The readings from Acts of the Apostles and Gospel from John 17 to celebrate Ascension Sunday and Wesley’s Day calls the church and its leadership to renewal of witnessing. The holy day, Ascension Day is celebrated across all branches of Christianity on the sixth Thursday after Easter, which falls exactly 40 days after Easter Sunday. The Day commemorates Jesus Christ’s ascent into heaven 40 days after the resurrection. At Mount of Olives, before Jesus was taken up to heaven, he promised the disciples that they would soon receive the Holy Spirit. This is ‘the distinctive baptism of Jesus’ for those already initiated by water baptism, but who yet wait for this enduement of purity and power. Jesus said to his disciples, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be witnesses to Me… to the end of the earth.” In Acts, as in the Gospels, the message is about Jesus. The Christian agenda is aggressive evangelism worldwide. Jesus’ words is the mandate for believers today. According the Stanley Jones, the witness the disciple gave after Pentecost ‘was a result of the witness they received, that witness was a sense of God in immediate experience.’ There is one main witness, the Father, who uses various witnesses like John Wesley, you and I, to testify to the truth of who Jesus is.
God calls on us to be His witnesses. To be Jesus’ witnesses in this context involves living a life that is a witness to Him, testifying and teaching those who want to learn about eternal life which is ONLY in Jesus Christ. The reflection is that, ‘God’s sovereignty is not an impractical theological subject for debate, but rather a practical truth to be applied, eternal life, only in Jesus Christ.’ To be Jesus’ witnesses is not abstract or impractical theologies – ‘a patient examination how great minds study Scripture,’ learning just how complex, how difficult talking about God can truly be. To be Jesus’ witnesses is a call to applied theology, a practical experience and application of the eternal truth.
In the Gospel reading from John chapter 17, Jesus defines eternal life, drawing together verses 1 and 2: “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (v 3). To be a witness is to live and express the essence of eternal life by our knowledge of the only true God ‘and to the extent that we know God, we see Him in all His glory. But we can only know God through His Son. Christ was sent to reveal the Father to us.’
Jesus’ definition of eternal life points us to two dimensions of reflection. The first dimension of eternal life is qualitative. Eternal life is ‘the wonder of knowing the only true God and His Son, Jesus Christ. This knowledge of God and Christ is a personal relationship that begins the moment you believe, but deepens over time and throughout eternity.’ A qualitative lifestyle of eternal life summons the Christian who has died with Christ to sin to make that death to sin a continuing reality in his or her daily life. Following after the footstep and aim of Apostle Paul, “that I may know Him,” our aim in living qualitative lifestyle of eternal life points us to the ultimate goal by every Christian. When we know Him, we are enabled to live daily a new life by the power of His resurrection (Phi 3:10, Rom 6:4). The qualitative lifestyle of eternal life prepares us for the quantitative lifestyle of eternal life that last forever through the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
This year’s Ascension Sunday and Wesley’s Day celebration reminds us that amid all the bad news in the headlines, the promise and the Good News of Jesus Christ about eternal life is more relevant than ever. Edmund Chan said, “The world has a virus infection that is far greater than all the viruses we’ve ever known throughout its history. That virus is sin, … And with this virus, there is absolutely no immunity, no survivors, and no hope. And it infects 100 percent of all humanity. No one is spared from this.” Ascension Day and Wesley’s Day celebrations are gospel moments, a witnessing windows of pointing the world to Jesus Christ, the Saviour. Indeed, the world is in need of a Saviour. The world is in need of salvation from the COVID-19 pandemic and other virus of sins that are forcing everyone to look beyond the routines of life and to consider what lies beyond, the eternal life in Jesus Christ.
Jesus gives eternal life, to all who accepted Him. This eternal life consists in fellowship with God through saving faith in Jesus Christ. Wesley’s Day reminds us when and how John Wesley, co-founder of Methodism experience this saving faith, an evangelical conversion, a warmed-heart experience that laid the foundation for the 18th century awakening in Europe and other parts of the world. Just as Jesus did not witness of Himself independent of the Father, John Wesley in submission to God’s will did not witness of himself independent of Jesus Christ.
Ascension Day and Wesley’s Day celebration calls us not to neglect witnessing to the Great Salvation in Jesus Christ. The Great salvation is a great offer from a Great God. We have to witness to the Great salvation in Christ because there is no other way of salvation and eternal life, and the neglect of this will be disastrous. How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? (Heb 2:3). The great salvation was begun by Christ and miraculously confirmed by God through gifts of the Holy Spirit.