Luke 24:50
Many thoughts offer themselves to us as we think upon this last scene.

I. THE FITNESS OF THE PLACE WHENCE JESUS ASCENDED. Not, indeed, that Jerusalem could claim to be worthy of such an honour - Jerusalem that had but lately dyed its hands in the blood of its Messiah. But as the ancient dwelling-place of God, as the seat and source of heavenly truth, as the metropolis of religion upon the earth, as the place that furnishes the name and type of the city of our hope, as the joyous gathering-place of the good, - it was well that, from without its walls, he whose presence makes the home and the joy and the glory of his people should pass to his throne. For from that moment "Jerusalem" meant another thing to mankind, Christ took up its meaning as he rose. All the associations of love and hope, of grandeur and gladness, which had belonged to the earthly are transferred to the heavenly city, where he dwells in glory, where he reigns in power. There is a transference, not formal but actual, of the centre and metropolis of religious thought from the Jerusalem below to the Jerusalem above.

II. THE NATURE OF THE LAST SCENE. "They climb the hillside; they cross its summit; they are approaching Bethany. He stops; they gather round. He looks upon them; he lifts his hands; he begins to bless them. What love unutterable in that parting look! What untold riches in that blessing! His hands are uplifted, his lips engaged in blessing, when slowly he begins to rise. Earth has lost her power to keep him; the waiting up-drawing heavens claim him as their own. He rises, but still, as he floats upward through the yielding air, his eyes are bent on those uplooking men; his arms are stretched over them in the attitude of benediction, his voice is heard dying away in blessings as he ascends. Awe-struck, in silence they follow him with straining eyes as his body lessens to sight, till the commissioned cloud enfolds, cuts off all further vision, and closes the earthly and sensible communion between Jesus and his disciples" (Dr. Hanna).

III. THE RECEPTION THE SAVIOUR HAD IN HEAVEN. There have been "triumphant entries" in this little world of ours, and in the history of our human race, the pouring forth in loud acclaim of the pride and joy of many thousands of hearts. But to what a vanishing point do they sink when placed by the side of this entry of the conquering Saviour into heaven! Though unable to form any conception that can approach the glorious reality, yet we may well love to linger in imagination over that blessed scene. His struggle over, his sorrows borne, his temptations met and mastered, his work finished, his great battle fought and his victory won, - the victorious Lord passes through all the ranks of the angelic host, amid their reverent worship and adoring acclamations, to his throne of power and glory.

"Look, ye saints I the sight is glorious:
See the Man of sorrows now
From the fight returned victorious;
Every knee to him shall bow."

IV. THE EFFECT IMMEDIATELY PRODUCED ON THE MINDS OF THE DISCIPLES. Blank dismay, inconsolable sorrow, should we think? So thinking, we should be wrong. They "returned to Jerusalem with great joy." Yet their Master was gone from them to return no more till that uncertain and distant day of which the angels spoke (Acts 1:11). How do we account for this? The explanation is found here - they were now perfectly assured of the Divine mission of Jesus Christ. His death had cast a dark shadow of doubt and dread over their hearts. His resurrection had revived their confidence and their hope. But this final manifestation, this "sign in the heavens," this act of being taken up, like Elijah, into heaven, swept away the last fragment of doubt that may have been left behind; they were now absolutely sure, without any reserve or qualification whatever, that the Master they had loved and served was indeed their true Messiah, the Sent of God, worthy of their deepest veneration and their strongest attachment; so they "worshipped him" reverently, and went back to Jerusalem with the joy of faith and love filling their souls. There is no misery so unendurable as doubt, and there is no blessedness so sweet as rest of heart after spiritual disquietude.

V. ITS PERMANENT EFFECT ON THE APOSTLES' MINDS. This was unreservedly good. It was "expedient for them that he should go away." His bodily absence changed the complexion of their dependence upon him. It had been that of childhood; it was now to be that of manhood. With him by their side, as he had been, they would not have become the "men in him" they did become after he left them. The deeper and fuller knowledge of him they gained by his departure led to an enlargement of faith and to a deepening of love, and also to that fulness of attachment and consecration we recognize and rejoice in during their later life. They came to know him and love him and serve him as the Divine Saviour of mankind, and this made them worthier men and truer servants of their Lord. All earthly ambitions respecting the right and left hand of the throne were transformed into a noble consecration to the invisible Lord.

VI. ITS PRICELESS VALUE TO OURSELVES.

1. Christ is accessible to us all. Had he lived and reigned at Jerusalem, or some other sacred metropolis, he would only have been accessible to those who dwelt or journeyed there. But now he is "with us all." For heaven is everywhere; the throne of grace is within the reach of the faintest whisper that comes from every burdened heart, from every seeking soul, wheresoever it may be breathed. A living faith can now realize the constant nearness of its living Lord; it has not to take even a sabbath day's journey to find itself in his presence and to make known its request.

2. He is seated on the throne of power. To him who has passed into the heavens we can realize that "all power is given" (Matthew 28:18). We can well believe that our Master in heaven can do for us what we ask of him; that his arm is one of glorious might; that his hand has plenteousness of bounty and of blessing. And in all our time of need we can go to him, with holy confidence, to ask of him the help, the guidance, the blessing, we require.

