I’ve been working on writing a catechism, a distillation of the faith into concise questions and answers with brief supporting scriptures that could be the starting point for a conversation. The reason being I’m convinced its important for the Church to inoculate our young people with a healthy dose of catechesis before we ship them off to college, just enough so that when they first hear about Nietzsche or really study Darwin they won’t freak out and presume that what the Church taught them in 6th grade confirmation is the only wisdom the Church has to offer.
You can find all the previous posts here.
III. The Son
23. What Do We Mean By Professing that Jesus Ascended into Heaven?
We mean that Jesus is exactly what Israel anticipated, what their prophets promised, what the magi sought and Herod feared, what the Palm Sunday Passover pilgrims hailed him as, and what Pilate’s sign above his wounded head says he is: King.
We mean that he ascends into Heaven not to be King of Heaven but from Heaven- from the righthand of the Father- rule the Earth with all dominion and authority.
In professing that Jesus ascended into heaven, we mean that if Jesus did nothing more than suffer on the cross and rise from the dead then our faith is futile, for then even Jesus’ own mother was wrong about him in the song she sang to him and about him in utero, Mary’s song and all the carols that came after her greeted his birth not as the advent of one who suffer’s death in our place or secures our life after death but as the advent of the long longed-for King.
We mean as well that the incarnation is incomplete apart from Jesus’ return to God.
In professing that Jesus ascended into Heaven, we recognize that this was the impetus behind the incarnation all along: in Jesus the eternal God takes on our humanity in order to take our transitory humanity back into the timeless life of God. Or, as the first Christians put it, God became what we are; so that, we might become what God is. So confessing, we concede that apart from Christ’s ascension we have no ground on which to hope that humans, characterized by becoming, will ever one day enter into Being.
Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.”
– John 19.19
24. What Does the Ascension Mean for Believers Today?
The ascension names the crowning of Jesus Christ as King.
And a King requires not your opinion but your obedience. A King asks not to be invited in to your heart; a King demands your objective loyalty, your pledge to him over all other allegiances.
Therefore, the ascension means we pledge to welcome strangers and aliens, to pray for our enemies, to forgive those who trespass against us, to show mercy to those who curse us and to show compassion to the poor. We do it so because Jesus commanded us, and the ascension reminds us that Jesus is not just our teacher, savior, or guide. He’s our Lord and King. To him, God has given all authority and dominion over the Earth.
Because of the ascension, Jesus’ teachings can never now be suggestions for a better way to live nor can they can be construed as strategies to make the world a better place.
Because of the ascension, Jesus’ teachings are, simply, the commands of a King upon his subjects.
Inconveniently, this means that, in Jesus, God has already revealed more of God’s will for our lives than we’re willing to do.
“You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.
– Revelation 4.11