Have you ever watched a balloon let go of by the hand of a little child? Have you watched it climb higher and higher and higher into the air, until it was just a small little red speck in the sky carried away by the wind? Have you wondered how far it went? Have you wondered how the different air pressure changed it as it climbed (our meteorologists could probably answer that)? [cut here]
Today is the liturgical celebration of the Ascension, 40 days after Easter Sunday. The book of Acts and the Gospels according to Luke and Mark all record Jesus’ ascension into heaven. In fact, this day, although not celebrated much in our era, was one of the chief celebrations of the early church. I’ve always thought that ifwe were going to reclaim a celebration of this day, it should be with a massive balloon release, like what happens traditionally happens after the first touchdown at a Nebraska Cornhuskers game (although we’ll have to find environmentally friendly balloons).
There is something mesmerizing about watching a balloon float up into the sky, and so I can understand why it seems that the disciples were similarly entranced as they watched Jesus float up until they were interrupted by the angels (read the account in Acts 1). But Jesus’ ascension means much more than just a captivating vision – it means that Jesus is still human – and that is good news.
When Jesus ascended into the heavens, He did so bodily. His Resurrected Body is different than ours in some ways, but it is still a body. Because He still had a body – a human body – when He left the world, we are left knowing that He is still with a human body. He is still human. He is still our Brother, who paid the price for us to join His family by taking our flesh upon Himself and being crucified for our sins. Because of that, we know we will join Him one day.
So if today you let go of a balloon in celebration of Ascension, or if you just imagine one floating up into the sky – if you begin to wonder where that balloon will end up, say to yourself “I don’t know where that balloon ended up, but I know where Jesus did, and I will go and be with Him too.”