3. He has all rightful authority. If he still dwelt on earth, we might be dubious of this; but to the heavenly Saviour we unanimously and cordially ascribe all headship; to him we yield our willing and unquestioning obedience; and we rejoice to believe that he is ruling and governing the affairs of his Church, and reigning in the interests of the whole human race; that it is his hand that is at the helm, and that will safely guide the tempest-ridden vessel to the harbour.

4. He is our constant and ever-living Lord. With all that is earthly we associate change and death; with the heavenly we connect the thought of continuance and life. Of our heavenly Lord we can think, and we delight to think, that whoever changes he is evermore the same, "yesterday, and to-day, and for ever;" that while human ministers "are not suffered to continue by reason of death," he hath "an unchangeable priesthood," and is able to save evermore ("to the uttermost") all those "that come unto God by him." And as we look forward to the future, and realize our own mortality, we cherish the joyous thought that, if we do but "abide in him" until the evening shadows gather and "life's long day" passes into the darkness of death, we shall, in heaven's eternal morning, open our eyes to see the "King in his beauty," to "behold his glory," and shall "sit down with him on his throne," sharing for ever his own and his saints' everlasting rest. - C.







While He blessed them He was parted from them.
I. CONSIDER THE ASCENSION AS THE CROWNING FACT OF CHRIST'S LIFE. It was the consummation of all His glorious work for man, and henceforth man through Him becomes a conqueror too. "He led captivity captive, He received gifts for men." And with the baptism of these we are conquerors, in our temptations over the devil, in our gardens of agony over sorrow, and in the end over death and the grave, when we shall ascend to be with Him in glory.

II. CONSIDER HIS ASCENSION AS HIS ENTHRONEMENT AS KING OVER ALL. Unseen but ever present. Ruling from His throne in heaven over all the affairs of the world till His enemies become His footstool.

III. CONSIDER HIS ASCENSION IN RELATION TO HIS COMING AGAIN (Acts 1:11).

(R. Davey.)

I. NOTICE THE PLACE FROM WHICH OUR LORD ASCENDED. Near Gethsemane. Near Bethany. A familiar haunt.

II. NOTICE THE WITNESSES OF OUR LORD'S ASCENSION. His faithful apostles.

III. NOTICE THE LAST ACT OF OUR LORD BEFORE HIS ASCENSION. Blessing.

IV. THE ASCENSION OF CHRIST HELPS OUR THOUGHTS, AND GIVES DEFINITENESS TO OUR CONCEPTIONS OF THE FUTURE LIFE OF THE REDEEMED.

V. CHRIST'S ASCENSION IS THE PLEDGE OF THE HEAVENLY LIFE OF THE REDEEMED.

VI. WHEN OUR LORD ASCENDED INTO HEAVEN HE GAINED FOR US A GREAT AND UNSPEAKABLE BLESSING, THE GIFT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.

(W. Bull, B. A.)

In this quiet and unostentatious manner did our Saviour take His departure from this world. His exit was as noiseless — as little attended with pomp — as His entrance. He has finished the redemption of a world — He has vanquished the powers of hell — He has triumphed over death and the grave.

1. From His ascension, therefore, we may learn that heaven has been opened for us. He became our brother. He stood as our representative. There is not only comfort for us in the assurance of admission, but in the thought, that when admitted we shall find One so closely related to us occupying such an exalted place.

2. Our Saviour's ascension in the nature He wore while on earth may teach us that, though He be so highly exalted, He has sympathy with us still; though far removed from us as regards His bodily presence, the brotherly tie which united us has not been severed.

3. The presence in heaven — the exaltation to the throne of universal dominion of One so closely related to us, and having such sympathy with us, should give confidence to our prayers, leading us to desire and expect great blessings at His hands.

4. Finally. Let us be thankful for the privilege we enjoy in the exaltation of One who bears our nature.

(W. Landels.)

First, let us consider the TIME of the occurrence-of this event. This interval, also, was sufficient in order to afford Him an opportunity of detailing much that to them would be highly interesting, in relation to His kingdom, to the preaching of His gospel, and to the establishment of His empire through the world. Once more, He continued a sufficient period of time on earth in order to afford the strongest evidence of the love He bore to His Church and people; that He would not even take possession of the promised crown, nor enter upon "the joy set before Him," till He had ordered all things relating to His kingdom. We notice, in the second place, the SITE OR SPOT at which this occurrence took place. "He led them out as far as to Bethany." I pass on, in the third place, to consider the MANNER in which the ascent of our Lord Jesus Christ took place. You will observe, first, that it was while He prayed — "as He blessed them." Observe, again, that it was while they were listening to the interesting communications which our Lord had to impart. It belongs to this part of the subject to observe their solemn adoration of Him after that they saw Him no more. "He was parted from them, and carried up into heaven: and they worshipped Him." I hasten to the last point of our discourse — to consider THE GREAT ENDS AND OBJECTS OF THIS MOST IMPORTANT TRANSACTION. Christ has left our world — He is gone — He has gone to the mansions of heavenly glory; and for what purposes has He taken His departure. First, in order that He might celebrate a signal triumph over all His enemies. He has gone, secondly, to take possession of the well-earned reward, the stipulated recompense, to which His obedience and His suffering have so well entitled Him. Thirdly, He has gone to receive and to communicate that fulness which the Father had entrusted into His hands; and especially the gift of the Holy Ghost, which he bestows upon "the rebellious also, that the Lord God might dwell among them." Fourthly, He has gone to ensure and prepare a place for all His believing followers. I only add that He has gone thus to heaven in order to give an example and specimen of the manner in which He will come again in the clouds of Heaven. And is He gone? and have the heavens received Him? Then, first, let us send our hearts after Him. Secondly, in the absence of our Lord, let us abide closely in the fellowship of His Church. Like the disciples, let us resort to the temple; like the disciples, let us keep together. Let us not be scattered and disunited. Thirdly, this subject should lead us to cherish a cheerful confidence with respect to our entrance into eternity. And let this soothe our spirits when we are mourning over our dead.

