The charge that traditional creed recitation could become hollow perhaps rings true especially for the case of ascension of Jesus. What does it mean to recite weekly that “he ascended into heaven”? Where did he ‘stay’ when he appeared to his disciples before he ascended into heaven, was it on earth or in heaven? If he ascended into heaven forty days after he was raised, why did Paul group the post-ascension appearance of Jesus to him together with the pre-ascension appearances of Jesus to other disciples?
Nevertheless, we need to admit that the creed flows nicely. Jesus was conceived, was born, suffered, was crucified, died, was buried, “descended into hell” (another story for another night), was raised, ascended into heaven, and then he will come again. The narrative is neat. He died and was raised. He “descended into hell” and “ascended into heaven.” Things come in pairs.
A metaphor that might be useful to illustrate the ascension of Jesus is his kingship. Let us begin with his baptism, where he was anointed as king. But, he has not gained his throne yet, like David, who was not enthroned yet after he was anointed. The king was still on his journey to his throne. And he fought his battle through his journey. What kind of battle that he fought in? Not by swords and machetes, but by loaves and fishes. He heals. He feeds. He teaches.
And the king met his opposition as well. He was rejected, he was put on trial, and finally he was executed. Is it the end of the king, then? Have we put our hope in a false king? By no means! He was raised again on the third day. The king didn’t lose. He won. And, finally, after he won the battle, he could take upon his throne. He is now officially the king. To use the words from the creed, “he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.”
Happy Ascension Day.