When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.
Jesus ascends, departs. He leaves our world and returns to his. He goes ahead of us to prepare a place for us so that we can follow him. He came, not so much in a miraculous way, more in an impossible to explain supernatural way, silently entering our world from another dimension, time, place, universe or whatever.
He left it in a similar way. One minute they see him, the next he is gone. Did he go up, down or just dissolve into the air? Is there a spiritual wormhole between his world and ours, a doorway, launch pad or trapdoor? The point is human words only really work when describing things that happen in the human world. The story of his Ascension, just like the accounts of his birth, is something that happens one third in the human world and two thirds in the Jesus world.
It’s a bit like the Aslan story in the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. One minute the great lion is there changing the world, defeating the darkness, and breathing out his inner spirit and the next minute he is gone. Everyone misses him, and there is an empty place where he used to be, but the impact he had still lives on.
The disciples have lost their leader, their inspiration, their rock. How do they feel?
Jesus was born into my Robin Gamble world over forty years ago and he has never left it, he is still here with me. I try to conscientiously begin and end every day with him. In between I frequently forget him, but he never forgets me. He lives in every moment and every experience. The good and the bad, my strengths and weaknesses, the best bits, and the bits I am embarrassed by and ashamed of; he shares them all.
Not only that but the best yet to come. You see, when I die he wants me to ascend, to pass from Earth to Heaven, from human life-span to eternal life, from him living in my world, to me living in his.
So take the imagined story of Aslan,
Add Obi Wan Kenobi, Dumbledore, Dr. Who, and Gandalf.
Throw in the disappearance of the last unicorn,
And give it all a bit of historical reality.
With the lives of Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Florence Nightingale, and Nelson Mandela.
Let the whole crowd lift off and disappear in a sort of God designed Tardis,
And imagine first Jesus and then yourself,
Jesus is no longer living in this earth world, but he is alive and well in Robin Gamble world and I have just said I start each day with him. Every morning I sit down and, over a big cup of tea, spend time with him. I pray to him and read the gospels. Like Mary I ponder over him and breathe him in. I attempt to become Jesus full, to centre my being around him and to work out what his mission is for me each day. In Robin Gamble world he is my greatest source of peace, courage, and joy. This is not an emotional or imaginary experience, this is a relationship; brain as well as heart, intellectual conviction alongside emotional commitment. Not only is he living in my world, I am living in his.
The last word goes to the great Freddie:
Oh you’re the best friend that I ever had.
I’ve been with you such a long time,
You’re my sunshine and I want you to know,
That my feelings are true;
I really love you.
If Jesus had remained physically rooted in Jerusalem he would have stayed as the best friend of a handful of followers. Because he ascended above and beyond time and place, he can be best friend to all of us. Not as a memory but as a reality.
Oh, you’re my best friend.
Risen and Glorious Lord,
Ascended and now in Heaven.
May you live in my heart,
And may I live in yours.
And every day.