(G. Clayton, M. A.)

I. THE LAST ACTS OF THE REDEEMER ON EARTH.

1. He selects a suitable place from which to take His departure.

2. He solemnly blesses His disciples.

3. He ascends up to heaven.

4. "It came to pass, while He blessed them, He was taken up." Did His ascension, then, interrupt and cut short the blessing? No; He still continued to bless as He went up. No — nor is the blessing yet at an end: for this is that Christ who, as St. Paul says, "is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us."

II. THE FIRST ACTS OF THE REDEEMED AFTER HIS DEPARTURE.

1. They worshipped Him. Remember that! The appointed teachers of the Christian religion "worshipped" Christ; it was their very first act after they had ceased to behold Him.

2. They were filled with joy — great joy.Now therefore they rejoiced —

1. On their Lord's account. "If ye love Me," He had said, "ye would rejoice, because I said, I go to the Father." And this their joy is now fulfilled.

2. On their own account. All was now plain in the system of that redemption, concerning which they had long formed such erroneous expectations.

3. In the use of appointed means they sought and expected His gifts of grace. In Jerusalem were they to receive the "promise of the Father"; therefore they at once returned thither. On their arrival, behold them "continually in the temple, praising and blessing God!" continually — that is, at every appointed service.

(J. Jowett, M. A.)

I. HIS HANDS WERE UPLIFTED TO BLESS.

1. This blessing was no unusual thing. To stretch out His hands in benediction was His customary attitude. In that attitude He departed, with a benediction still proceeding from His lips.

2. This blessing was with authority. He blessed them while His Father acknowledged Him by receiving Him to heaven.

3. This blessing was so full that, as it were, He emptied His hands. They saw those dear hands thus unladen of their benedictions.

4. The blessing was for those beneath Him, and beyond the sound of His voice; He scattered benedictions upon them all.

5. The blessing was the fit finis of His sojourn here; nothing fitter, nothing better, could have been thought of.

II. THOSE HANDS WERE PIERCED. This could be seen by them all as they gazed upward.

1. Thus they knew that they were Christ's hands.

2. Thus they saw the price of the blessing. His crucifixion has purchased continual blessing for all His redeemed.

3. Thus they saw the way of the blessing; it comes from those human hands, through those sacrificial wounds.

4. A sight of those hands is in itself a blessing. By that sight we see pardon and eternal life.

5. The entire action is an epitome of the gospel. This is the substance of the matter — "hands pierced distribute benedictions." Jesus, through suffering and death, has power to bless us out of the highest heaven. This is the last that was seen of our Lord. He has not changed His attitude of benediction, He will not change it till He shall descend in His glory.

III. THOSE HANDS SWAY THE SCEPTRE. His hands are omnipotent. Those very hands, which blessed His disciples, now hold, on their behalf, the sceptre —

1. Of providence: both in small affairs and greater matters.

2. Of the spiritual kingdom: the Church and all its work.

3. Of the future judgment and the eternal reign.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

That wonderful hand of Christ! It was the same hand which had been so quickly stretched out to rescue Peter when sinking in Galilee's waves. It was that same hand which had been held in the sight of the questioning disciples on the third evening after they had seen it laid lifeless in the tomb. It was that same hand which incredulous Thomas must see before he would believe its risen power; it was that same hand which was extended to him not only to see, but to touch the nail-prints in its palm. It was that same hand which the disciples last saw uplifted in a parting blessing when the cloud parted Him from them. It was only after ten days that they realized the fulness of blessing which came from that extended, pierced hand of Christ. Peter at Pentecost must have preached with that last sight of it fresh in his memory, when he said, "God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ." That hand, with its nail-prints, knocks at the heart's door for entrance. That hand, with its deep marks of love, beckons on the weary runner in the heavenly way.

(F. B. Pullan.)

The ascension was the appropriate bloom and culmination of the resurrection.

I. SINCE OUR LORD HAS ASCENDED, WE ARE NEVER TO THINK OF HIM AS DEAD, He has rounded the black and inscrutable Cape of Storms, and changed it for us henceforth into the Cape of Good Hope. It follows that all the great offices pertaining to His exaltation are in active exercise.

