Today’s devotional reading compares the Transfiguration of Jesus Christ with His ascension. Chambers says we can relate to Jesus in His humanity up until the Transfiguration, but have no literal experiences to compare with the events of His life after that glory on the Mount of Transfiguration.
In thinking about that, maybe we have spiritual experiences that have some similar characteristics. We do not get transfigured on a mountain, but we do have high, mountaintop experiences Christians that change our lives. Up in that spiritual high place, we see God and life from an eternal perspective, or see Christ in a new way that leaves us in greater awe of Him.
This is what happened to the disciples while they were up there with Jesus. For them, it was a special time that they did not want to end. For me, those high and special times are filled with blessing. I experience His presence in a special way, and see His glory as never before. This is an ultimate moment and produces a deep yearning to be in heaven with the Lord and stay there. Yet like He and those disciples did, I’ve had to come down from that wondrous experience and back to a world filled with fallen sinners.
Jesus could have gone to heaven that day, but He had more to do. Without His death and resurrection, He would have ascended alone, leaving us without a way to join Him or have access to the throne of God.
The ascension was different. He went up but did not come back down . . .
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)
As for the in-between, Jesus died and was buried and rose to new life. When He brings me back to the same old, same old after a time of awe in His presence, I recognize some of my old nature that must die, be put behind me. It is not a literal death, but a death to self, and new resolve to say “Not my will, but thine be done.”
Jesus talked how a grain of wheat must fall to the ground and die before it can yield fruit. That is true in my life. Unless I can say no to the old ways and die to them, He cannot use me to produce much of anything. While new life for old describes the salvation experience, it also describes a daily experience, a spiritual discipline of walking away from all else but what is fruitful for God.
Paul wrote about this kind of life in which he did not live by his own righteousness but the righteousness from God that depends on faith . . . “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:9–11) He was identifying with Jesus after the transfiguration and before the ascension.
Chambers writes these wonderful words: “The Ascension is the consummation of the Transfiguration. Our Lord does now go back into His primal glory; but He does not go back simply as Son of God: He goes back to God as Son of Man as well as Son of God. There is now freedom of access for anyone straight to the very throne of God by the Ascension of the Son of Man. As Son of Man Jesus Christ deliberately limited omnipotence, omnipresence and omniscience in Himself. Now they are His in absolute full power. As Son of Man Jesus Christ has all power at the throne of God. He is King of kings and Lord of lords from the day of His Ascension until now.”
Any spiritual high points in my life give me a vision of Christ’s glory, yet every time I come down from that height, I find people in need, just as He did. However, a day will come when I can go be with Jesus in a final mountaintop experience that will last for eternity. In the meantime, there is more to be done, including that daily dying to self that makes a fruitful life possible.