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Ascension: Why Did Jesus Leave?

An assembly from the Culham St Gabriel archive

Suitable for Whole School (Sec) - Church Schools


To consider the opportunities that were created for us by Jesus’ departure at the Ascension.

Preparation and materials

  • Optional: you may wish to organize readers for the Bible passage in the ‘Assembly’, Step 3, and the prayers in the ‘Time for reflection’ part of the assembly.


  1. Ask the students to think of a skill that they have now, but found difficult to attain. Examples could include learning to ride a bike, getting the hang of a sports skill or understanding a tricky bit of mathematics.

  2. Ask the students to think back to the skill they learnt. At first, someone would have shown them what to do. If they were learning to ride a bike, a family member probably held on to the bike and ran alongside them. After a while, the family member would have let go and allowed the child to ride alone. The child would then have needed to practise alone until becoming skilled at bike-riding.

  3. Read the Bible passage found in Acts 1.6-11.

    Everything had seemed to be going well. Jesus was alive! His scattered, frightened followers had been reunited. Everything seemed great, and then Jesus announced, ‘Now I am leaving you!’

    The disciples must have felt abandoned - even deserted - and certainly confused. It must have been like saying goodbye to an old friend, someone you have known all your life who is moving from the area. It is an end. You will keep in touch, but it will never be the same again.

  4. Jesus left the disciples, but he did not abandon them. There is a big difference. He left them for a very good reason. If he were always with them, they would have been constantly referring back to him.
    ‘What shall we do in this situation?’
    ‘Did we get that right?’
    ‘I need to speak to you now. My need is more important than his.’

  5. The disciples would have wanted to stay close to Jesus all the time and would expect him to continue the work that he had started. However, Jesus had trained them and inspired them, so the time was right for them to scatter and do the job that he had planned for them to do.

  6. It was time for the disciples to do the work that Jesus had been doing and Jesus trusted them to do this. He was giving them the freedom to be themselves. Freedom to take his ideas, make them their own and bring their own God-given skills and interpretations to them.

    Jesus didn’t abandon the disciples, he promised them the Spirit of God. This was his way of being able to be in and with each and every one of them, no matter how scattered they were across the face of the Earth.

Time for reflection

Christians believe that Jesus went back to heaven and is still alive in heaven today. They believe that Jesus has a plan for people’s lives and that he will help them to fulfil this. Christians believe that they need not be afraid because Jesus is alive, so he will be with them in everything that they do. He can give them peace, confidence, hope, contentment and joy.

Christians believe that after the Ascension, carrying out Jesus’ vision became the responsibility of his followers. They believe that we all have God-given skills that we can develop, enjoy and use to transform the world for good. Christians believe that God’s spirit can live in us to help us to do this.

Dear Lord,
Thank you for helping and supporting us.
Thank you for giving us confidence.
Help us to use our gifts to do your work.
Help us to have the courage to pick ourselves up and carry on again when we get things wrong.

Prayer for a reader (from There’s a Time and a Place: Prayers for the Christian Year by Jamie Wallace (Collins, 1982))
Thank you for the Ascension story
Of Jesus going back to heaven
To get it ready for us;
And promising the Holy Spirit
To keep in touch with him.
What wonderful things you do.

Publication date: May 2018   (Vol.20 No.5)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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