1. He stands in heaven to-day the Living Head of His redeemed Church.

2. He stands in heaven to-day our Priestly Advocate.

3. He stands in heaven to-day as the Controller of all things in God's providential government.

II. SINCE OUR LORD HAS ASCENDED, WE ARE NEVER TO THINK OF HIM AS DISTANT. Contact of spirit with spirit — nothing can be nearer, more intimate. Christ's inner presence by the Holy Ghost is the special boon and issue of His ascension.

III. SINCE OUR LORD HAS ASCENDED, WE ARE NEVER TO THINK OF HIM AS DIFFERENT. He has not laid aside His brotherhood with us. To our Brother's heart prayer must find its way; from Him to us a perfect sympathy must ever flow.

(W. Hoyt, D. D.)

I. In the first place, BY OUR SAVIOUR'S ASCENSION INTO HEAVEN IT WAS MADE TO APPEAR THAT THE GREAT DESIGN FOR WHICH HE DESCENDED TO THE EARTH WAS COMPLETELY FULFILLED. A solemn attestation was thus given by God to the virtue and efficacy of that great sacrifice which He offered by His death for the sins of the world. The ascension of Christ was the signal of His triumph over all the powers of darkness.

II. It is, in the next place, to be viewed by us WITH RESPECT TO CHRIST HIMSELF, AS A MERITED RESTORATION TO HIS ORIGINAL FELICITY. As the Son of God, all glory belonged to Him for ever.

III. In the third place, Christ ascended into heaven THAT HE MIGHT ACT THERE, IN THE PRESENCE OF GOD, AS OUR HIGH PRIEST AND INTERCESSOR.

(H. Blair, D. D.)

1. This event had been foretold and typified in the Old Testament. See especially Psalm 68, and 110. Moses, ascending the mount to receive the law, may be a type of Christ ascending to receive spiritual blessings for men. Elijah, taken up into heaven, and imparting a double portion of his spirit to his successor, was probably typical of Christ ascending and imparting the Pentecostal gift of the Holy Ghost. And the Jewish high priest, in passing from the holy place, which represented earth, to the most holy, which figured heaven, also foreshadowed the ascension of our Lord.

2. These predictions and types were now to be fulfilled.

3. To the top of this mountain our Saviour led His disciples, purposing to ascend visibly from thence. He might have taken His departure unseen by them, but He ascended openly, to confirm their faith in Him as the promised Messiah, to assure them of the certainty of the life in the world to come, and of their own exaltation to the place whither He had gone before.

4. The manner in which Christ was taken up from the midst of His disciples, as described in our text, was most interesting, and is worthy of our attention. In the very act of blessing them He was taken away. Oh, what a delightful consistency and loveliness of character we have in Jesus from the beginning of His mission to its close i The first assurance of His birth was accompanied by the cry of peace on earth and good-will to men; and here, He goes from the world with hands outstretched in benedictions upon those He left below. Surely if any man love not such a Saviour he deserves to be "Anathema, Maranatha."

5. But what feelings must have possessed the hearts of the disciples when they witnessed these things.

6. And where was He from whom they had been separated? His place on the eternal throne of glory had been resumed, and He sat there now not as God merely, but God-man, the great mediatorial king.

7. Such ware the leading circumstances attending the ascension of our Lord.

(W. H. Lewis, D. D.)

I. THE WITNESSES OF THE ASCENSION. Only friends. Only the small band of the eleven apostles.

II. THE PLACE. In the neighbourhood of Jerusalem, which had been the scene of many of our Lord's great miracles, where His most violent enemies resided, and where He had suffered death in the most public manner. Also near Bethany, a spot sufficiently retired to permit the assemblage of the eleven without exciting the vigilance of enemies.

III. THE MANNER of Christ's ascension. The ascension seems to have been slow and gentle. The apostles could therefore view it distinctly and deliberately, so that they might be assured of its reality, and be able to describe it to others. No chariot nor horses of fire were seen like those which wafted the prophet Elijah to heaven; no violent whirlwind agitated the air, no blaze of glory dazzled the eyes, or overpowered the feelings of the anxious spectators. Every part of the scene accorded with the character of the mild and benevolent Jesus. Though a parting scene, there was nothing in it to terrify or depress the minds of the apostles. They were indeed surprised and filled with astonishment, but it was an astonishment which expanded, elevated, and delighted them; for we are told they returned to Jerusalem with great joy.

IV. Let us next inquire WHAT REASONS CAN BE ASSIGNED FOR THE ASCENSION OF JESUS,

1. First, then, it was necessary to complete the proof of His exalted rank and Divine mission.

2. The ascension was necessary in order that the Lord Jesus should complete His mediatorial functions.

3. It was necessary that Jesus should ascend to heaven, to receive the approbation and honour from His heavenly Father, which were to be given to Him as the Mediator and Redeemer of man.

V. THE BENEFITS WHICH WE MAY DERIVE FROM THE ASCENSION OF JESUS.

1. It tends to complete our faith in Him. His miracles proved His Divine power; and His prophecies, His Divine knowledge. His death proved His own declaration, "that He had power to lay down His life"; His resurrection, "that He had power to take it again." In addition, His ascension showed that all the purposes of His coming to this world were finished, that He was going to return to the glory which He had with the Father before the world was; nay, that the glory of His human nature was to be increased in a high degree. Hereby, then, is our faith in Him enlarged, strengthened, and completed, for we have full assurance of the dignity and perfection of Jesus, and that the grit and benevolent purposes for which He visited this world were fully accomplished.

