Charles Simeon Commentary - Luke 24:50 - 24:53

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Charles Simeon Commentary - Luke 24:50 - 24:53


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DISCOURSE: 1593

THE ASCENSION OF CHRIST

Luk_24:50-53. And he led them out as far as to Bethany, 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: and were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen.

AMIDST the various proofs given by our Lord to his Disciples respecting his Messiahship, there was one of pre-eminent authority, namely, the ascending up to heaven in their immediate presence. He had not risen in their presence, because his frequent appearances to them for the space of forty days after his resurrection would be a sufficient evidence to them that he had risen: but if, in his ascent to heaven, he had withdrawn privately, they would not have known whither he was gone; since they could not go up thither to obtain a personal interview with him, or to ascertain the truth of his ascension. Hence our blessed Lord, having accomplished all that was necessary to be done on earth, led them out to Mount Olivet, and went up from the midst of them to heaven, giving them ocular demonstration that his removal from them was such as he had taught them to expect: “I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father [Note: Joh_16:28.].”

In the account here given us by St. Luke, we notice two things;

I.       Our Lord’s departure from his Disciples—

“Having loved his own, he loved them to the end;” and expressed his love to them most particularly in the very instant of his departure: “He lifted up his hands, and blessed them:” and it was in this very act that he was taken up from them; “While he blessed them, he was parted from them.” Now his removal in the midst of this act ought not to be passed over as a mere accidental and uninteresting occurrence; it surely may be considered as intimating to us,

1.       What was his object in coming into the world

[We are told by St. Peter, that “God sent him to bless us [Note: Act_3:26.].” Man was cursed, as a transgressor of God’s law: nor could he, by any means, remove the curse or obtain any blessing whatever. Sin interposed an insurmountable obstacle in his way. But Jesus undertook to remove this obstacle: to expiate the guilt of sin by the sacrifice of himself, and thus to open a way for man’s reconciliation with his offended God. This sacrifice he had now offered, and had “finished the work which God had given him to do.” Now therefore he authoritatively pronounced his Disciples blessed: blessed, as believing in his name; blessed, as interested in his death; blessed, as committed to his protection; and blessed, as fellow-heirs of his glory. Just as the high-priest, after offering his sacrifice, was to bless the people [Note: Lev_9:22.], so now Jesus intimated that the end of his incarnation was accomplished, and that, as our Great High-priest, he was empowered to bless his people with all spiritual and eternal blessings [Note: Gen_14:18-20.].]

2.       What should be his occupation when he was departed from it

[He was not now going to relinquish their concerns: on the contrary, he would still be as mindful of them as ever. He was going to heaven upon their business; “as their forerunner,” “to prepare places for them;” “to make continual intercession for them;” to take on himself the management of the universe for them;” and to receive a fulness of all gifts and graces for them, that “they might receive out of it” according to their several necessities. His removal, though it interrupted the sight of his person, and the hearing of his voice, should not interrupt the communication of his blessings: He would still load his Disciples with the richest blessings, and “not them only, but also all who should believe in him through their word:” and, if we now look to him with the eye of faith, we may behold him, as it were, at this very instant occupied as he was at the moment of his departure from the world: he is still blessing, blessing, blessing his believing people: “having received gifts for men, he is daily and hourly bestowing them, even on the most rebellious, that the Lord God may dwell among them [Note: Psa_68:18.]:” yea, he will yet further extend his favours to the remotest corners of the earth: for “in him shall all the nations of the earth be blessed [Note: Gen_12:3. Psa_72:17.].”]

If we look only to the past history, we shall be surprised at,

II.      The effect it produced upon them—

When our Lord had told them of his intended departure, they were “filled with sorrow;” but now that he was really gone, they were altogether as full of joy: but they were now better instructed in the nature of his kingdom than they had been before. Indeed even to the last they retained some expectation of a temporal kingdom [Note: Act_1:6-7.]: but his departure from them effectually dissipated that delusion; and taught them to look up to him for far higher blessings.

Now the effect which was produced in them by the sight of his ascension, ought equally to be wrought in us by the recollection of it; and I shall have addressed you to no purpose, if you do not depart from this place with a measure of those very feelings with which the Apostles were impressed on this occasion. I call upon you therefore now,

1.       To adore him—

[He is worthy of all adoration: nor can we doubt but that the “worship” paid to him by his Disciples, was such as they paid to Jehovah himself. The prayer which they almost immediately afterwards offered up to heaven for the appointment of a successor to Judas, was addressed to Him [Note: Act_1:24.], just as Stephen’s afterwards was, at the very time that he beheld the Father himself sitting on his throne [Note: Act_7:59-60.]. Let us then adore Him as our incarnate God: and remember that, in so doing, we most truly and acceptably serve our heavenly Father [Note: Joh_5:22-23. Php_2:9-14.].]

2.       To rejoice in him—

[Who can contemplate Him seated on his throne of glory, and constituted “Head over all things to his Church,” and not rejoice in him? We are commanded to “rejoice in him always [Note: Php_4:4.]:” such joy is the characteristic mark of all his people [Note: Php_3:3.]: and it ought to he as elevated and as fervent, as our feeble nature will admit of [Note: 1Pe_1:8.]. If the Apostles, notwithstanding they were bereft of his bodily presence, and were as yet but partially acquainted with the benefits that were to result from his ascension, “returned to Jerusalem with great joy,” much more should we, to whom the full extent of those benefits is opened, “rejoice with exceeding great joy.” Let Israel then “rejoice in him that made him and redeemed him; let the children of Zion be joyful in their King [Note: Psa_149:2.].”]

3.       To consecrate ourselves to him—

[The Apostles from this time appear to have given themselves up wholly to the exercises of devotion. This was right in their peculiar circumstances; but was not intended as a precedent for us. We have civil and social duties that call for our attention, and which must on no account be neglected. Yet, as far as relates to the affections of the soul, we must consecrate ourselves as entirely to God as they. We should be “sanctified wholly to the Lord, in body, soul, and spirit [Note: 1Th_5:23.].” He has “bought us with a price; therefore we should glorify him with our bodies and our spirits, which are his [Note: 1Co_6:20.].” Let us then serve him in his temple at the appointed seasons of public worship; and let us serve him in our closets, where no eye seeth us but his.]

4.       To wait for the accomplishment of all his promises—

[Our Lord had promised to his Disciples, that “they should in the space of a few days be baptized with the Holy Ghost;” and had told them to wait at Jerusalem for that gift [Note: ver. 49 and Act_1:4-5.]. At Jerusalem therefore they waited in expectation of the promised blessing. And have we no promises to be fulfilled to us? Has he not given us “exceeding great and precious promises,” comprehending every thing that we can desire for body or for soul, for time or for eternity? Let us then wait for the accomplishment of them to our souls. In due time “Jesus will come again from heaven in like manner as he went to heaven:” and then will that last promise be fulfilled, “I will come again and take you to myself, that where I am, there ye may be also.” O that in the mean time he may find us with “our loins girt, and our lamps trimmed,” and ourselves as those who “wait for the coming of their Lord!”]