Jesus’ Ascension is described at the beginning of Acts of the Apostles, but people often suppose it was mostly a matter of returning to God to prepare for sending the Holy Spirit. These two windows together suggest exactly that. However, we can see from the letter to Timothy that it meant much more than that to the New Testament community in Corinth. That city had been a Greek achievement, a place of engineering sophistication, through which a great canal had been excavated, improving its trading capability. The Eastern Mediterranean was joined more easily to the West. The Greeks thought they appreciated and could imitate the harmony of the heavens, the spheres of planetary movement. But by Paul’s day, the Roman Empire had taken over and wrecked that notion of mechanical harmony with mechanical oppression.
The world then felt worse, claustrophobic. The spheres of the sky creaked around badly as if controlled by demons and destructive powers. But 1 Tim. 3:16 records for us the hymn, sung in Corinth, about Christ removing this stifling experience of life. Christ has ascended, breaking the obsolete spheres, overcoming the spirits of fear and threat.
“He was manifested in the flesh,
vindicated in the Spirit, seen by angels,
preached among the nations,
believed on in the world,
taken up in glory.”
The message of hope contained here includes the gift of readiness to remove our neighbours’ fears. It is community guided by the Spirit which matters, not the trading opportunities and the economic advantages which favour a few over many others.