Why can’t you stay? Part 2: Positive Benefits from the Ascension Section A: Stated Points

So what are the positive benefits of the Ascension. What do we gain from His Ascension? Jesus states some points and implies others:

The stated points are clustered in John 14.  There, Jesus points out three major gifts:

(1) In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places...And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be. [Jn 14:2-3]. [1]  This absence is temporary.  He will come again.  He will take us with Him.  We will live in places He has prepared for us.  [In other translations, “houses” or “mansions” are used for “places.”  It is interesting that Jesus the earthly carpenter/builder carries His trade with Him into heaven.]

(2) And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, which the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows it. But you know it, because it remains with you, and will be in you. [Jn 14:16-17] The Advocate, the holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name—he will teach you everything and remind you of all that [I] told you. [Jn 14:26] But I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go. For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. [Jn 16:7; see Jn 16:8-14] He will give us a Defender, a companion, the Spirit of truth.  Jesus must go to send the Spirit.  The Spirit will teach us everything we need to know.

(3) I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me, because I live and you will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you. [Jn 14:18-20] I am with you always, even to the end of the age. [Mt. 28:20]  Though He will seem to have left us, He has not left us.  He is always with us.

Then Jesus adds another reason. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. You heard me tell you, ‘I am going away and I will come back to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father; for the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you this before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe. [Jn 14:27-29]  The final reason Jesus gives is difficult to understand; if we love Jesus, we are to be happy that He is going to the Father.  Why? First, we are to be happy that He is reunited with His Father and our Father.  This is a good thing for relationships are most important.  Jesus will also be able to plead our case before the Father, having had personal experience being human.

While this is true, Jesus gives a more profound reason: for the Father is greater than I. It was absolutely necessary for Jesus to ascend to the Father so that our attention would be focused where His attention was always focused, on the Father.  The purpose of His entire existence on earth was to do His Father’s will.  And He calls us to follow His example. We are here to love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind. [Deut. 6:5; Lk 10:27; Mt 22:37; Mk 12:30] We are to recognize that Jesus must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet...When everything is subjected to him, then the Son himself will [also] be subjected to the one who subjected everything to him, so that God may be all in all. [1Cor 15:25-28] This is why Jesus prays.  This is why we pray: “Our Father.”  Not “Our Jesus,” but as Jesus Himself prayed, “Father,” [Mt 11:25-26; Jh 11:44; 12:27; 17:1-26], even that the Father’s cup be taken from him, [Lk 22:41 et al.], and on the Cross, we have His most poignant prayers to his Father, asking forgiveness for all, for they do not know what they do, [Lk 23:34, et al.] praying the ultimate Psalm of trust in the darkness of defeat, My God, My God, why have You forsaken me, [Ps 22; Mt 27:46] and ultimately, putting His life in His Father’s hands: Father, into Your hands I commend my spirit.”[Ps 31; Lk 23:46]

The implied reasons for the Ascension can be teased out of Jesus’ final words in Matthew: Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age. [Mt 28: 19-20]

Jesus tells us we have a job to do. Would we leave him if he stayed? If Jesus had stayed with us, we would never get it. We would still be on the Mount of Olives with the other disciples, dumbfounded, mouths gaping, wondering when He will return…no wonder He sent angels to shock us back to reality: Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? [Acts 1:11] A true “duh” question, the implication being, “He gave you a job to do.  Get with it.”

We would always be reporting back, not trusting in ourselves to be Him in the world in which we find ourselves.  By ascending, He kicked us out of the nest of discipleship, of learners, and into the pasture of apostleship, of teachers.  We are sent as messengers, “apostolos,” “sent from” Jesus to all nations, all the world.

We are sent as shepherds who have the smell of the sheep [Pope Francis I]. We are to teach by word and example all that He has commanded us.  Now that He has ascended, Teresa of Avila, great doctor of the Church, has described our status in the world:

Christ has no body but yours, No hands, no feet on earth but yours, Yours are the eyes with which he looks Compassion on this world, Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good, Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.  Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, Yours are the eyes, you are his body…Christ has no body now on earth but yours.[2]

And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age. He knew we couldn’t do it alone; He never intended that we do it alone. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your selves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light. [Mt 11:29-30] A yoke is a wooden beam normally used between a pair of oxen or other animals to enable them to pull together on a load when working in pairs.  When we get in yolk with Jesus, we can do anything.

But there is even another Divinely Providential motive for the Ascension. Jesus came to show us the Father: If you know me, then you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him. [Jn 14:7]  Not that we get it…we still echo Philip: “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?”[Jn 14:8-9]

[In Section Two: Some thoughts on the implied points, e.g. Eucharist, Church, etc.]

[1] Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

[2] http://www.journeywithjesus.net/PoemsAndPrayers/Teresa_Of_Avila_Christ_Has_No_Body.shtml

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