Jesus said to her, "Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, 'I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and [to] My God and your God.' " John 20:17 NKJVAs a result of being blessed with another grandchild two weeks ago, I have been experiencing the joys of driving hundreds of miles at a time between here and there several times in the past ten days. Maybe it’s a result of getting older, but I have come to the conclusion I’m not fond of driving long hours at a time. If there is any upside about long hours behind the wheel though, it would be that you have plenty of time to spend praying and meditating on the Word.
Having just celebrated Easter, I thought I might explore the question of all the traveling Jesus did in His three days after the crucifixion. Now if that sounds funny, it took me quite awhile before I understood just how busy Jesus was in the time between His crucifixion and when He appeared to the disciples in the Upper Room after His resurrection. If you look closely at this passage from John 20, you see Jesus telling Mary not to cling to Him because He was on His way to Heaven to see the Father. This obviously begs the question, “where has He been for three days”?
Then he said to Jesus, "Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom." And Jesus said to him, "Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise" Luke 23:42-43 NKJVFor many years I thought that Paradise was Heaven, as many people do, but in Old Testament times paradise meant something completely different. The Greek word for paradise is also another name for Abraham’s Bosom, the place within the earth where the believing dead were comforted, while the unbelieving dead suffered in Hades, the Greek word for Hell. Jesus Himself referred to this in His teaching to the Pharisees in Luke 16.
"So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham's bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. "And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. Luke 16:22-23 NKJVHow do we know that these places were located within the earth? We need to remember what Jesus said about His own death as well while talking to the Pharisees.
Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered, saying, "Teacher, we want to see a sign from You." But He answered and said to them, "An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. "For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. Matthew 12:38-40 NKJV
Again, for many years I just thought this was referring to Jesus laying in the tomb, but what it really is talking about was His mission to go to Paradise and Hades in order to preach the Gospel to both believers and the unbelievers and to explain how His death and shed blood fulfilled the requirement of the Old Covenant that a sacrifice for sins be made.For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit, by whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison, 1 Peter 3:18-19 NKJV
It was after Jesus spent those three days and nights in the “heart of the earth”, that He rose again and appeared to Mary outside of the Tomb. His words to her as she hugged Him was to stop clinging to Him because He was on His way to the Father, and to go tell the disciples that He was alive and on His way to Heaven. Now many have wondered if the “ascension” Jesus is talking about to Mary was in reality the “ascension” we find forty days later when Jesus commissions the disciples and rises into the clouds.
If you notice however, in the passage from John Jesus tells Mary “I am ascending”, as in, I’m on my way right now and just stopped by so you could go and give this message to my disciples. Why was He ascending? Remember under the terms of the covenant, the blood of the sacrifice had to be sprinkled on the mercy seat. Jesus had to ascend to the tabernacle in Heaven where He could sprinkle His own blood on the mercy seat in atonement for not only the sins of the past, but the future. We are told about this in the book of Hebrews.But Christ came [as] High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. Hebrews 9:11-12 NKJV
It was after Jesus had fulfilled His role as our High Priest that He returned to the earth and appeared to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus that afternoon,Now behold, two of them were traveling that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was seven miles from Jerusalem. And they talked together of all these things which had happened. So it was, while they conversed and reasoned, that Jesus Himself drew near and went with them. Luke 24:13-15 NKJV
and then to the disciples in the Upper Room that evening.
So they rose up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven and those [who were] with them gathered together, saying, "The Lord is risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!" And they told about the things [that had happened] on the road, and how He was known to them in the breaking of bread. Now as they said these things, Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them, and said to them, "Peace to you." Luke 24:33-36 NKJVForty days later Jesus commissioned His disciples and ascended once again into Heaven as they watched.
Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This [same] Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven." Acts 1:9-11 NKJV
It is because of His sacrifice that we can look forward to seeing Him come again “in like manner” to take us home to be with Him for eternity. Next week we will talk a little about that thought, and what it may mean.Keep watching.