2. We are assured, also, as connected with the ascension of Jesus, of another event resembling it in manner, namely, the second coming of the Lord Jesus.

3. By the ascension of Jesus His promises to the righteous are fully ratified.

(J. Thomson, D. D.)

I. THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF OUR LORD'S ASCENSION.

1. The time. Not until after He had appeared to His disciples frequently, and conversed with them freely. He tarried with them forty days, to convince them of His resurrection, to instruct them in the knowledge of the truth, and to encourage them to stedfastness in the cause of the gospel.

2. The place of His ascension. Mount Olivet. This was a place to which He frequently resorted for secret prayer. So, also, the bed of sickness, though the believer may endure much agony there, is generally the spot whence his soul, released from trouble, ascends to the joys of heaven.

3. The ascension of Christ took place in the presence of numerous witnesses. There was no necessity for any persons being present when our Lord rose from the dead, because His appearing after His resurrection to those who knew Him before His crucifixion was a sufficient proof of His resurrection.

4. Another circumstance of which we are informed is, that this event took place while our Lord was employed in blessing the disciples. By this action He showed the strength and the duration of His affection for His disciples.

5. We are told, in Acts 1:9, that "a cloud received Him out of their sight." Clouds are frequently mentioned in Scripture as a medium through which the Lord in some degree manifested Himself to men.

6. The last circumstance we have to notice is, that our Lord's ascension was attended by angels.

II. ITS ENDS, or the chief purposes for which He ascended.

1. Christ ascended in order to send down the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

2. Jesus Christ ascended into heaven in order to make intercession for His people.

3. Jesus Christ ascended in order that He might receive infinite power, happiness, and glory, as the reward of His humiliation. He is set down on His throne of glory to exercise dominion over the universe, but especially over His Church.

4. Our Lord ascended into heaven that He might prepare a place for His followers, and bring them home to Himself.

III. Having considered the chief circumstances and ends of our Lord's ascension, we now come to consider, in the last place, THE PRACTICAL EFFECTS WHICH THE CONSIDERATION OF THE EVENT SHOULD PRODUCE ON US.

1. It should lead us to pay the Redeemer that Divine homage which is so justly due to His name.

2. It becomes us to rejoice on account of our Lord's ascension.

3. Our Lord's ascension should lead us unhesitatingly to trust in Him for salvation.

4. Christ's ascension should encourage us to engage with liveliness in religious exercises.

5. The consideration of our Lord's ascension should raise our thoughts and affections to heaven.

6. Our Lord's ascension should carry forward our thoughts to His second coming.

(James Foote, M. A.)

It seems natural to wish to pass away from this world from the place which we call our home. How many persons — when they are in search of health in the mountains of Switzerland or by the lake side, in the watering places, or bright sunny spots, where they seek to fan the dying embers of life — when they find that their end is approaching, desire to go home to die. Those who go out to India in the Civil Service have this hope before them, that they shall spend their last days in England and die at home. So it was natural that our Saviour should choose to pass away from the familiar slope of Olivet, within sight of Bethany, the nearest place to a home that the Son of Man knew during His public ministry, that from this oft-frequented haunt He should ascend to His Father and our Father, to His God and our God.

(W. Bull, B. A.)

He departed from them in the act of blessing; He was still blessing when the cloud received Him out of their sight. And what was this but the natural climax of all our Lord's precedent life? That life had been one of continual blessing. And before we turn from this subject of "connection," does it not see m as though heaven and earth are here represented as connected with blessing? The lark, soaring up on high, seems nevertheless to connect the skies and earth by her train of song; thus binds Christ the heaven and the earth now. There is no sight; but from the height above drops blessing — blessing for all who will take it; no less blessing on His part because it may be refused by us; blessing which shall fall upon all believers now; and which shall soak into the thirsty bosom of the millenial earth when He is owned as King of all its kings and Lord of all its lords. And with this thought of connection comes that of activity also. We have not presented before us any careful thoughts of Christ about His own glory; the activity of His mind — yea, even of His body — was all being put forth on behalf of others. We can easily imagine how comforting thoughts flowed in upon the disciples when they remembered this. He ascended into the heavens while blessing them; and, if so, what but blessing could they look for from that other world? Those who knew Him not might look up with fear and trembling, and see the Judge upon His throne. The heavens contained nothing but woe for them; but Jesus, by entering heaven in the very act of blessing, taught His people how to look up, what there to see, and what thence to expect. There is yet one more thought which presses upon our minds in connection with this parting aspect of Christ. What He dropped on them they in turn were to drop upon the world. The last impression of their Lord was to exercise its peculiar power upon their after lives; and we may be well assured that so it did. Activity in blessing marked Jesus' career to the very last; He was unwearied in well-doing. He has carried His energy with Him into heaven. Remembering, then, that all good things are given to us for others as well as for ourselves, let us use for others this word "while," in whatever teaching it conveys to our souls. Good things most truly perform their mission to us when they pass on through us to perform a ministry to others also. We never know the power of a good thing — how really good it is — until we begin to use it, to put it in the way of evolving its fragrance.

