The ascension of Jesus is just not important for Christians—it isn’t, that is, if the importance of an event is determined by how many commemorate it. Even among Roman Catholics, Christ’s ascension does not seem to attract the same attention as the assumption of Mary. The latter commemoration, in fact, has acquired many of the characteristics of Jesus’ own ascension.
Coming as it does 40 days after Easter, Ascension Day never had the good fortune to fall on a Sunday. It is forever doomed to Thursday.
The Ascension also suffers at the hands of those who see the Resurrection as a myth. Without a meaningful doctrine of a physical resurrection of Jesus, the Ascension is the first domino to fall. No Resurrection easily translates into no Ascension. If the Resurrection only means that the early church glorified Jesus as the Christ in its preaching, then the accounts of the Ascension and Jesus sitting down at God’s right hand can only be further descriptive embellishments of the basic kerygma. Both Resurrection and Ascension would be myths contrived by the church to show that these earliest Christians began to think of the earthly Jesus in exalted, almost divine, terms. They would be parables teaching in unison that Jesus had become something special in God’s sight. Already 150 years ago, Friedrich Schleiermacher, the father of neo-Protestantism, saw both the Resurrection and the Ascension as unnecessary to demonstrate that God was present in Jesus.
The Ascension is, however, embedded into the church’s worship life as all the major Protestant and Roman Catholic confessions follow the statement in the Apostles’ Creed that Jesus “ascended into heaven and sitteth at the right hand ...1
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