanity into God’s presence, we too live in God’s presence. This is all on God’s initiative, by God’s action. When we talk about being baptised into Christ, it means that we live in him, and by virtue of that, we live in God’s presence. We too are “enthroned” in that sense in God’s presence.
Often, we say things like “let us put ourselves in the presence of the Lord” before we pray or at a gathering. The Ascension teaches us we are already in God’s presence. More accurately, we should say, “let us become aware that we are in God’s presence”. This may seem like a bit of a play on words, but it says volumes about what we believe and how we relate to God. It gives us insight into how we understand our relationship with God.
Take time today to reflect on what it means for you to be in God’s presence here and now. How might you become more aware of living in God’s presence in your daily life? What do you need to do?