(P. B. Power, M. A.)

Oh, what a fitting close to such a life as that of the Redeemer! He had come to bless the world, and He spent His every moment on earth in communicating blessings; and now, as though He were going within the veil to carry on the same gracious purpose, He quits the earth with extended hands, and the last words that He utters in mortal hearing are words of Divine benediction. What could be more worthy of His character? what more likely to assure and comfort His followers? It was not, you observe, when He had finished His benediction, but while He was pronouncing it, that Christ commenced His ascent; so that His departure may be said to have interrupted the blessing. And we are disposed to think that there was something in this which was designed to be pre-eminently significant. At all events, we are certain that the fact may be interpreted into lessons of general application and of no common merit. It was no proof, you see, that Christ did not love His disciples, and that He was not consulting their good, that He withdrew Himself from them. On the contrary, He was blessing them in leaving them. If there had been nothing in the departure itself from which to argue a blessing, there might have been place for suspicion; but the mode of departure irresistibly proves that Christ went away not in anger, but in tenderness. And though when anything analogous to His departure occurs it may not be possible to assure ourselves that the departing One has left us in the act of blessing us, it cannot be unreasonable to regard the history before us as in some measure a parable, and argue from it something general. When, for example, the spiritually-minded have enjoyed seasons of communion with the Saviour — seasons most blessed, which assuredly there are, though the cold and the worldly may think it merely enthusiasm to speak of the manifestations to the soul of the invisible Mediator — and when these seasons have been followed by others of less intimate fellowship, how apt are Christians to be troubled and cast down, as though it must have been in wrath that the Redeemer withdrew the tokens of His presence! But they should rather go in thought to the Mount of Olives, and behold how Christ parts from His disciples. Oh, it is not necessarily in displeasure that the Saviour withdraws Himself. If you could see Him depart, it may be that you would behold those extended arms, and hear the lingering benediction, and thus learn that He went away only because it was expedient for you — because He could bless you better and more effectually by temporal removal than through unbroken continuance amongst you.

(H. Melvill, B. D.)

I. THE PREPARATION FOR THE ASCENSION. The small procession of Christ and the eleven apostles gradually increases till it consists of five hundred persons. They reach and climb the Mount of Olives. Then the arms which not long before had been stretched out upon the accursed tree are uplifted in prayer. A last smile He leaves for a legacy behind Him ere He quits the world — a smile involving whole oceans of meaning; and who can venture to fill up the outline, or clothe in words that blessing which He gives to His little flock whom He is leaving alone in the world? All He has to leave them is a blessing, and yet a blessing which is felt to be a shield of defence and a security in trial to them all. And, lo! while He is thus employed in blessing, the cloud that has been approaching on the breath of the gentle breeze rests on Christ's head and conceals His face, and obliterates His smile, and gathers around His uplifted arms, and surrounds His whole form and hides it from view.

II. LET US FOLLOW CHRIST UPWARDS WITH THE WING OF FAITH. AS through a veil, though the disciples may not see Him, He sees them, and counts their tears. He sees, too, Jerusalem itself, and perhaps weeps over it again. But night has come over the landscape. The land below fades away from His view. Olivet, the Moabite mountains, the loftiest peak of all the Sinaitic range, have disappeared, and the cloud chariot plunges amidst the stars. Orion on the south, and the Great Bear on the norris, are left behind. The moon becomes Christ's footstool, and is then spurned away as He mounts higher still. Through the milky way, as through the multitudinous laughter of an ocean's billows, He pursues His course. The last star which, like a giant sentinel, keeps its solitary watch, and treads its enormous round on the verge of the universe, ceases to be seen, and the hollow and blank space which lies beyond is found to be peopled with an innumerable company of angels, who have come out to meet and to welcome their King and their Lord. And then the gates of the heavenly city appear, flaming with diamond and gold as with the lustre of ten thousand suns. From the angelic cavalcade the cry arises, "Open, ye everlasting gates, that the King of glory may enter in"; and it is met by the challenge from the walls, "Who is this King of glory?" and the reply comes, "The Lord of hosts, that is also the Man of Nazareth, the mighty in battle, He is the King of glory." And, lo! the gates fly open, and the everlasting doors are unbarred, and thus the King of glory enters in, and the Man of Nazareth, amidst the acclamation of ten thousand times ten thousand and thousands of thousands, takes His seat upon the right hand of the Majesty on high.

III. CONSIDER THE SPIRITUAL SENSE IN WHICH CHRIST MAY BE SAID TO HAVE ASCENDED TO BE EXALTED.

1. Christ is in the ascendant as the highest example of moral excellence.(1) No character, confessedly, can be named beside His in richness and depth, in pureness and simplicity, in dignity and truthfulness and affection.(2) No death, in grand unconsciousness, in profound submission, in absolute renunciation of self, in the spirit of forgiveness which pervades it, in its meekness, gentleness, and patience, can be named with that of Calvary. Truly said Rousseau, "If the life and death of Socrates were those of a sage, the life and death of Jesus were those of a God."

