Posted on May 5th, 2016
The purpose of the world was for man to receive the love of the Father through His gifts to man and His presence with man.
He gave His gifts to us in creation, and in our senses that delight in creation – the joy that comes from walking, swimming, running, feeling the cool breeze, laughing, tasting watermelon, making music, playing catch. As Adam the first-formed matured, along with his wife, eventually God would join them, entering fully into His creation; for man who was made in God’s image was made to be in communion with Christ who is the image of the invisible God.
Immanuel, “God with us” was always the larger plan and story God had in mind for us.
The incarnation was not simply for the purpose of forgiving sins, a “Plan B” so that God could offer Himself as the sacrifice in our place. That God did that for us is unfathomable, and worthy of our highest praise forever into the ages. But the Immanuel prophecy, that the virgin would bear a son who would be Immanuel, God with us – that’s not only for our forgiveness, but Immanuel, “God with us” was always the larger plan and story God had in mind for us. As it is written in the Revelation about the endless ages which are to come: “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.” The plan was always, from the beginning, that God and man would dwell together, in a perfect community, or communion. The closest picture we have is the familial image, whereby God is the Father, the Son is the Bridegroom, and we the Church are collectively the Bride: all part of one family, one household, one community.
Bereft of this vision and goal for humanity, we are divided into clans and tribes, or even as radical individuals, our only purpose to conquer others or avoid them.
The success a few years ago of a book called The Purpose-driven Life was no doubt related to the sense of purposelessness and disconnectedness that we feel. Farms are huge and mechanized, and we no longer work the earth; developments in transportation have us living hundreds or thousands of miles from home and family; people are becoming disconnected even from basic biological truths about what it is to be a man or a woman. We are lost in the cosmos: without purpose, without meaning, without hope. All modern society offers is sex without love, homes without children, games that we watch instead of play, and the perpetual anxiety that we are not having as much fun as everybody else on social media, where artificial lives always appears picture-perfect.
The shallow life drives us to wallow in drink and sex, ambition and anger; raging about government and politicians, always dissatisfied, imagining life would be better if we just acquired one more thing.
Adrift and unmoored, we look for a personal purpose statement without seeing the larger purpose to all human life that ought to shape our entire worldview. Even the disciples of Jesus were not immune to this blindness. Immediately before Jesus ascends, the Holy Apostles ask Him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” I think, in the year of Trump and Clinton, we can identify with that question.
Our Lord will not be king of Israel, or America; He will be king of the cosmos.
Election years are always tense; emotions run high, and we tend to think of a potential loss in apocalyptic terms. Although the Holy Apostles did not live in a political environment like ours, we see their thoughts about politics and the reign of Jesus were closely aligned. But they have missed the mark; our Lord will not be king of Israel, or America; He will be king of the cosmos. All of the crosses we bear now have a purpose: God loves us as His adopted children, and is shaping and preparing us for life in His kingdom.
Jesus ascending to the Father shows that God has something much greater in mind than restoring the glories of a past Israelite kingdom. The Ascension shows us that God has begun to bring about what He intended in the beginning. The Ascension shows us that a Man now dwells with God. For the Son of God does not shed the human nature He assumed into His person. He remains forever incarnate, forever standing before the Father for us, displaying the wounds by which we have healing. The Ascension fulfills the Scripture, “We have an advocate with the Father,” “Jesus Christ is the propitiation for our sins.”
The Ascension is not intermission, but inauguration.
The Ascension is not intermission, but inauguration. The Ascension of Jesus shows that the union of man with God is already begun. Our hope, our life is a constant anticipation of that becoming a full reality for us. Our life now, though, is not a series of speed bumps on the road to our own perfect union with God. Being human means that even now we learn to enjoy food and drink and people and words and music and art not as the world does, but as gifts from God; and our communion with God makes us connected with all people around us not as competitors in a race to gather and hoard, but as brothers and sisters from our first father and as people for whom Jesus also died.
The Ascension shows us that the body of Jesus, risen from the dead, does not dwell in a world of death. He is making all things new, and when death is destroyed, we will dwell in our bodies where He is with His body. So let not sadness or loss overtake you; Jesus is risen from the dead, the mortal world holds no power over Him, neither shall it have any power over you. +INJ+