ascension: earthy jesus disappeared jesus

12 05 2010


A lot of what Jesus says and does is very earthy and very tangible. I like that. He doesn’t hide away from the madness and mess of the world. He tells stories about farming and woodwork and camels and banking and baking and mugging and trees; he heals people by touch, by his spit, through broken roofs; he hangs out with the dodgy and the violent, the prostitutes, tax exiles, and the wealthy, the religious. He gets stuck into religion and politics and community. His birth and his death are very earthy. Even the resurrection is earthy.

Then comes the ascension. I don’t like the ascension. It is odd. It seems like a bit of a damp squib. He just… disappeared. Religious art doesn’t help, pictures of a group of men gazing longingly up to the sky, Jesus’ feet sticking out from a cloud… An embarrassing image for earthy evangelicals. What is it all about?


Jesus is still physical. He is not a floating disembodied spirit. He is as we will be. Jesus is in the place where God rules entirely and completely. We call that place – that dimension – heaven. He is our representative in heaven, at the right hand of God. Why did he go? Because his physical work here was done. My response is something like “Wow!” and “So what?” Because what about us, here, living in the madness and mess of our world? This tangible, earthy stuff – where is God in all this? Why did he go ‘up there’ and leave us to it? From such an earthy Jesus to a disappeared Jesus? It makes me cross.

But there is something that connects the mystery of the ascension and the madness of the world, connects God’s tangible presence in heaven and his tangible presence on earth. Something unexpected and profound. What?

Us. We are the connection. Jesus did not leave us, but lives in us. And Jesus did that because he trusts us. He trusts us to be his representatives. I know, what a silly idea.

But how would it be if Jesus was still here physically? As most of us humans are essentially lazy, we would probably leave most of it to him. Jesus, could you just do this, help me with this.


Someone asks a question and we’d wait for Jesus to answer. But he trusts us to answer them. People we would love him to come and pray for. But he trusts us to pray for them. Messages from him we would love for him to speak out loud, but he trusts us to listen to God and speak them. Kids out there and on the roof we would love him to meet with, but he trusts us to meet with them. All those encounters Jesus had with undesirables and sinners – he trusts us to carry on with that. That care he showed for the outcast, for the poor in spirit – he trusts us to carry on with that. Electing a government? He even trusts us with that.

Jesus is God’s tangible presence in heaven, and we are God’s tangible presence on earth. The mystery and the madness, joined by the trust he places in us. The ascension brought down to earth. That is a coalition to be proud of.

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8 responses

12 05 2010

I wonder whether one of the reasons we struggle with the Ascension is that it gets in touch with Spiritual experience and is inexplicable in earethy scientific terms. Early Christians weren’t like that but we have allowed ourselves to be seduced by the scientific age so that everything must be capable of being explained by science or it is embarrasing and not real.

Actually science can’t explain everything – music, love creation … We need to delight in spiritual experiences as well as learning and to allow ourselves to believe in what we can’t understand. A coalition of logic and faith?

12 05 2010

Not bad at all! Not sure I’d completely agree with you on the point that Jesus’ resurrection is ‘earthy’ (I might have misunderstood how you are using the word): it is spiritual as well, but it was certainly ‘tangible’ and definitely a bodily resurrection. Also, I was a bit confused as to the idea of Jesus living in Christians: it is certainly true that the Holy Spirit is living in Christians (e.g. Romans 8 v 9), but I wasn’t sure about the idea of Jesus being in us. I then read on to Romans 8 v 10…

Certainly a challenge to think when was the last time we tried reaching out “to the dodgy and the violent, the prostitutes” etc., of course they need the Good News of Jesus Christ as much as the wealthy and people who think they are basically ‘alright’. Good paragraph at the end to encourage not just expecting God to do everything for us, but instead being courageous in faith!

12 05 2010

Thanks SGR – the question about which part of God lives in us is a huge question in a small package! Shorthand we say Jesus lives in us (it’s easy and cheesy!), but do we mean Jesus, or the Spirit of Jesus, or the Holy Spirit, or Trinity Pt 3, or are they the same thing!? How does the Trinity work…? Discuss!

15 05 2010
Dai Adem

Who cares? How many angels can stand on the head of a pin?

Isn’t the Trinity man’s sgorthand way of explaining the inexplicable. I supposae that discussing it does save us having to discuss things that really affect opur lives and might ask us challenging questions.

18 05 2010

Does God live in us or do we live in God?

“There is much talk in church circles about God being within us, as though He were a possession. There is almost an implicaton that we are big enough to contain Him and that He is only a part of us. There is even the greater danger of suggesing that we can cage Him or control Him. It would be far more revealing to say that we are ‘in’ God: ‘In Him we live and move and have our being’. (David Adam, ‘The Eye of the Eagle’)

Just read the above and thought it was interesting!

19 05 2010

Indeed… We are in God and he is in us; we are places where the 2 dimensions of earth and heaven meet, where the sky is thin and the kingdom is breaking through… instead of choosing the Holy of Holies in the Temple God chooses to reside and be especially present (or revealed?) in us, near us, around us. Not because we are holy or special, but because that is his gift. Like the rift in the space-time continuum (in Torchwood) through which creatures from another dimension come – in this case, God himself is present on earth through us.

Something like that?! It’s complicated, and I think is more important than angels dancing on a pin, but only in the right context!

3 06 2011
Paul SB

Ascension is one of THE deep truths we overlook – like stumbling across THAT piece of music among all your old cassettes/LPs and realising something so special has been right under your nose the whole time. ‘God has made us not simply spectators of the power of God,’ taught Greg of Nyssa, ‘but also participants in his very nature.’ This participation-thing is at the root of it all (and as earthy as you describe, comrade)…eucharist, baptism, healing, included.

Like you, the old feet-into-the-cloud stuff does nothing for me (or most people), but here’s some Herbert McCabe to give you an idea why I’m an Ascension-freak nowadays:

‘Our gospel is not just that we are saved from sin but that we are taken up into the life of God himself, that we are raised beyond simple humanity, even beyond sinless humanity, beyond even creaturehood to have a share in divinity itself.’ (those flying feet are yours!)

Love the blog. Px

17 05 2012

interesting that the trinity isnt such a problem for a pagan since i believe in an energy that is within everyone and all things so the concept of seperate beings or one entity is not an issue. Kind of like stop being on the stage where you can see him, but still in the wings as a prompt. I do like the idea of what would happen if jesus was here now, a famous comedien once did a skit about a nightclub where the bouncer said “nice boots Hitler come in, f*ck off jesus no sandals”.

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