Ascension Day is on Thursday 21 May 2020
by Helen Bryant (revised, originally published in 2010)
Suitable for Whole School (Sec)
To explain the meaning of the Ascension.
Preparation and materials
- You will need the Bible passage at Matthew 28.19–20. A version is available at: https://tinyurl.com/l9zq7bq
- I wonder if you have ever been told what to do by someone. Just now, you’ve been told to come into assembly and sit quietly. Perhaps you’ve heard your mum or dad say, ‘I’d like you to do this for me before I get back.’ Or a grandparent has said to you, ‘Be good till the next time I see you.’
- As adults, we are told what to do a lot of the time, too. Being told what to do involves being given instructions. For example, to learn to drive, you need a driving instructor. If you’re learning to swim, you need a swimming instructor. In fact, for anything that you’ve never done before, you need some instructions.
Many objects come with a set of instructions, such as washing machines, mobile phones and computers. We may have to spend a while reading the instructions to understand how something works or how to put it together. Adults frequently make jokes about flat-pack furniture that comes with incomprehensible instructions.
- We can also think of life as coming with a set of instructions. Before Jesus went up to heaven to be with God, he left his disciples with some instructions. We celebrate Jesus entering heaven at the Christian festival of Ascension.
Ascension Day occurs 40 days after Easter Sunday. It is always on the Thursday of the sixth week after Easter Sunday.
- Let’s think about the word ‘ascension’ for a minute. If you ascend something, what are you doing? You are going upwards, like an ascent up a mountain. Christians believe that Jesus ascended – went up – to heaven to be with God.
- As we heard earlier, Jesus gave his disciples some very special instructions before his ascension to heaven. He told them to teach everyone about the good news of the gospel. Matthew puts it like this: ‘Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’
Time for reflection
What is perhaps most important about these words is that Jesus tells the disciples that he will always be with them. So, even though Jesus was going back to heaven, he promised that he would never leave the disciples, like a football coach standing on the sidelines, or a driving instructor sitting beside us in the car, or a teacher working alongside us.
Next time we are given a set of instructions, let’s remember that they will help us to get things right, just like Jesus’ followers.
Allow me to see that there are instructions to help me.
Let us remember the instructions left by Jesus
And may we never forget the fact that he is always with us, even though we cannot see him.