2. Jesus is the best specimen of the risen man. No other risen man has got beyond the lowest step in the stage leading up to the footstool of the throne on which the Man of Galilee is thus exalted.

3. Christ is one the history of whose faith is the most wonderful of all histories.

4. The moral and spiritual principles which were the teaching and the glory of Christ are those on which the happiness of the world present and the prospects of the world future are felt to be dependent.In conclusion:

1. What a cheering doctrine is that of Christ's exaltation. God has recognized His principles as the laws of universal government.

2. Let us seek to ascend. "Excelsior."

(G. Gilfillan.)

Great joy
They had parted from their beloved Master; they had to face a trying life now, without having Him near to counsel or to help; they would never see Him again, till they died. And yet they were glad. From the place of that last earthly parting they went away, not stricken to the earth, not stunned and stupefied, as we are after the like heart-breaking wrench, but in high spirits, cheerful and elate. "They returned to Jerusalem with great joy!" Well, it is very strange. Perhaps the disciples, coming back to Jerusalem, could not easily have sorted out and explained to other people the reasons of their great joy. First, there was something very cheering about all the surroundings of Christ's departure. It was to be, the disciples knew; and the whole event was so different from what such a parting might have been. For one thing, it was so triumphant, so glorious, so miraculous, that it was proof irresistible that the work which brought the Redeemer to this world was finished successfully. And it was blessing His servants that the Redeemer left them. Sometimes, while here, He had spoken severely, and that not to His enemies only, but to His friends — to the great apostle Peter, "Get thee behind Me, Satan"; but all that was gone, and there was only kindness in the departing heart and voice. Now, as a second reason for this strange joy, let us remember that there was one great definite gain which was to come of Christ's going; and upon the enjoyment of that gain His Church was soon to enter now. The blessed Spirit, the Holy Ghost, could not come till the Saviour went; and He Himself had declared strongly that it would be gain for His disciples to lose Him if thus they received the blessed Spirit in His stead. They hardly understood, perhaps, the disciples, on the day Christ went — they did not understand, as we do now, all that the Holy Ghost would be, of light, strength, wisdom, joy, peace, strong consolation. It needed experience of His sympathy, His faithfulness, His patience, His almighty power, to make Christian people know what He is. But the disciples knew enough to make them anticipate His coming with joyful expectation; and for this reason, doubtless, among others, even from the spot where they had seen their Saviour for the last time in this life, they "returned to Jerusalem with great joy." We can think of a third reason for this joy on that parting day. It was a parting quite by itself. He went away, in visible form. It was better for His Church that He should; but, after all, He never left it. He went away, as concerns the material presence, which must be here or there. He abode yet in that Divine, real though unseen presence, which can be everywhere. Even as He departed from sight and sense, He uttered the sure and hopeful promise, "Lo, I am with you alway, even to the end of the world." He could be with the disciples He left, He can be with us day by day, as God is with us; present that is, to faith, not to sense, but as really, substantially, influentially present, as any thing or person we can touch or see. Beyond these spiritual consolations which might cheer under the departure of their Saviour, the disciples had yet another hope, which some might esteem as having something more substantial in it. Master and servants were to meet again. This same Jesus, now gone, is to come again in glory; and since that day, the Church is "waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." That will be the consummation of all things. Then, all will be well at last.

(A. K. H. Boyd, D. D.)

In a recent great European war, the soldiers of both countries, when they were ordered to the seat of war, received the order enthusiastically, and marched to the front with waving of banners and singing. The joy of the disciples when called to win the world for Christ, seem to have been similar (vers. 52, 53). If a father entrusts his son with a difficult piece of work, the boy does it joyfully and proudly. Should we have less joy in performing a great work entrusted to us by Christ?

