Reflections on Ascension Day

What you need to know:

  • ‘‘ Our mission as Christians is to be global citizens who reach out to the world for and on behalf of Jesus.”

In the Church calendar Thursday, May 26, was celebrated as Ascension Day, a day on which Christians remember with great joy Jesus Christ’s departure from the earth into heaven, 40 days after he rose from the dead on Easter Sunday.

Unlike the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the ascension of our Lord is treated in the Gospels more or less like a footnote. Luke’s Gospel gives the story only one paragraph which reads, “Then he led them out of the city as far as Bethany, where he raised his hands and blessed them. As he was blessing them, he departed from them and was taken up into heaven. They worshipped him and went back into Jerusalem, filled with great joy and spent all their time in the Temple giving thanks to God.” Luke 24: 50-53 (GNB)

St Matthew gives the ascension story a little more space. According to Matthew, Jesus Christ’s last words to the 11 disciples were as follows: “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Go, then, to all peoples everywhere and make them my disciples: baptise them in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. And I will be with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28: 18-20 (GNB)

The Great Commission, as the Church calls the last words of Jesus Christ, is a global vision and mission for Christians. Jesus commands all his followers to “make disciples of all nations” big or small. Our mission as Christians is to be global citizens who reach out to the world for and on behalf of Jesus.
It’s a daunting, intimidating and mindboggling challenge and mission, but as Scripture teaches, all things are possible with God. One of the powerful weapons at our disposal is prayer. We must pray unceasingly to God to equip, show us the way and provide the means necessary to accomplish what appears to be an impossible task.

Before he departed, Jesus promised to empower the disciples. He said, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1: 8 (NIV)
The Holy Spirit came like a violent wind 50 days later on a day called Pentecost, after which the disciples were never the same again. The mighty power unleashed by the Holy Spirit enabled the young Church of Christ to grow rapidly. Simon Peter who was neither a scholar nor a theologian, but an ordinary fisherman, worker and a coward became a bold and fearless leader of the disciples. 

The same Peter who because of fear denied Jesus three times when his master was undergoing trial before Pontius Pilate.
Empowered by the Holy Spirit, Peter stood up and addressed a huge crowd which had gathered to witness a strange happening on the day of Pentecost. Some Jews had cynically dismissed the disciples as drunkards. Peter told them, “Fellow Jews and all who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning.” Acts 2: 14-15 (NIV).

Peter proclaimed to the crowd that Jesus, who suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and rose again, is Lord and Christ. He urged Jews to repent and be baptised. The Holy Spirit gave the disciples courage and power to spread the good news without fear or favour. One lesson which Ugandans and Africans can learn from the activities of the disciples and apostles is that the secret of freedom is courage.
 Mr Acemah is a political scientist and retired career diplomat.