Over the next month we come to the end of the season of Easter and think about Ascension Day, Thy Kingdom Come and Pentecost. So, let’s start with the Ascension Day.
The travel writer Bill Bryson gives a memorable account of his visit to the Grand Canyon in his book ‘the Lost Continent’. When he arrived there, the whole area was covered in freezing fog, so dense that he could barely make out his hand in front of him, let alone the beautiful panorama that he came to see. Hugely disappointed. He was on the verge of leaving, having waited for as long as his schedule permitted, when suddenly, just for a moment, the fog cleared and there before him stretched a view that left him lost for words.
‘Nothing prepares you for the Grand Canyon’, he writes. ‘No matter you read about it or see it pictured, it still takes your breath away.’
That experience takes us to the heart of what Ascension Day is about. Those who followed Jesus during the course of his ministry. Thinking they knew and understood who he was, came to realise, in that moment, they barely understood anything. Even after his resurrection had broken through the fog of doubt and despair, they still saw just a fraction of the full vista rather than the whole. For them, his significance lay in terms of then and there, their own place and time.
On Ascension Day as they stood watching, Jesus was lifted up and a cloud took him from their sight. While he was going and they were staring into the sky, suddenly two men clothed in white stood next to them. They said. ‘men of Galilee why do you stand staring at the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken from you up into heaven, will come in the same way you saw him go…. God has highly exalted, giving him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. (Acts 2:9-11, Philippians 2:9-11)
On Ascension Day the disciples came to realise that Jesus was far beyond what they thought. He was the King of kings and Lord of lords, not just for then, but for always and not just for them but for everyone. His love, purpose and significance extended for all time. It was as though the fog suddenly lifted, as though for the first time they saw clearly, recognising that Jesus was greater than they’d ever begun to imagine.
Perhaps we need to let the fog clear from our eyes as we see Jesus for who he really is.