Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them.  While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven.  And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy,  and were continually in the temple blessing God. (Luke 24:50-53 ESV)
Taking leave of your loved ones is never easy. Sometimes there are goodbye’s where we even have to say to Christian brothers and sisters, “see you in heaven!” The thought of parting always fills us with sorrow . Now Jesus had come to the end of His time on earth. In John 17 :4 -11 He said to His Father in His high priestly prayer :
“I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.  “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.  Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you.  For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.  I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.  All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them.  And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. “
It was now time for Jesus to go back (to ascend) to the Father and amazingly, we read here that this parting was not characterised by grief or sorrow – it was characterised by great joy (Gr. charas megalēs) … and they worshiped Him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy !
What made the disciples so ‘greatly joyful’ at Christ’s ascension that thoughts of parting were overshadowed by this worshipping joy ? And what implication might the thought of the ascension have on our joy today ?
There are at least four reasons why Jesus’ ascension, properly understood, should bring us joy :
(i) The thought of His finished work
(ii) The thought of His present heavenly ministry
(iii) The thought of our empowerment for effective ministry in this world
(iv) The thought of His return, and our finished work
1. We may be joyful because we know that His work is truly finished .
I don’t know about you , but my present work never seems to be finished .There are aspects here and there where I can say , “ Well, thank God that this is now finished”, but then when I look at the bigger picture, there is still so much that is not finished, and it won’t be finished until Jesus returns. The Lord Jesus, however at this moment can truly say that His work on earth for the purpose for which He was sent , was now finished! There was nothing more left to do. He could go back to the Father knowing that He had glorified Him on earth , having accomplished the work that the Father had given Him to do (Jn 17:4)
The night before He died, He told His disciples : “I came from the Father and have come into the world and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father” (Jn 16:28). His work was finished !
But how can that fact make us joyful ? Let us think about this for a moment . The finished work of Christ was His work for us on the cross . The work of the cross was to make atonement for sin – to purchase a people for God with the price of His own blood , so that they could be freed from that sin which would keep them out of heaven! That was the purpose of His first coming. Before Jesus was born an angel had appeared to Joseph and he told Joseph plainly, “Call Him Jesus because “He will save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). Jesus affirmed this in Luke 19:10, when He said “ For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
If you are a Christian today be joyful because He has now finished His work for you and therefore, “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” ( Rom 8:1). Your sins are forgiven in His name. You are reconciled to God through Jesus’ blood. You are now ready for heaven . Therefore you can worship Him and rejoice because His earthly ministry for you and for all His church is now completed. Nothing more needs to be added .
The only thing that you can do is to be obedient to His commission for you to share the good news among all the nations in your generation, so that there also God’s elect people may hear , believe and be saved from their sin and go to heaven !
2. We may be joyful because Jesus has commenced His heavenly ministry.
In John’s gospel (Jn 13 – 17) Jesus had told the disciples in the upper room a number of times that He was going away from them . At that stage their hearts were troubled and He needed to remind them, “If you loved Me, you would have rejoiced because I go to the Father, for the Father is greater than I” (John 14:28). In returning to the Father, He would be restored to that place of glory and power that was His before He became the incarnate Son of God.
How does Jesus ascension to heaven help us today ? How can that though make us joyful ? Consider these 4 facts :
(i) We are joyful because we have a glorious, enthroned King in heaven . He is our representative and guarantee before the Father. Jesus is our man in heaven. He is our Advocate before the Father ; He is our brother ; He is the firstborn from the dead and the hope of our resurrection . In our resurrected bodies we will, one day, share His glory. But think also about this: He is now worshiped, loved and adored by our dear departed brothers and sisters who are before the throne where they say, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honour and glory and blessing.” They also say : “To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever” (Rev. 5:12, 13).
(ii) We are joyful He intercedes for us in heaven. (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25). This prayer involves not only presenting our prayer petitions and needs before the Father. Heb. 9:24 tells us that He appears in the presence of God on our behalf . 1 John 2:1, 2 tells us that he is our Advocate in heaven . Therefore we have continual access to God through Jesus our Advocate.
