For an introduction to the series, read this.
We will be looking at the same line from the Apostles’ Creed that we discussed last week today because there is a bit more to say about the significance of Christ’s ascension:
Memorization for the Week
I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth;
And in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. The third day he rose from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.
Thoughts for Discussion with Children
Do you know what the priests in the Old Testament did? What was their main job, and where did they do it?
God gave the priests the job of offering sacrifices. Only the priests could do this, and they did it for themselves and for the sake of the people of Israel. When offering a sacrifice, the priest would kill an animal (a bull, goat, sheep, etc.), prepare its body the way God commanded, and offer either some of it or all of it (depending on the kind of sacrifice) on the altar. Any meat that was left (depending on the kind of sacrifice) would be eaten by the priest.
And where did this all take place? It happened at the holy place, or the tent that God commanded the people to make so that he could dwell among them (later replaced by the temple when the people settled in the land). This tent was called the tabernacle, and it was the place where God met with Israel to bless them because the sacrifices they offered turned away his anger from them for their sin. Normally, sacrifices would be offered outside the tent on the altar, but there was one time in the year when the high priest was commanded to take the blood of a goat that had been sacrificed inside the tent, and even behind the curtain that was inside the tent, to the very place where God’s presence dwelt (where no one was allowed to go) so that he could sprinkle the blood of that sacrifice before the mercy seat, which was the lid on the ark of the covenant. This act of sprinkling the blood happened once a year to cleanse the holy place of all of its defilement because of the sins of the people.
So, you could sum it up this way: a priest would offer sacrifices to God to turn away his anger from his people, and the only place where this could happen was the holy place where God dwelt.
What does this have to do with Jesus’ ascension to heaven? Listen to Paul’s words in Romans 8:34:
Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died–more than that, who was raised–who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.
We remember from last week that the way Jesus got to “the right hand of God” was by ascending to heaven after he was raised from the dead. Last week we said that means Jesus is reigning as king. But it also means he is doing something else. Because he is at the right hand of God (the ultimate holy place!) Jesus is now doing the work of a priest for us. In fact, he is the only priest we need now and forever.
So what is he doing? He is not offering sacrifices all the time the way priests did on earth. He already offered himself as a sacrifice for us on the cross. He did that one time, and it will never be done again. But he is presenting the sacrifice that he already offered (himself) before the Father all the time, and in this way he is, as Paul says, interceding for us. That means Jesus has our back. He stands before the Father in our place, so that the way the Father treats him (with more love and blessings than you could ever imagine) is the way he treats us. The anger of the Father against our sins will never touch us as long as Jesus is our high priest before God. And the Bible teaches that he will be our high priest forever.
So, that is another reason his ascension to heaven matters. Jesus had to go to the ultimate holy place, the very presence of God, so that he could be our high priest. Without him there, interceding for us, we would have no hope. But so long as he is there, he is all the hope we need.
Scripture reading for the week: Hebrews 7