Now He was going home… In seven words the years of labor and sorrow end: “While they beheld, He was taken up.”… There were no bells and banners on earth, but surely the trumpets on the other side sounded as they had never sounded before… Surely the chiming golden bells of heaven sang their welcome, and angel choirs intoned the song of the throne: “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength.” … On the anvils of God the nails had been forged into the scepter of a king… “He was taken up.” … The angel hosts sweep to either side, leaving the way clear to the Eternal Light that no longer blinds the eyes of us who stand gazing after Him… He leads a process which comes from the ends of time and space, all the harvest of all the white fields the world has even known, the pilgrims of the night who come at last to the dawn of an everlasting day… “He was taken up.” … The Child of the manger, the praying heart on the starlit lanes of Galilee, the hunger in the wilderness, the weariness of the Sychar Well, the tears of the Garden and the Hill, the thirst of the Cross – all over now… The robes of the Transfiguration once momentary, now clothe Him forever, and angels and archangels sound the great doxology of His waiting Church: “Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever.”…
An old story – perhaps too old for us to do more than glimpse its glory… And yet – we ought to remember it more clearly… It was the solemn moment in the story of God and man when the visible Christ became the invisible Christ… From that hour everything concerning Him became visible only to the eyes of faith… The final line of demarcation in the world – between those who believe and those who refuse to believe – was now clear… Men can say that all this is not true and use the mind of man to reject the mind of God, or they can know that God once walked among them and that they now have a Friend in heaven who knows all that earth and time and pain can do to man…
The Ascension did not take Jesus away… It brought heaven near… In the realm in which He now reigns time and space have no meaning… There is no up and down, no near and far, nor darkness, and no distance in the world of faith… He is as near as yesterday’s prayer, today’s joy, and tomorrow’s sorrow… His homecoming has made heaven a home for us who still walk far from home… Wherefore stand we gazing into heaven?… Our momentary task is here, but through the slow dimming of the years we see the evening lights of home tended by the pierced hands of Him who has gone to prepare a place for us… Is there a better way to life – or die?… All that we have to do now is to believe and follow:
The lapping sea of death before his feet
Crept near; the wind was wild;
But he, who knew the One he came to meet,
Saw it and smiled.
Stepping without a hesitating word
Into the icy tide,
As if he saw the footprints of his Lord
Gleam at his side,
Borne up by Love that gave as he had given,
He crossed the midnight foam
And laid his hand upon the door of heaven
Like one returning home.
[The Pilgrim, pp. 14-16]