Ascension Day: When Jesus Began Working from Home

Ascension Day: When Jesus Began Working from Home May 9, 2024

The Ascension Jacopo Tintoretto Source Wikimedia Commons public domain

Ascension Day is the day that Jesus started working from home. I saw a meme by the Episcopal Church saying that and loved it. 

Ascension Day really is the day that Jesus started working from home. It is also the day when the people who knew and loved Him personally lost His physical presence in their lives for the rest of their earthly existence. 

I’ve often thought about how empty it must have felt for them, walking home after seeing Jesus leave them in such a definite manner. They had heard the ultimate mission statement, what Protestants call The Great Commission. Jesus said:

Go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the world.

They also had what must have been a confusing promise and a repeat of the same great commission. Just before He left them that Ascension Day, Jesus said:

You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

They had those words of command and confusing promises. But they no longer had Him. Anyone who has ever buried someone they love knows the emptiness that follows the funeral. That person is gone from the world and the world is empty without them. 

The Apostles, friends, and Mother of Our Lord knew that Jesus wasn’t dead, He didn’t die on that Ascension Day. 

They knew that He was risen physically from the grave and had walked among them for quite some time. But now, He was irrevocably and mysteriously gone and with a finality that probably felt like a kind of death. He had been taken from them again. 

A few weeks before, He had been arrested, beaten, tortured, mocked, spat on and brutally murdered right in front of them, leaving them ashamed, terrified, grieved and alone. Then, He had come back, risen, alive, from the grave. He’d been with them in a new way after that, with what we can only describe as a “Risen body.” 

He’d eaten with them, talked to them, let them touch Him. He’d explained how his murder, death and resurrection had been the fulfillment of Scripture, and what it meant for humankind. But He hadn’t exactly been the same old Jesus they’d known before. 

This Jesus appeared suddenly among them, inside locked rooms, and disappeared with the breaking of bread. Instead of being their constant companion, their sweet and precious son and friend, this was the Risen Lord Who came in out and of their presence, Who taught them but didn’t reside among them fully. 

And now, He was gone. And here they stood on the top of a mountain, with the desert wind blowing sand in their faces and the vast silence of no idea what to do next yawning before them. 

This Holy Spirit thing … what was that? And when would they encounter it? Make disciples of all the nations … how?

There they stood. And He was gone. Again.

It must have been a deep emptiness, standing there. 

Then, two “white-robed men approached them” and said Why are you standing there? The Jesus you just saw taken into heaven will come back from heaven in the same way.  

I think those two “white-robed men” were angels. And I also think they were, if they hadn’t been disguised, beings made of light. My mother, who was not the vision-seeing kind, saw “people in white” before she died. I asked her once if they were there now, and she said, There’s one standing right there,” and pointed to a spot a couple of feet from where I was sitting. 

So, Jesus was working from home just as soon as He got there. He sent two angels to tell His friends and loved ones not to fall into the emptiness of His leave-taking and despair, because, one day, He was coming back. 

That was a promise for them, and for us. Christians have been expecting Jesus’ imminent return ever since. For two thousand long years we have slogged through the rise and fall of empires, wars, famines, plagues, inquisitions, Third Reichs, communist camps, and the killing fields of fascist dictatorships all the while wondering “are these the last days, is He finally coming now?”

Many Christians have a phrase they use to describe it, “If the Lord tarries.” They say it casually, “If the Lord tarries, I’ll finish college next spring.” 

My grandmother used to say, “If the Good Lord is willing and the creek don’t rise,” to express something of the same thought. 

But we have something those people standing there looking at the empty space where Jesus had stood did not have. We have the Holy Spirit that they had been promised but were waiting for. 

The Holy Spirit is a more subtle manifestation of God than the flesh and blood Son that people could touch and Who calmed the seas and raised the dead with a word. 

The Holy Spirit is the mostly the small still voice that Elijah heard.

The Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.

That, mostly, is the Holy Spirit. Anyone who has not absolutely cast God away from themselves can and does hear the Holy Spirit. 

Jesus really is with us. He is readily accessible through prayer any time we reach out to Him.

One of the surprising gifts I got from having cancer was that I learned in a concrete way that all I had to do was ask Him for strength and courage and He would give it to me. I had been a believing Christian for decades. I had felt the Holy Spirit filling me, pouring into me when I made that first decisive turn to Christ. I had heard a clear voice from God several times. I had felt His Presence constantly. I knew that He had worked in my life. 

But somehow I had never learned that if I prayed and asked for help, He would give it. It is as simple as that. Ask and He gives. I think I had thought God’s help was an erratic, when-he-feels-like-it kind of thing. But through that illness, I learned that it’s a sure thing, totally reliable and trustworthy. Ask for courage. Ask for peace that passes all understanding. Ask. And He gives it. 

I would ask, and then feel the peace, feel the strength, feel the calm, rolling into me. Just as easy at that. 

The Holy Spirit is real. It wasn’t an empty promise and it isn’t just something that is given to saints and peculiar people like Apostles, bishops and priests. The Holy Spirit comes to you and fills you and does not leave you unless you turn so completely from Jesus that you force it away. 

Jesus really is with us and will be with us until the end of the world. He has saved me in more ways than I could write in a very long book. In everything that I have done and that has been done to me in my surprisingly long life, He has never once let go of me. 

It is the same for you. You can trust the mercy of Jesus. You can trust His love. You can rely on Him to be with you every step of the long way of your life. And you can know that when you die, He will be there, to welcome you Home. 

Ascension Day is the day that Jesus began working from home. 

That meme is funny. But it’s true. 

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