Sunday, April 8, 2012

Χριστος ανεστη! Resurrection and Ascension, Where Would We Be Without Him?

We just finished watching The Passion of the Christ, a very hard movie to watch! But, tonight it was fitting to watch a movie that sketched the last hours and Passion of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! Praise the LORD he did not stay dead, but He is Risen, Χριστος ανεστη! The reality of this is overwhelming, and in light of the continued plight of human suffering and angst in the world it is the only news that makes sense of any and all of this. Thomas Torrance has written this as he comments on Scottish Theologian John Knox's understanding of the Resurrection, and then Justification:

[J]ustification is regarded as importing new humanity. The resurrection means that our redemption, our salvation by the death of Christ, is carried through death and hell into the new realm, into the Kingdom where there is no possibility of defeat, decay or destruction. As believers in the death of Christ we believe that we are forgiven, while we remain in the world of sin and decay. But the Resurrection of Christ assures us that the death of Jesus, that the atonement, is not involved in any passing world of decay. Our atonement is Christ and he has by his resurrection passed beyond the read of any defeat – hence the complete finality of atonement and salvation. This resurrection imports more than the victory over death and damnation, for it establishes the fact that just as in his Incarnation the Son of God was really made man as one of us, so we are united with him in his risen humanity and may therefore ever live before God as those whose humanity has been recreated and renewed. We died when Christ died, but we rose again when he rose again.... [Thomas F. Torrance, Scottish Theology: From John Knox to John McLeod Campbell, 20-1]
This truly is worth getting up to hear; isn't it? Jesus went through tormentuous depths to bring us, his beloved into his throne room, with the Father and by the communion of the Holy Spirit. He is seated there now, for real; it all to often seems like, at least to me, that when we talk about 'Theology' and things like this that we end up thinking about all of this in abstractions, even mythically; but NO! He is risen in concrete particular historical physical bodily reality; and in this resurrected glorified body he sits always living to make intercession for us. I know that today we remember his resurrection, but this would remain incomplete without his intercession; wherein his Priestly mode of mediation ensues for us at the right hand of the Father (cf. Heb. 7:25). Torrance writes this as he reflects on hyper significance of the ascension (his points are answering the question "What did the ascension do?"):

(1) It was the completion of the Incarnation event. He who descended also ascended. The very same body which had been born of the Virgin Mary, was crucified, and died was buried, ascended into heaven, for the accomplishment of all things. Thus the saving work of Christ reaches up into eternity, into the ultimate mystery of God.

(2) The union of God and man in Christ was assumed into the immediate presence of God the Father on his throne – there Christ wears our human life, and it is in our name that he is there at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, standing in for us.

(3) In our name and for our comfort he ascended to take possession of his Kingdom, to inaugurate it and enlarge it. There he is given and receives all power in heaven and on earth – there the crucified Christ sits at the right hand of power and glory.

(4) The Heavenly Session of Christ speaks of the fact that he ever lives to make intercession for us as our Advocate and High Priest and only Mediator, and prays and intercedes for us. This is the teaching of the Epistle to the Hebrews, and plays a central role in Knox's doctrine of the Lord's Supper.

(5) In his ascension Christ opened the heavens into which we may appear in him before the throne of the Father's mercy. Christ's ascension is the ground of our comfort and assurance. It is the ascended Christ who sends us his Spirit, the Comforter. Thus the full meaning of the ascension is to be discerned in relation to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Church. It is in this light that the Church of Christ is to be understood, as 'the blessed society which we the members have with our Head and only Mediator Christ Jesus, whom we confess and avow to be the Messiah promised, the only Head of his Kirk, our just Lawgiver, our only High Priest, Advocate and Mediator. [Torrance, Scottish Theology, 21-2]

A lot to be thankful for this resurrection morning and day and life! Not only could death not hold Jesus down, but the heavens could not but receive him into the presence of the Father for us. This is our great hope, and joy and source of deep comfort; Jesus is in the heavenlies, having ripped them open through the veil of his flesh, his broken but now glorified body. We are not orphans, and this all because He is Risen, Χριστος ανεστη!

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