I hope that you survived Choc Fest – the chocolate festival formerly known as Easter. One confectionary company made the positive move to produce The Real Easter Egg with its extra thick chocolate (palm oil and plastic free!) and a colourful story booklet inside to tell you about the real Easter with a competition to win a prize. I’m not on commission for mentioning it, but it is a feature of the world in which we live that we need a reminder of what is real. We’ve celebrated the most amazing event in history by remembering the resurrection of Jesus – we have eyewitness accounts that have changed people’s lives for the last 2000 years because it was for real! Surely nothing can top that?
Sorry to disappoint, but six weeks on towards the end of the month is an even greater festival. It’s not as popular commercially, which is possibly why it has become something of the Cinderella service: last in line and on a low budget. It’s Ascension Day: the day Jesus returned to heaven. What happened? Why is it important?
The risen Jesus appeared to many: he was touched, he walked, talked, ate food with his followers and was seen by a large group of 500. His final instructions to his disciples were to wait in Jerusalem to be empowered by the Holy Spirit and then go out to spread the gospel worldwide. The report is brief: ‘And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight’ (Acts 1v9). The brevity of the description doesn’t flag up the significance. The rest of the New Testament details Jesus’ completed work and ongoing ministry from heaven so that we can receive mercy and grace. But there is a tailpiece not to overlook: ‘And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” (Acts 1v10-11).
The ascension of Jesus was bodily and visible, as it was for real. The return of Jesus will be bodily and visible, as it will be for real. We are to live in the light of this great hope as we spread the word and live for the risen, reigning and returning Lord Jesus.