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ODJ: Happy Ascension Day

May 5, 2016 

READ: Luke 24:50-53  

While [Jesus] was blessing them, he left them and was taken up to heaven (v.51).

Let me be the first to say to you, Happy Ascension Day! Today we commemorate when Jesus’ disciples witnessed their risen Lord being “taken up to heaven” (Luke 24:50-51). It’s understandable if you didn’t know about this special date. Generally speaking, it’s a day on the church calendar that often comes quietly and goes with little attention or fanfare.

But the supernatural event that occurred 40 days after Jesus arose from the dead is epic! It wasn’t a minor detail that Luke included in the conclusion of his gospel or in Acts 1:9. Nor did the apostle Peter bring it up to add a bit of dramatic flair to the end of his Pentecost Day sermon (Acts 2:32-35). Jesus’ ascension is recorded because it was meant to tell us something very important about Him.

Christ’s ascension into heaven was a symbolic act of His sovereign rule over all the earth. As the One seated at the right hand of God (Mark 16:19), He’s the world’s true King.

Sadly, the ascension of Jesus is as much misunderstood as it is overlooked. Theologian N.T. Wright points out that for many people the ascension “implies Jesus’ absence, not his universal presence and sovereign rule”.

But that’s not at all the way the apostle Paul saw it. He wrote that Jesus ascended “so that he might fill the entire universe with himself” (Ephesians 4:9-10). Writing on another occasion, Paul pointed out that Jesus ascended so “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11).

Happy Ascension Day! Jesus reigns through the power of His self-giving love—now and forevermore.

—Jeff Olson

365-day plan: Esther 4:1-17

MORE
Read Matthew 16:28 and consider how Jesus presents His ascension in this verse. 
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What’s one way you can celebrate the ascension of Jesus Christ today? How does it inspire you to know that Jesus reigns forevermore? 

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Miracles of Calvary

Miracle #1: The Day-time Darkness

It was the third hour that Christ was nailed on the cross—for our sins. That is about 9 a.m. Three hours later, darkness fell upon the land at what was supposed to be the brightest time of the day. The sun stopped shining at 12 noon and the skies remained dark till 3 p.m.

Luke 23:44-45 (NIV) It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two.

This is not something that we usually think about during Easter, much less at other times. However, this event as we read it now, affirms our faith.

Who is behind this supernatural phenomenon? Who has the power to contradict the laws of nature? The answer is obvious. The Lord God Almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

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Miracle #2: The Split Veil

Matthew 27:50-51 (NIV) And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split.

Immediately after Christ’s last words, “It is finished”, the veil that separated The Holy Place and the Most Holy Place tore from top to bottom. The barrier that separated man from God was removed. This meant that anyone could enter into the presence of God. Imagine seeing this very event happening right before your very eyes! A veil exquisitely made to order by God (Exodus 26:31-34) torn into two. How would this affect you?

Only through Christ’s death could sinners be made right with God and enjoy fellowship with Him. No other works or system can open the way for us to enter into God’s presence. This miracle reminds us to dwell in God’s presence more often. There is no reason why you can’t or shouldn’t now.

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Miracle #3: The Big Shake

Matthew 27:50-51 (NIV) And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split.
The significance of Jesus Christ’s death and His cry of victory were amplified through the shaking of the earth and the splitting of rocks. That must have been one mighty earthquake! And it coincided with His death.

Some people might say that earthquakes happen often, however as believers, we take this timely occurrence to be caused by a direct intervention by the Almighty one.
God died for sinners. What an earthshaking truth!

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Miracle #4: The Opened Graves

Matthew 27:50-52 (NIV) And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open.

Following on from the earthquake, neither Christ’s body on the cross or the thieves that were hung beside Him were disturbed, but the graves of the saints. Who else could have designed such a miraculous event?

This strange scene happened on Friday afternoon before the Sabbath, and because no man was allowed to work on the Sabbath, the graves could not be closed. This miraculous effect of Christ’s death was openly exhibited.

The power of death has been broken and conquered by none other than Jesus Christ who paid the penalty of our sins.

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Miracle #5: The Cloths He Left Behind

John 20:6-8 (NIV) Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed.

Christ resurrected from the dead, before the stone that sealed His grave was rolled away. Peter and John saw that His clothes were exactly where His body laid. How could it be that no marks of disturbance were spotted? These are strong evidences that neither the stone nor the grave clothes could hold him back.

He has risen! It demonstrated that God accepted Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf. Our faith is not bogus; it is real. Therefore, preaching Christ is not senseless, and faith in Christ is not useless.

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Miracle #6: The Rising of Saints

Matthew 27:50-53 (NIV) And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

After Christ had risen, the saints arose and came out of their graves. This was the same kind of rising as that of Lazarus. There was no mentioned of their ascension into heaven. This was the biggest miracle anyone could experience and it must have caused a stir.

Jesus’ death provided the basis for the resurrection of believers who died before the Cross as well as after it. It proves that God has the power to raise us from the dead. It guarantees that those who believe in Christ will not remain dead, but will be resurrected unto eternal life. That is our blessed hope!