OUR Church puts before us to-day not so much a doctrine as
a fact established on the evidence of eye-witnesses. In the case of the
Resurrection no such evidence was necessary, for to have seen Christ alive
after His death was sufficient proof that He had risen again.
The evidence to be given does not stand alone, but is in harmony :—
(1) With the Foreshadowings of Type.
Such may be traced in the translation of Enoch, in the lordship of Joseph
after a supposed death, in the passage of David through trouble to his
crown, in the ascension of Elijah, and in the speaking ritual of the Day
(2) With the Predictions of Prophecy.
We have three such in the Psalms—Ps. lxviii. 18, cx. 1, and particularly
xxiv. 7-10. But, in truth, every foretelling of the spiritual and eternal
Kingdom of the Messiah takes for granted, and, in effect, declares the
Ascension. The Christ must rise to His throne before He could reign.
The earth is God’s footstool, and, therefore, Christ could not reign here.
Thus viewed, the Old Testament teems with predictions of this event.
(3) With the Promises of Christ.
Christ spoke of Himself as “ascending up where He was before”; He prayed,
“ Glorify Me with the glory I had with Thee before the world was”; He explained
to the disciples how He was about “to leave the world and go to the Father,”
and His message after the Resurrection was, “ I ascend.”
FOR THE EPISTLE. (ACTS i. 1.)
(4) With the object of His Mission.
The Ascension was necessary to complete His threefold work as the Messiah.
He could not teach as our Prophet till He had sent the Spirit. He could
not save as our Priest unless He had ascended to intercede and present
before God the sacrifice of His death. He could not rule us as our King
unless He had been exalted to the throne, and any throne but the highest
would have been humiliation rather than exaltation.
We may best consider this passage as exhibiting the evidence of the
A. The Evidence of the Evangelist.
The Book of the Acts was the sequel to the Gospel, and comes to us from
the same hand. He who recorded for us the life of Christ has also recorded
His Ascension into Heaven. No part of the history can be severed from the
rest. The Evangelist regards the Ascension
(1) As the completion of the Life of Christ.
The Ascension was the final act which closed the mission of Christ
upon earth. That mission was not ended until He had finished His ministry,
chosen and instructed His Apostles, illumined their hearts with faith in
His Resurrection, and their minds with knowledge of the things pertaining
to the Kingdom of God. This done, His work was ended and He returned to
(2) As the beginning of the Life of the Church.
His last commands related to the endowment of the Spirit. His Apostles
were not to separate as if their mission was ended, but to wait, and wait
together, for the promised baptism of the Holy Ghost. The time of instruction
was past, and all that was necessary to learn had been taught; now was
the time of work and witness in ever-widening circle of influence.
B. The Evidence of the Apostles.
We are left in no doubt or uncertainty in this great matter. Christ
did not steal away from His Apostles, leaving them to gather the conviction
that He was gone, but in their very sight. His departure was not involved
in mystery, and those who saw it tell us the time, place, and manner with
C. The Evidence of the Angels.
As we have the evidence of those whom Christ left behind Him, so we
have the evidence of those to whom He came.
“Those blessed spirits did know that Christ had ascended to Heaven;
and, because the eyes of the Apostles could not follow Him so far, they
came to testify of His reception.” (Bp. Pearson.)
The assurance of the two angels is that of Christ Himself, for He sent
them. His also is the assurance that the present state of loneliness, incompleteness,
and expectation shall not last for ever. He will return, “this same Jesus,”
and in the same manner as He departed—visibly, in human form, and in Divine
THE GOSPEL. (S. MARK xvi. 14.) THE
PARTING ACTS OF CHRIST.
We are not entitled to consider the last fourteen verses of S. Mark
as written by the Evangelist, but as a later postscript, added, probably,
in order to take the place left vacant by the loss of the final page as
originally composed. The addition is, however, of very early date, and
expresses the universal belief of the early Church.
The writer agrees with S. Luke in considering the Ascension :—
A. As the Completion of the Past.
Christ did not ascend until He had gathered up the threads of His earthly
He confirmed the doubting faith of the Apostles by clear evidence of
He gave them their final commission as more fully recorded in S. Matthew—”
To go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation.”
He instituted the sacrament of baptism as the pledge of salvation, and
gave solemn warning of the danger of unbelief—” He that disbelieveth shall
He gave them His last promise of supernatural assistance and of miraculous
power to be exercised in His Name,” as evidences to His disciples of the
reality of their mission.
B. As the Inauguration of the Future.
Not until the Lord had completed His work was He received up with triumph
into Heaven and exalted to “the right hand of God.”
The departure of the Master was the signal for the activity of His followers.
They went forth and preached everywhere, strong in the power of their ascended
Master and the attestation afforded by miracles.
THE COLLECT. AN ASCENSION PRAYER.
This Collect exemplifies the principle that all that has been done by
Christ must, in a spiritual sense, be done over again in the Christian,
as noticed on the Circumcision.
A. The Ascension of Christ.
We have accepted the truth of the Ascension on the evidence of Scripture
and of the Church, and have believed that He Who ascended was no mere man,
but the only-begotten Son, sharing both the throne and nature of the Father.
B. The Spiritual Ascension.
This is no mere play upon words, but is the effect which should follow
faith in the Ascension. Such faith will kindle our love and draw us irresistibly
to where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. It will exalt the whole
mind and spirit, drawing them to high and heavenly things, until no more
of us than our bodies are left below.