I want to point readers to a new episode of the So What? Podcast. This one is on the all-important doctrine of Christ’s ascension, which is overlooked or muted among many. The ascension of Jesus matters not least because it is the basis for his ongoing intercession and the expression of his cosmic rule. Even more, and to the surprise of many, the ascension has a lot to say about what it means to be a human being. Think about it: there is right now in heaven a human body, and his name is Jesus. Dr. Travis Buchanan is our guest; his Ph.D. from the University of St. Andrews is on the relationship between theology and literature in the work of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. Take a listen to part 1 below or subscribe in iTunes. I’ll also point to the book, Jesus Ascended, by Gerrit Dawson, which is a very helpful introduction to the doctrine of the ascension.
Our thoughts on the Incarnation often focus exclusively on the birth of Jesus at Christmas time, but in Jesus Ascended: The Meaning of Christ’s Continuing Incarnation, Gerrit Scott Dawson points out why the oft neglected doctrine of the Ascension addresses our crucial need for an ongoing incarnation.
“Moreover, our salvation depends on his (Christ’s) continuing union with us. If the Son of God came to us where we are, but then left us, if he went away and did not take us with him, we would still be lost…For any view of the ascension as Jesus slipping off his humanity is a sentence of condemnation. We cannot be united to him in the Holy Spirit if he is no longer flesh of our flesh and bone of our bone. If the one who sits at the right hand of God is not still fully human as well as fully God, then we will never enter within the veil. If he dropped the hypostatic union with humanity, then he dropped us, and we are left forsaken on this side of the great divide, unable to fulfill our purpose, find forgiveness and restored communion, or enact our mission” (6).
Turning to the hope found in the doctrine of the Ascension, Dawson writes:
“A human hand will grasp us as we make our way into heaven. We shall be greeted by a face – the face of Jesus – that has a form to recognize. The incarnation continues, and so we are included in the life of God. That is the essential meaning of the ascension. We are not left alone. Jesus has gone before us in a way we may follow through the Holy Spirit whom he has sent, because the way is in his flesh, in his humanity. Jesus is himself that new and living way. The fully human one has gone within the veil in our name and even in our skin. United to him by the Spirit, to the one who remains united to us, we may follow where he has gone” (7).
This Sunday is Ascension of the Lord. May you be full of the hope that comes with the knowledge that the eternal Son of God forever shares our human life ensuring our ongoing fellowship with the God who is triune.
As this Holy Week progresses toward Good Friday and then next week to Easter morning, I’m inclined to share this excerpt from Athansius’ On the Incarnation, a book that continually nourishes my soul and refreshes me. Athansius writes:
“Thus, taking a body like our own, because all our bodies were liable to the corruption of death, He surrendered His body to death in place of all and offered it to the Father. This he did out of sheer love for us, so that in His death all might die, and the law of death thereby be abolished because, when He had fulfilled in His body that for which it was appointed, it was thereafter voided of its power for men. This He did that He might turn again to incorruption men who had turned back to corruption, and make them alive through death by the appropriation of His body and by the grace of His resurrection. Thus He would make death disappear from them as utterly as straw from fire” (8).