As this Ascension Sunday approaches, my affections are raised. I think two of the most precious, yet underserved teachings of the Bible are the transfiguration (Mt 17:1-8; Mk 9:2-8; Lk 9:28-36) and the ascension (Acts 1:6-11) of our dear and blessed Savior. Here’s a little something to prepare your hearts for this Ascension Sunday. Commenting on Jesus’ word to Mary in Jn 20:17, Calvin writes:
I ascend to my Father. By using the word ascend he confirms the doctrine which I have lately explained; that he rose from the dead, not for the purpose of remaining any longer on the earth, but that he might enter into the heavenly life, and might thus draw believers to heaven along with him. In short, by this term he forbids the Apostles to fix their whole attention on his resurrection viewed simply in itself, but exhorts them to proceed farther, until they come to the spiritual kingdom, to the heavenly glory, to God himself. There is great emphasis, therefore, in this word ascend; for Christ stretches out his hand to his disciples that they may not seek their happiness anywhere else than in heaven; for where our treasure is, there also must our heart be, (Matth. Vi. 21.) Now, Christ declares, that he ascends on high; and, therefore, we must ascend, if we do not wish to be separated from him.
When he adds, that he ascends TO GOD, he quickly dispels the grief and anxiety which the Apostles might feel on account of his departure; for his meaning is, that he will always be present with his disciples by Divine power. True, the word ascend denotes the distance of places; but though Christ be absent in body, yet, as he is with God, his power, which is everywhere felt, plainly shows his spiritual presence; for why did he ascend to God, but in order that, being seated at God’s right hand, he might reign both in heaven and in earth? In short, by this expression he intended to impress on the minds of his disciples the Divine power of his kingdom, that they might not be grieved on account of his bodily absence.