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Meditation 5*

Ascend to Where He Was Before

Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you?
Then what if you see the Son of Man
ascend to where He was before!
John 6:61-62

When we consider the Ascension of our King, there are a number of things we need to keep in mind: Heaven, the place to which He withdraws Himself; the Ascension itself, the act of the Ascension and the fact of His rising upward. We must not exclusively focus on Jesus’ being in Heaven, but, as it is called and always was, a commemoration of Jesus’ Ascension. That should preferably be done according to the way to which our Lord Himself pointed, namely, as a contrast to His earlier descent from Heaven and now a re-ascension or return to the sphere of glory where He was before.

You may remember that touching statement of Jesus to the people of Capernaum who must have found it hard to comprehend when they heard, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven” (John 6:51). That is when the Lord said to them, “Does this offend you? Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before!”

Thus, the kernel truth on which we have to focus is that initial descent from Heaven and then, later, the re-ascension into Heaven. It is only against the background of the descent that we can see the Ascension in its proper light.

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Perhaps you wonder about the significance of all this, about which deeper thought may be hidden behind it all. Let me illustrate. Someone jumps into a river to rescue a drowning person, but, unfortunately, he ends up joining the victim and both drown. So it was with our Mediator, a totally different being, who jumped into the river of our unrighteousness and misery to grab us and embrace us. It was a totally different entity that had the power to surface from this stream of misery, with the rescued victim in His arm, with His Bride in His heart, and holding those He purchased close to His breast. His descent was a demonstration of supreme love; His ascent, a demonstration of supreme power.

Just think of all the humiliation He had to suffer. To abdicate voluntarily from the throne of glory, to descend to this earth into a young woman’s womb, to become a poor person in this miserable world, then to allow Himself to be slandered, despised and, finally, to die a bitter death associated with contempt and slander. Now that requires deep pity and compassion. Here the passion for saving shines bright along with self-sacrifice and love for sinners. Here is whether you witness the triumph of the divine push for the utmost of grace.

But with the Ascension it is totally different. Everyone with a sense of love, pity, self-sacrifice and compassion can jump into the stream to rescue a drowning child, whether you are a young fellow, a crippled old man or the mother, but who can actually rescue the child? Only He, who can come out of the water on his own strength.

That ability to come out of the water does not depend on love or compassion, but only on strength and power, on strong control of water and wind with sturdy arms. But where do you ever find those two, an abundance of love and of power, together? Here on earth they usually act in opposition to each other. Is the strong muscle man not usually challenged in the area of love and pity? As to him who is tender and loving, does it not seem that everything turns against him, as if all his strength has melted away and going under is his sure but pitiful fate? Is the term “suffering servant of God” not a beautiful and worthy name for every servant of God who has lost out in the battle between love and power? Do not most who dare to challenge the powers of this world lose out? Oh, to gain a crown with God, ah, yes, definitely! But it is usually at the price of succumbing in the struggle.11    Was Kuyper here thinking of the struggle between the two brothers in Yonge's The Heir of Redcliffe?

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Such a struggle may seem beautiful, tragic or touching to the tearing eye, but in spite of that, it does not help any. The Lord God does not play tragedy. With Him dying is never a game. Even displaying His most majestic and moral greatness, as long as it is mere display, is totally below the dignity of His divine majesty. No, the Lord God rescues; He truly saves both soul and body.

And really, the undoing of saving love, no matter how tragic or touching, is never truly beautiful. The only truly beautiful, genuine and holy saving love is that which also triumphs. It is that love which not only jumps into the river but is also able to come out of it together with the victim, rescuing him from the river of misery and placing him where He Himself was before His earthly birth. That is the reason, my dear readers, that the Ascension of Jesus is so beautiful and majestic, so utterly glorious. For you see, this is that overflowing power. Here is that perfect triumph. Here, through majestic and amazing struggle, we see Him come up from the depth of human misery, climb up again, ascend again until He finally reaches “where He was before.”

But it was against every force and power we know. It all went against the laws of nature, including the laws of the human nature He had adopted. It was even against the overflowing love in the heart of His followers! Everything wanted to hold Him down and prevent Him from ascending. And yet, nothing could resist Him. He was victorious over all and everything. He ascended!

And, oh, the wonder of His divine omnipotence! In His ascent He takes the entire Church of the redeemed with him into the Heavens, including those already living there, those now alive here on earth and those yet unborn—all of God’s children.

Look! There He stands in Heaven with the redeemed treasure of souls in His arms. That causes all the angels to worship Him. That drives all the martyrs and prophets to kneel before Him. That’s why the Father crowns Him!


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