The Encouragement of the Ascension

Thomas Lieth

“You have to be eleven friends.” Sepp Herberger, manager of the West German national football (soccer) team, once used a quote to motivate his young men for the World Cup. The result was a then-sensational win of that same World Cup in 1954.

“Eleven friends...” Just that many assembled around the Lord Jesus, where there were originally twelve of them (I will not go into the traitor Judas). In any case, the remaining friends of the Lord Jesus needed something like a burst of motivation—an encouragement—after His crucifixion.

The disciples stood before shattered remains. All their expectations had been destroyed. Their faith had burst like a balloon. But then came the triumphant resurrection of the Lord Jesus. He appeared to them again and He taught them everything concerning the kingdom of God for forty days. And finally, He led His friends up the Mount of Olives, which lies between Bethany and Jerusalem.

What was the reason for this excursion? The moment of farewell had come; the moment when the incarnate God returns to His heavenly kingdom and leaves His disciples behind, alone on earth.

“Leaves behind, alone?” That does not sound like an encouragement. But that’s only half of the story. The farewell of the Lord Jesus was not: “Bye, it’s been great, best of luck to you all.” Rather, the Lord Jesus blessed His disciples: “…He led them out…and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them. And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven. And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy” (Luke 24:50-52).

With this blessing, the Lord Jesus commended the Holy Spirit to His disciples, as he had already announced in advance: “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (John 14:26).

“[Remembering] whatsoever I have said unto you” includes the fact that the Lord Jesus had promised to return. The angels who appeared to the disciples during the Ascension of the Lord Jesus also said, “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).

And thus, the Ascension of the Lord Jesus proves to be a great encouragement and motivation for our lives; not only for His “eleven friends,” but also for all who believe in Him.

We—you and I—are certainly not left alone, no matter what situation we may find ourselves in. And moreover, we know that our faithful Lord and God will come again for each one of us, to bring us to where our new home is, in eternal glory, in the presence of God. That’s what I call an encouragement, which should also motivate us to a life of pleasing God.

May the grace of the Lord Jesus be with us all!

Midnight Call - 05/2018

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