Triumphant Easter, day of first-fruits, in which Christ arose as Victor over sin, death and the grave.
Glorious ascension, for he went through the heavens to Father’s throne, where he was crowned with glory and honor to rule over the works of God’s hands.
Blessed Pentecost, feast of harvest, when he came to dwell with us in the Spirit, to bless us with all spiritual blessings from heaven and to take us unto himself that we may be where he is.
Without his ascent into heaven there could be no outpouring of the Spirit on Pentecost, no more than there could be an ascension without the resurrection from the grave. Nor could there be a resurrection unless it was preceded by the atoning death of the cross, no more than there could be a cross unless the Son of God came into the likeness of our sinful flesh, born of the virgin.
Christmas, Good Friday, Easter, Ascension Day and Pentecost are so many links in the chain of our salvation, filling our hearts with joy and praise to God.
Yet Ascension Day is a forgotten occasion. And Pentecost suffers the same lot.
Who would forget Christmas? If for no other reason than that the stores and display windows are decorated in festive array weeks in advance and carols are as popular as turkey on Thanksgiving. Even Good Friday gains recognition, and Easter vies with Christmas in growing popularity. But who bothers about Ascension Day or Pentecost?
Even in the church the interest waxes warm at Christmas time, for the story of the Christ-child never seems to lose its appeal. Also the passion weeks, climaxing in Good Friday, hold our attention to the suffering and death of the cross. And interest once more flames high on Easter as we follow the rapid flow of events on the amazing, glad day of the resurrection. But we need a special note on our memorandum pad to remind us of Ascension Day, and a similar note, twice underscored, not to forget Pentecost.
What may be the reason? Are these last two occasions less important than the others? Is it of lesser importance to the church of Jesus Christ here on earth that Christ ascended to heaven and poured out his Spirit upon the church than that he was born, suffered, died and arose again on the third day? Perish the thought.
Or is it because historical facts, which always have a special appeal to us, are somewhat lacking at these last two occasions? It is true that the story of Christ’s ascent into heaven is very brief. The historical facts of Jesus’ last appearance to his disciples on the mount, his final words, his being received up into heaven, so that a cloud received him out of their sight, and the sudden appearance of the angels and their message, are all soon told. And the known facts accompanying the outpouring of the Spirit are also few. There was the fact that it was Pentecost and the disciples were all with one accord met in one place awaiting the promise of the Spirit. There were the signs of the rushing, mighty wind, cloven tongues as of fire sitting upon each of them, and the speaking in various languages. There was the gathering of the multitude that had come together to investigate more closely into these things that were noised about, the speaking of the disciples to each in their own language, the reaction of the people and the sermon of Peter, followed by the conversion of about three thousand souls. More facts than could be mentioned about the resurrection. Yet, when we stop to think of it, do we have so many facts immediately connected with the birth of Christ that Christmas should take such a predominant place, even in the church? And even so, what do we have left if we have nothing but the historical facts of Christ’s birth and death and resurrection? What spiritual value lies in a mere story, if we lose ourselves in that? A story cannot save us, no more than it can fill our hearts with praise to God.
The facts of the case seem to be that there is some natural appeal to the historical events connected with Christ’s life on earth. That appeal we fail to find in the ascent into heaven and the outpouring of the Spirit. Yet if we lose ourselves in that natural appeal, Christ’s birth, suffering, death and resurrection cannot have any real significance for us. Nor will we look forward in anticipation toward the commemoration of Ascension Day and Pentecost.
The shepherds found more than a mere babe in the manger. They found the promised Messiah, the Saviour, born in poverty and shame to bring glory to God and peace on earth in the people of his good pleasure. When Jesus died on the cross the disciples lost more than a friend and master, for they confessed him to be the Christ, the Son of the living God. When he died they seemed to have lost all for time and eternity. Therefore the glad day of the resurrection left Mary Magdalene without her Rabboni, but enriched her and all the true disciples with the hope of an eternal and blessed reunion in Father’s house with its many mansions. The resurrected Lord has gone into heaven, whither he now dwells and rules over all things, whither he blesses us with all spiritual and eternal blessings in the Spirit, and whence we expect him in that day when he will change our vile bodies into the likeness of his glorious body. Christ in heaven means more to us than his presence on earth could ever mean. Besides, he is busily engaged in preparing a place for us there, and preparing us for that place, that we may be where he is. And he will take us unto himself in a perfect and eternal reunion in glory.
Of that we are assured through his Spirit in our hearts. Triumphant Easter.