John 13:2; 14:2, 12, 28; 16:5, 10, 16, 17, 28; 17:11 (Actually quoting from John 16:4-5) I’m telling you these things now, so that when they happen, you will remember my warning. . . But now I am going away to the one who sent me, and not one of you is asking where I am going.
“Father, please take me Home.” Karis wrote this phrase in her journal multiple times in the last year of her life. Because Jesus is ALIVE, she could look forward to seeing him whom she loved more than any other. Face to face. Seated at the right hand of her Father.
This vision, this living hope, allowed Karis to hang on through all kinds of indignities, hassles, losses, frustrations, uncertainties, weakness, and pain. She knew all of that was “light and momentary” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18) in comparison to the joy of the abundant life beyond imagining awaiting her. All she had to do was get through the messy process of dying, whenever God would grant that to her, so that she could leave death behind and leap into Life.
Re-reading the last few chapters of John, I’m intrigued by the number of times Jesus comments during his last days about going to his Father. Clearly, he too was excited, anticipating his Home-going. All he had to do was get through rejection, betrayal, abandonment, a farcical trial, beatings, abuse, nakedness, scorn, unimaginable suffering, and finally, death. THEN, he would be free—free in a way no other person in the history of the universe has ever been. He didn’t just die, like Karis. His Father brought him back to life, in this world, reversing the whole process of death and decay. Death could not hold the author of life!
Hebrews 12:2 has this to say about how Jesus anticipated his Home-going: “Because of the joy awaiting him, Jesus endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.” Watch how Jesus did it, the author of Hebrews tells us. Think of all he endured, then you won’t despair and give up. He endured because Joy awaited him!
Today is Ascension day, when the liturgical church celebrates Jesus’ return to his Father. It’s interesting that, like the disciples, not one of whom asked Jesus about where he was going, the church in general pretty much ignores the Ascension. Or we think about it just in terms of Acts 1:8, the mandate to go into the world telling people about Jesus.
But there’s so much more to it than that! The Ascension is actually the climax of the incarnation story. It’s the time when Jesus once again assumes his throne, the place of honor beside the Father that he had occupied from before the beginning of time. It’s Philippians 2:9. It’s referred to again and again by Luke in the book of acts, by Paul and Peter and the author of Hebrews in their letters, by John in his and in the Revelation. Clearly, the forty days after his resurrection when Jesus spoke to his disciples about the Kingdom of God (Acts 1:3) had a huge impact on them! So I’m challenged to discover the importance of the Ascension for myself.
I picture God placing the crown once again on his head, over the healed scars from the crown of thorns that would mark him forever (Revelation 5:5-6). I imagine the Joy of the reunion with the Father, who says, “Well done, my Son, you did it!” I thrill with the worship of the angels, celebrating the exquisite delight of Heaven once more complete, for the beloved Son had returned!
And I kneel before the King of kings and Lord of lords as he again takes up the task of governance of his Kingdom, ruling in righteousness and justice, with all the upside-down values he lived out during his time on Earth. His government, we can’t yet see it, is more REAL than the parallel governments on earth, which come and go with more or less impact for good or evil through time. I understand more clearly Colossians 3:1-4.
I sometimes joke with Dave, saying “I’m watching you to learn how to age gracefully!” (He is all of a year and four months older than I am.) Today, I’m watching Jesus, to learn how to live through whatever this world yet has for me, and graduate from it with the joy and hope of a glorious Home-going. I’m watching him to understand his orders for me to day, as one of the subjects of his Kingdom.
How long, King Jesus, before your invisible government becomes visible again to us here on Earth? How long before you set everything right? Help us, who give you our first allegiance, to make your Kingdom visible, to open our hearts to your Spirit, thereby able to reflect the righteousness and justice which are the hallmarks of your rule.