The meaning and significance of Jesus’ ascension (Acts 1:9-11), by Rev. Dr. John Kwasi Fosu

Amazing Grace Baptist Church, Hamburg bible study material

Text: Acts 1:9-11
9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. 10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

This lesson purposes to study Acts 1:9-11 by focusing on its theme of the ascension of Jesus Christ. It is of great importance that contemporary Christians do not just mention concepts relating to a particular phenomenon in the life of Jesus such as ascension but to actually study its biblical narratives and so reflect on them.

The meaning of Jesus’ ascension
The ascension of Jesus Christ in Christian faith has to do with Christ’s exaltation and glory after accomplishing his saving ministry on earth (Philippians 2:9). In other words, it pertains to the completion and the highest point of Christ’s redemptive work (Hebrews 8:1). In simple terms, Jesus’s ascension means that Jesus went (up) into heaven after his resurrection appearances.

The Christian doctrine of ascension complements Christian faith about the present position of Christ. Jesus is presented to be at the right hand of the Father (Luke 24:26; 1 Peter 1:21). Ascension, therefore, serves as the proof of Christ’s victory (Ephesians 4:8). Jesus is now in the position of glory and honour at the right hand of God the Father (Psalm 110:1) in heaven. Jesus is therefore conceived to be in the permanent place of power (Acts 2:33), joy (Psalm 26:11) and rest.

Evidence of Christ’s ascension in Acts 1:9-11
Acts 1:9-11 presents some evidence regarding the ascension of Jesus in the form of when, where, it did happen, who were the eyewitnesses and how it did happen.

When and where did Jesus’ ascension take place
Luke recorded that the ascension of Jesus took place after 40 days of Jesus’ resurrection (Acts 1:3). During these 40 days, Jesus made several appearances and taught about the Kingdom. Jesus then ascended from the Bethany side of the ridge of Mount of Olives (Acts 1:12).

Who were the eyewitnesses of Jesus’ ascension?
Luke shows that there were eyewitnesses to the ascension of Jesus Christ. Chiefly among them were the disciples of Jesus and in general the “men of Galilee.” Moreover, Luke records that “two men in white clothing” stood beside the people and remarked ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky?’” (Acts 1:11). As to who these “two men” are is not clear within biblical scholarship. Drawing inspiration from the transfiguration of Jesus, on the one hand, some think the two men were Moses and Elijah (Matthew 17:2-3). On the other hand, many bible scholars regard these men to be angelic messengers who occur frequently in the book of Acts (Acts 5:19-20; 8:26; 10:3-7, 30-32; 11:13-14; 12:7-10, 23; 27:23).

How did Jesus’ ascension happen?
Luke used the Greek word blepw (looking) which means to see, to look, to direct the eyes and the attention upon an object. It paints the picture of the disciples and for that matter, the eyewitnesses physically saw Jesus going up. This word then portrays that Jesus was not suddenly snatched away out of their sight nor did Jesus vanish from their sight. The eyes of those present were fixed on Jesus as Jesus ascended. Thus, the event is pictured to be of supernatural whereby Jesus suddenly ascends into a cloud.

Implications of Christ’s ascension for Christian living
Many implications of Christ’s ascension for practical Christian living could be drawn. First, Christ’s ascension reminds us that Jesus is always with us. Having ascended, Jesus is not and cannot be limited by space and time in his relationship and presence with us. We can, therefore, have a personal relationship with Jesus just as Christ promised to be with us always (Matthew 28:20). Second, the ascension of Christ demonstrates the fact that it is enough that Jesus died for us and thus saved us. Jesus is our great high priest who could adequately sympathize with us, comforts and save us (Heb. 9:12; 4:15; 2:18; 7:25). Third, Jesus’ ascension implies that Christ is the head and Lord of the Church (Eph 1:22). Last but not the least, Jesus’ ascension reminds us of Christ’s second coming.

1. What does it mean to say that Jesus ascended?
2. When and where did Jesus’ ascension take place?
3. Who were the eyewitnesses of Jesus’ ascension?
4. How did Jesus’ ascension take place?
5. How does faith in Jesus’ ascension shape what you do and how you conduct yourself as a Christian?

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