(iii) We are joyful because He said that He was going to prepare a place for us that we may be where He is. (John 14:1-3).
(iv) We are joyful that at the ascension Jesus has declared His dominion over heaven and earth. Peter tells us that Jesus is now “at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him” (1 Pet. 3:22). Paul says that Jesus is seated at God’s “right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet” (Eph. 1:20b-22a). There is, of course a sense in which all things are not yet subject to Him (1 Cor. 15:27-28; Ps. 110:1; Heb. 10:13). But when He comes again in power and glory, He will conquer every enemy and reign forever and ever. So, it is as good as done , and this fills us with joy .
3. We may be joyful because now we are empowered to effectively continue His work in the world until He comes.
Why did the Lord Jesus not take His followers with Him into heaven when He ascended? The answer is simple . He has work for them to do in His name. Future generations still have to be reached. The church’s mission is to continue to proclaim the saving work of Jesus to every generation and to all nations . However, the Lord Jesus also knew that in ourselves we could not do it. He told the disciples, “It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper shall not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you” (John 16:7). So , He had to provide His church with power and authority. For this reason the church had to wait until it was endued with His power (Lk 24:49 ; Acts 1:4,8) and so we see then that when Christ ascended, the Holy Spirit descended. Jesus had promised: “ I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you .” (Jn. 14:18) . It is essential that we are clothed with the power of the Holy Spirit if we want to succeed in that mission. So, thank God that we have the Holy Spirit. Let our work be done His strength alone.
4. We may be joyful at the thought of His return and the prospect of our finished work .
The promise of Christ’s ascension is also the promise of His descension, that is , His second coming. No man knows the day or hour (Matt. 24:36). We are to be prepared at all times ( Matt 25:1-13). But this we know , that when He comes , our work will be done and then we too shall ascend with Christ to heaven (John 14:3; 1 Thess 4:17). Then too, all suffering , challenges , tears , sorrow , sadness, sickness, pain etc. will be over and our work will be done , and our eternal rest (Hebr. 4:9-16) will begin.
Three Principles for joyful work :
a. We need Christ’s blessing in order to be effective representatives for Him in the world . Note that He blessed the disciples before He left ( Lk 24:51 ; ; Acts 1:12). “He lifted up His hands and he blessed them. While He was blessing them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven” (Luke 24:50b-51). The picture is that of the Old Testament priest blessing the people after offering the sacrifice for them (Lev. 9:22). Jesus wasn’t just wishing the disciples well when He blessed them. His blessing was absolutely essential for them and for us, if we are to carry on His work. Without Jesus’ blessing, we may have an outwardly successful ministry , but it will all be burned up . “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain ” (Ps. 127:1). In God’s work, His blessing means everything. Seek God’s blessing before man’s approval!
b. We must learn to worship Him before we work for Him. Worship should always precede work. Any work we do for the Lord should be the overflow of our hearts being full of adoration and love for Him. We hear a lot about burnout in ministry. One major cause of burnout is when our work gets ahead of our worship. Jesus lifted up His hands in blessing and they were nail pierced hands! He has done the work . He has purchased a people . Your and my job is not to die for people – nor to save them . We are to be worshippers first and then to do our work to proclaim the gospel , and as people hear the gospel we are confident that His sheep will hear His voice and be drawn to their and our Saviour .
c. We must learn to bless God because of His great blessings to us . In v 50, Jesus blessed the disciples; in v 53, the disciples are in the temple, continually blessing God. So , when the disciples see the risen and ascended Savior, they go away praising (lit., “blessing”) God. God has blessed us with all the promises of His Word and we in turn bless God for His Word.
Dear brothers and sisters , I trust that this brief meditation on the ascension of Christ has helped you to worship your Lord Jesus with greater joy ! Amen !
 Incidentally , He was not denying His own deity ( Godhood) , but rather was referring to the limitations of His humanity. Remember, that during His earthly ministry, Jesus voluntarily limited Himself in dependence upon the Father. His glory was veiled for a time . He submitted to the Father’s will, including the cross
 The parable of the talents ( Matthew 25:14-30) indicates this