I Ascend to My Father (John 20:11-18, Acts 1:9-11)

I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God. (Jn 20:17)

In what was the first, and perhaps most poignant of Jesus’ post resurrection appearances, Jesus initiated a “heavenly conference,” with a woman who, save His own mother and possibly closest of disciples, was the person who loved Jesus most during His tenure on earth – Mary Magdalene. Overwhelmed with joy to see her “Rabboni” alive again after she witnessed Him crucified and laid in a tomb, Mary held onto Jesus tightly, lest He be taken from her again. In what is an often misunderstood injunction, Jesus told Mary not to cling to Him, for he had not yet ascended to the Father (Jn 20:17). What could Jesus have meant by this statement? As much as this reconciliation between Jesus and Mary brought joy to both, there was something more important on Jesus mind that would change the way all people, including Mary, would relate to Him afterward. Puritan Richard Sibbes writes, “All Christ’s mind was on ascending. Those that are risen together with Christ, their mind is all on ascension, all on Heaven. And this is one main reason, because where anything is imperfect, there the spirit resteth not, till it attaineth to that perfection, that it is destinated unto.”

This Sunday, as the minds of Christendom turn to the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we will consider why Jesus said these words to Mary and how they apply to our relationship with Him today. We will also contemplate the often neglected doctrine of Jesus’ ascension, which is very much linked to His resurrection. At a key moment in this garden conversation, Jesus said to Mary, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” Sibbes describes this affirmation as, “the most fundamental comfort we have. For from this, that God is our God, cometh all that we have that is good in nature and grace. Whatsoever is comfortable cometh from this spring, that God in Christ is our God, our reconciled God.”

Jesus Christ’s ascension to occupy His present abode at the right hand of His Father is significant to the Christian for several reasons. Robert Ramey writes, “Easter is incomplete, Pentecost is impeded, and the Second Coming is impossible without the ascension.” Where is Jesus now? Why is that important to us? How is the ascension necessary to maintain the truth of the Gospel? What prayer of Jesus is answered in His ascension? And what does His ascension mean to the church at present and in the future?

John 2:1-11 The Feast

… the headwaiter called the bridegroom, and said to him, “Every man serves the good wine first, and when men have drunk freely, then that which is poorer; you have kept the good wine until now.”

The world and Satan have a way of first offering us “good wine,” the end of which leads to bitterness and destruction. First the pleasures of sin, and then the wages of sin. But with God it is the very opposite; He brings His people into the wilderness before He brings them into the promised inheritance. The rule of Christ’s kingdom is first the cross, then the crown. While the first cup of Christ’s table is often bitter – he saves the “best wine” for last. As believers we have a better wine that is to come. Whatever we are able to drink of the cup of the fruits of the Spirit, in this life, even yet, the best wine remains for a future time. As every rose has its thorns in this world, so the “love” we drink of today is tainted with selfish motives; the “joy” we drink of today can be mixed with melancholy; the “peace” we drink today is dashed with anxiety. The cares of this world will come, doubts will arise; as we live in this world, thorns in the flesh must come. But Hallelujah! He is Coming! Brethren, for us, the best wine is yet to come: “The path of the righteous is as the shining light, that shines more and more unto the perfect day” (Prov. 4:18). What great wine we shall drink with Him in the kingdom! Jesus Christ, who came once and died for us on Calvary’s cross, is coming again in glory, no longer as a sin-bearer, but with the cup of salvation and of thanksgiving, joyously to take unto Himself the throne of his father David.

The natural man partakes of a “wine” that produces a carnal happiness; but how unsatisfying and fleeting this is! Though he may drink in the company of many, though he may be comfortable and well off in this life, yet the time comes when he discovers he has “no wine.” Such a discovery of our own emptiness is often the turning point. It prepares us to look to that One who is ready “to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness” (Isa. 61:3). There is only One who can turn the water of your lifeless living into good wine, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ. He alone quenches the thirst of the heart.

Why is it that our Heavenly Father does not allow us the best wine now? Because He is giving us a thirst for it. God is, making his children thirsty, that we may desire eternal and heavenly things. Would heaven be so sweet, if we had not first dwelt on earth? Who knows best the sweetness of rest but the hard worker? Who understands best the joy of peace if not the solider? Who knows most the sweetness of joy? Is it not the man who hath passed through the greatest of sorrows? Having our appetites sharpened by these trials, we are being made ready to receive the fullness of joy that is in the presence of God for ever.

Search the Scripture for five different examples or precepts where the world offers the best wine first, then that which is worse (eg. Judas offered money and power, but ended up hanging himself – Matt 26:14-15, 27:5)

Listen to this message here: