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to the first, and not the second event. Admit the Resurrection, and the Ascension will follow without any difficulty.
But, notwithstanding this infrequency of allu. sion, the Ascension is a most important fact in the life of our Lord, and one that deserves our most careful study. It will be well worth our while to obtain a clear notion of the fact itself, with the reasons for its occurrence, and the results that flow from it.
I. The fact of the Ascension.
In looking at the fact, there are three points that claim our attention, and require a brief discussion. They are the time of its occurrence in the life of our Lord, the place of its occurrence, and the at. tendant circumstances.
1. The time of its occurrence was forty days after the Resurrection. Why this precise number of days was selected is matter of mere conjecture, It was forty days after his birth that he was brought to the temple to be dedicated to the Lord by his parents ; and during forty days he was tempted in the wilderness, before entering on his public ministry; and during forty days he was to remain ou earth after the Resurrection, before entering into glory. It may be that these successive periods of forty days were designed to point backward to the forty years' sojourn in the wilderness before entering Canaan; and not only to link
these histories together, but also present the same great lesson of a season of painful preparation before entering upon the fulfilment of the promise. There is a minute interlacing of analogies between the history of the Jewish people, the history of Jesus, and the history of the followers of Jesus, that cannot be wholly undesigned. They seem designed to show the oneness of God's plan of redemption, however various be its outward form of dispensation or administration.
2. The place of this transaction is stated to have been the Mount of Olives, near Bethany. The Mount of Olives lies between Jerusalem and Bethany. On the one side is the Holy City, separated from it by the valley of Jehoshaphat; on the other is the village of Mary and Martha, separated from the mountain by a little ridge of hills. It was here probably, in the recess furnished by these hills that project from the Mount of Olives and overhang Bethany, that this glorious event occurred. There is a spot on the summit of the mountain, directly in view of the city, which is traditionally designated as the place, and marked by the Chapel of the Ascension. But it is too far from Bethany to meet the terms of the narrative, and too directly in view of the city to comport with the retired character of the event. Hence, the spot that answers best to the narrative is one that is immediately above Bethany, and yet on a
projected spur of Olivet. Mr. Stanley says of this spot:
“On the wild uplands which immediately overhang the village, he withdrew from the eyes of his disciples, in a seclusion which, perhaps, could nowhere else be found so near the stir of a mighty city—the long ridge of Olivet screening those hills, and those hills the village beneath them, from all sound or sight of the city behind, the view opening only on the wide waste of desert rocks and ever-descending valleys, into the depths of the distant Jordan and its mysterious lake. At this point the last interview took place. 'He led them out as far as Bethany,' and 'they returned,' probably by the direct road, over the summit of Mount Olivet. The appropriateness of the real scene presents a singular contrast to the inappropriateness of that fixed by a later fancy, 'seeking for a sign' on the broad top of the mountain, out of sight of Bethany and in full sight of Jerusalem, and thus in equal contradiction to the letter and the spirit of the gospel narrative."*
3. The facts of the scene are few and simple. He may have been with the disciples in one of those nightly meetings, in an upper chamber, which had before been seasons of so much joy to their hearts; and having given them his lessons of wisdom and love, perhaps until the morning began to break on the bills, he led them forth for the last time over Olivet, until they came to that quiet and secluded spot above the village of Bethany, where he had probably spent many an hour in prayer. There, as the rich glow of the coming day was gilding the mountains, and the earth was waking in the gladness of the morning, he held his parting interview with them, and uttered his last words of benediction. Whilst these words were yet on his lips, and the blessing unfinished, he began slowly and majestically to ascend from the ground, still uttering the accents of benediction ; and as he went up, a bright cloud—the Shekinah, the symbol of present Deity, that for so many years hung between the cherubim and above the ark-descended from heaven to meet him, and, enfolding him in its encircling brightness, carried him up until he was lost in the far-off blue of the empyrean and disappeared from their sight. As they gazed wistfully upwards, two bright forms appeared sudddenly to them, and gently chiding them for this longing, tearful, and perhaps doubtful gaze, assured them that this same Jesus should return from heaven in the same way in which he had gone up thither. Cheered by this assurance, they returned to Jerusalem rejoicing.
* Sinai and Palestine, pp. 189, 190.
the question now meets us, Why was this scene in our Lord's history necessary ? That it was necessary is proved, not only by the fact that it actually took place, but also by the predictions of it made by our Lord himself, and also by the Old Testament prophets. In the memorable discourse on the way to Emmaus, he said: “O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into his glory?” The sublime ascription of the 68th Psalm, " Thou hast ascended on high ; thou hast led captivity captive; thou hast received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also, that the Lord God might dwell among them," is expressly referred to the Ascension by Paul, in Eph. iv.9, 10. After quoting this verse from the Psalm, he says: “Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth ? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.” Here Paul not only makes the Ascension matter of ancient prophecy, but states that it was necessary in order that Christ "might fill all things." The Epistle to the Hebrews presents similar views, in yet more elaborate detail. Heb. iv. 14; vi. 20; ix. 12, 24; x. 12. When our Lord met Mary Magdalene he refused to allow her to touch him, with the view she then had of his return to life, because he was