John records the perspectival effect the ascension of Jesus Christ had on the disciple’s understanding of the events of Easter. With the unveiling of the plenary arc of the incarnate Christ’s revelatory exploits, they realized that they served the supernatural King of Kings!
“His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him.” (John 12:16)
Zechariah prophesies the triumphal entry of our Lord Jesus Christ. This sign is given as a precursor to the manifest absolute rule of the Messiah King! If any had eyes to see past the lowliness of the beast and the ordinary appearance of its rider, they knew they were witnessing history of cosmic proportions! Metaphysical preeminence was parading down that dusty street! A remote corner of a marginalized people’s ancient, and soon to be destroyed, city was the coronation site for the ruler of the universe! The boundaries of His empire are all inclusive and limitless. The duration of His reign is eternal. The power He wields is transcendent, ultimate, and total! This was the inaugural ceremony of that paramount era! This is the meaning of the eschaton, and the antecedent of it’s consummation! Zechariah’s prophecy clearly demonstrates the triumphal entry cannot be understood apart from the ascension of Jesus Christ.
“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall speak peace to the nations; his rule shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.” (Zechariah 9:9-10)
In Psalm 22, David prophesies the passion of our Lord with stunning and graphic accuracy. He would cry “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”. He would be mocked pointedly by those exploiting His only remaining source of comfort as a psychological bludgeon. The wagging of heads and the lots cast for His garments would be insults added to the injuries of pierced hands and feet, parching thirst, displaced bones, and affliction unto death. Yet this Psalm remarkably ascends to a declaration of matchless glory. As resplendent in it’s chorus as it is foreboding in its verse, David’s finale thunders with triumphal authority!
“All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you. For kingship belongs to the LORD, and he rules over the nations.” (Psalm 22:27-28)
It is again clear in this prophetic text that the cross cannot be understood and appreciated in its revelatory fullness apart from the ascension of Christ. Philippians 2:8-11 proclaims the moment in time where Psalm 22 was recategorized from a song of anticipation to a praise of remembrance.
“Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
This moment was the ascension of our Lord and King. The knighthood by coregency of the conquering death slayer! The wrath bearing lamb crowned potentate of the ages leading redemption’s victory parade!
“He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high…(Hebrews1:3)
The decisive chapter has been published in the metanarrative of ultimacy with transnational implications and sovereign emphasis. These texts and many more remind us that as far as the Biblical record and its implications are concerned, a cognizant affirmation of the ascension is absolutely key to the meaning, continuity, appreciation, understanding, promise, provision and supremacy of Christ’s redemptive work. The ascension of The Lord of Glory is truly the exclamation point of Easter! … This year let us consider not only what He has risen from, but what He has risen to. Happy Easter!
(Excerpts and commentary from 3-30-2013 sermon “Easter and Ascension”)
-Ken Carlton