I have just received a glossy brochure from Elections Ontario. On the cover the word “VOTE” is enscribed in big, bold letters. Along with the brochure came my voter registration card, entitling me to vote in the provincial election on June 12. The same mail also contained a flyer urging me who not to vote for. In our culture, an election is an important, often passionate, event.
On Sunday, June 1, we at The First Mennonite Church, along with the wider church, will celebrate the ascension of Jesus. Jesus’s ascension to heaven, as reported in Acts 1:6-11, marks the end of his 40 days of appearances following his resurrection. Though it comes as a bit of an afterthought in the fading glow of the Easter season, the ascension is also an important event.
What do the coming election and the ascension have in common?
Well, not much, if you think the ascension is only about physics. Sometimes that is how it is portrayed–as a miracle of physics, in which Jesus contravenes the law of gravity and levitates upward into the sky. (Once in a Vacation Bible School class I used helium balloons to illustrate the ascension. They went, up, up, up, rising heavenward over the skies of Huron County, Ontario to land, who knows where, probably in the watery depths of Lake Huron 2 miles away.)
But the ascension is not about physics. It is about politics. It is about what government is running the cosmos, and who is in charge of our world.
The ascension declares an important truth that is not self-evident—that Jesus has become Lord of the world. Elsewhere the New Testament speaks of Jesus being seated at the right hand of God (e.g. Hebrews 12:2). The right hand is the hand of power and authority. Your “right-hand man” or woman is the one on whom you rely to get the job done, the one to whom you delegate authority and vital tasks. Jesus “going up” to God’s right hand means that a new government has been formed, with him as its head.
And that is the gospel. Jesus’s ascension confirms that his death and resurrection have defeated the powers of evil. Even though those powers are still active, their reign is over, and one day they will disappear. Because of Jesus’s ascension, and his lordship over all things, we have the sure hope that God’s work to establish a society where people from every nation, sex, race and social class can live harmoniously together will be accomplished.
I expect to vote on June 12. But regardless of which party wins and forms Ontario’s next government, we know who is really in charge. Thanks to his resurrection and ascension, our premier is Jesus, who rules in ways quite different from worldly governments. Thanks to Jesus’s enthronement as Lord over all, we have confidence that God’s will one day will “be done on earth as it is in heaven.” And that is really good news, much, much better than my favorite political party winning on June 12.