This statement is of more interest and importance to us than appears at first sight. It embodies a great principle; and that, one which enters continually into the Christian's life. The inward counterbalancing the outward — this is the great idea brought before us; and it will unfold itself, as we proceed to examine the circumstances under which the apostles were placed, when they thus "returned to Jerusalem with great joy." At the first glance, we should have supposed "joy" to have been the very last emotion, which, at this particular time, would have swayed the .apostles' minds. We shall find no cause for it in anything outward. Nature seemed to indicate everything but joy. We should not have been surprised, had we been reading merely an ordinary narrative, to have heard that terror instead of joy was the leading feeling in the apostles' minds. Another class of feelings, also, was calculated to arise within their breasts; and whatever emotions these were likely to be productive of, they were certainly not those of joy. The feelings which nature would have engendered under these circumstances were those of indignation and revenge. Then, there was the natural shrinking from sad associations. Were they to be affected by the outward only, almost every stone in Jerusalem would have a mournful voice for them, saying, "Here He once was, but He is gone; and His place knoweth Him now no more." But there were other and higher influences at work; there must have been, for we read, not of resignation, but of joy; and not only of joy, but of "great joy"; and to produce this, there must have been a great counterbalancing principle within the heart. The actual feeling of the apostles was that of "great joy"; and whence this great joy came we can easily see. All doubts were now removed. Coldly and damply, unbelief, from time to time, had struck in upon them; but it was now dispelled for ever. The veil's last fold was removed from their eyes; and they now stood forth upon firm ground, prepared to meet the world in the power of clear, inward light. Wherever there is full, clear, unclouded faith, and that in unhindered exercise — there, there is joy, and all the power that flows forth from a light and joyous heart. The disciples had seen also the exaltation of the One they loved. Moreover, they had now a union with the unseen. We can understand how a new light was now thrown on all old scenes; how a new destiny lay outstretched before the disciples' eyes; how they felt that they had that which the world had not given, and which the world, therefore, could not take away; and, rich in all this, they turned from the place whence their Lord had ascended up on high, "leading captivity captive," and re-sought the place where He had been bound, and led as a lamb to the slaughter; all tears now wiped from their eyes, and their hearts filled with "great joy." Here, then, was the power of the inward to counterbalance the outward; and what says it to us as regards our own experiences? First of all it says: As with the disciples, so also with you; look not always for a change in the outward aspect of things, but look for the introduction of a new element therein, modifying, compensating, supporting, as the case may be. The outward remains unmoved; but it is met by the inward which pervades it, and puts forth its more than compensating power; there is, as the apostle says in 1 Thessalonians 1., "much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost." And now, with regard to ourselves. What is the power of the inward with us? In the first place, have we an inward living power within us which exercises an unmistakeable influence; and can compensate, energize, or support, as circumstances may require? It is surely impossible to have this without knowing it, there are so many circumstances which are calculated to call it into exercise, and in which, if it existed, it must have acted. Have we a felt and realized union with God, which influences us, so that we feel we have something which the would cannot see; and which, indeed, is not of the world at all? Our perceptions may be more or less vivid on these points, but have we a perception, so that there is as distinct an inward life as there is an outward? Moreover, are we conscious of how this "inward" has acted? Have we felt when disappointed of earthly things, or in them, that, after all, there was nothing unduly to depress us: for that we had something else of infinitely more importance, in which we could not be disappointed? When darkness closed in upon us in the outward world, have we had distinct inward light, in which we could move, and see, and rejoice? When called upon to sacrifice any of the "outward," have we been enabled to do so because it was as nothing compared with the "inward" — the possession of which soothed and comforted us, and kept us from being down-trodden by poverty, and being made to feel ourselves miserably poor? Let the believer also never be a gloomy man. If ever any men on earth had cause for gloom the apostles had, when they returned to Jerusalem; but they returned with "great joy." Let us not be gloomy in the world or to the world; let us show it that we have something more than it has. Perhaps men will believe that faith is a real power when they see if able to do something; when, acting from within, it can make us cheerful in times of sadness, and contented in times of reverse and poverty, and patient in times of weariness and pain, and ever hopeful for the future — our horizon being, not the valley .of the shadow of death, but the glorious land which lies beyond. And who knows whether, thus looking beyond this earth, we may not lead others to ask whereon our eyes are fixed, and, it may be, that they also will look onward and upward and join us on our way. One Adrianus, in ancient times, seeing the martyrs suffer such grievous things in the cause of Christ, asked, "What is that which enables them to bear such sufferings?" Then he was told of the "inward" counterbalancing the "outward"; for one of them replied, "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him." And thus was Adrianus won not only to conversion, but to martyrdom also, for he laid down his life manfully for Christ.

(P. B. Power, M. A.)

Continually in the temple, praising and blessing God
I. THE OBJECT OF CHRISTIAN WORSHIP.

1. A human Christ.

2. A living Christ.

3. A glorified Christ.

4. A crucified Christ.

II. THE PLACE OF CHRISTIAN WORSHIP. "The temple." Where two or three are met together in Christ's name.

III. THE TIME OF CHRISTIAN WORSHIP. "Continually." Every day. No opportunity of doing homage to the Saviour should be missed.

IV. THE FORM OF CHRISTIAN WORSHIP. "Praising and blessing God." Magnifying His mercy, and speaking good of His name.

V. THE SPIRIT OF CHRISTIAN WORSHIP. "With great joy." The Christian rejoices in the Saviour's exaltation —

1. For Christ's sake. Reward of redeeming work.

2. For his own sake. A pledge and guarantee of his acceptance and salvation.

3. For the world's sake.

(T. Whitelaw, M. A.)

"Continually in the temple!" Observe that! The disciples were now thoroughly assured that they had an Advocate in the heavenly temple, but this did not withdraw them from the earthly. On the contrary, they seem to have resorted with greater frequency to the courts of the Lord's house, well convinced, by the circumstance of their Master's departure, that they had an Advocate with God, and we may be sure that there is something radically wrong when a sense of the privileges of Christianity produces listlessness, and does not produce earnestness in the use of Christian ordinances. He is not a strong Christian who feels that he can do without sermons and sacraments, any more than it is the appetite of an energetic man, when there is no relish for food. It is no sign of good faith or well-grounded hope that the Christian seems beyond needing the means of grace; as well might you think it a sign of knowledge and security against shipwreck that the mariner was above consulting his chart or making observations. "Those that be planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God."

(H. Melvill, B. D.)

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