Jesus Corona and Clapping
Jesus, ‘Corona’ and Clapping!
33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. 34 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,
Lord said to my Lord,
Sit at my right hand,
35 until I make your enemies your footstool.’
36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
Pentecost Sunday has come and gone. So did Ascension Day, a Thursday or two ago, passing ‘under our radar‘ in its annually unobtrusive way. The Ascension of Jesus often seems the most under-rated, underfunded festival in the Church’s worship calendar.
This is strange, considering the significance of Ascension Day for us and for our world. If Christmas celebrates Christ’s birthday, Ascension Day celebrates
his Coronation, his triumphant enthronement.
33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God….36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
Of course Christ’s ascension – as the apostle Paul affirms – is a great ‘mystery’, ‘beyond our ken’, but revealed to us in the gospel (1 Timothy 3:16).
After all, we might well wonder: ‘Where did he go?’ Not, say the theologians, to a remote geographical location beyond the stars in outer space called ‘heaven’. Rather, Jesus ascends to that ‘special space’ – the transcendent realm – where God dwells with his angelic attendants – his own ‘relational space’ where he ‘makes room’ for us in his act of salvation (see Ephesians 1:3).
And our salvation depends on it utterly.
Jesus’ re-entry to that realm signifies the completion of his saving work in entering the world at Bethlehem. His ascension and exaltation is the climax (though not the end) of his saving career which governs our ongoing relationship with him and the Father and guarantees our future glory and creation’s restoration.
The headlines – the breaking news:
He shares our flesh and blood humanity… he faces our temptations… he fights and wins our battles… he bears our sins… he dies our death… and now risen and ascended, he wears our crown, the victor’s crown! (Read all about it in Hebrews chapter 2 for a start!)
Quaint note: ‘corona’ is the Latin for ‘crown’!!
His is the ultimate victory over every virus.
In these weeks of lockdown, our sedate Thursday evenings have been cheerfully interrupted by the very un-English habit of clapping in public – clapping in doorsteps, from bedroom windows, on the streets in front of the neighbours no less! – applause for our frontline NHS workers. Credit richly deserved.
Annemarie Plas, the Dutch national living in London whose initiative it was, now suggests we might discontinue the gesture. Perhaps we Christians might take up the slack – discreetly of course – no one wants to be accused of being ‘happy clappy’!
In ancient Judah, Jehoiada the priest oversaw the accession to the throne of the boy king, Joash: Then he brought out the king’s son and put the crown on him and gave him the testimony. And they proclaimed him king and anointed him, and they clapped their hands
and said: “Long live the King!” (2 Kings 11:12).
Psalm 47, traditionally associated with Ascension of the King, calls for applause from all corners:
your hands, all peoples!
Shout to God with loud songs of joy!
2 For the Lord, the Most High, is to be feared,
a great king over all the earth.
has gone up with a shout,
the Lord with the sound of a trumpet.
6 Sing praises to God, sing praises!
Sing praises to our King, sing praises!
7 For God is the King of all the earth;
sing praises with a psalm!
In Jesus, our God has gone up, just as he came down to save us.
Our Saviour is worthy to be clapped: the Frontline Worker in the fight against sin and evil and death; our Forerunner in the victory over it all.
The famous 16th century Heidelberg Catechism gives three answers to the question of the Ascension of Jesus:
“First, He pleads our cause in heaven in the presence of the Father.”
The ascended Christ, our great High Priest, intercedes for us continually.
What comfort it brings to know that Jesus is praying for you right now.
“Second, we have our own flesh in heaven – a guarantee that Christ our head will take us, his members, to himself in heaven.” The incarnation is ongoing.
Our perfected humanity is within the Godhead! ‘As the God-Human Jesus, he who was humbled unto death and hell has been lifted up to the highest heaven, to take human nature where it has never gone before’ (Gerrit Scott Dawson).
His status there guarantees our glorification, not least the full redemption of our flesh-and-blood existence in the resurrection of our bodies.
“Third, then, he sends his Spirit to us on earth as a further guarantee…”
33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.
Remarkably, the exalted Jesus first receives the promised Holy Spirit from the Father and then pours him out on the waiting disciples.
So, in Robert Barron’s words, ‘...the Ascension and Pentecost are linked: in the Ascension something of earth moves into the heavenly sphere, and at Pentecost, something of heaven, the Holy Spirit – invades the earth’ - a token of the ultimate reconciliation of heaven and earth (Revelation 21).
Personally and for the church, it means God’s love poured into our hearts,
the charismatic gifts showered on the church, the messianic anointing put on us to be the king’s people, the Spirit of the new covenant put within us to give us hope and to make us holy, and at all times inspiring us to cry “Abba! Father”….
The Holy Spirit is truly the crowning–gift of the ascended Christ.
And he is the Gift that goes on giving…
And as the old Catechism says: “By the Spirit’s power we make the goal of our lives, not earthly things, but the things above where Christ is, sitting at God’s right hand.”
It’s enough to make you ‘happy-clappy’.
My sincere love to you. Especially in these heavy, fear-ridden and frustrating days, let’s go on being filled with the blessed Holy Spirit.