Jesus in the Sky: a book review

The ascension of Christ is an important theological and historical event in Jesus’ life. But as Tim Chester observes, it is weird (8). Chester is the pastor of The Crowded House in Sheffield. He has teamed up with Jonny Woodrow the pastor of The Crowded House in Loughborough (you know these churches are well attended otherwise the name would just be a bit awkward).  They have written a book on the ascension that is brief and  accessible but has theological depth. The Ascension: Humanity in the Presence of God draws on the Reformed tradition and contemporary theology and describes why the Ascension is important for Christians.

In three chapters Chester and Woodrow explore the meaning of the ascension and how Jesus is our ascended priest, our ascended king, and our ascended man.  Jesus is our mediator and high priest interceding with us before the Father. Jesus is the ascended heavenly King, which reminds the church and the world, that the culmination of history and the fullness of God’s kingdom rule is a coming reality ( because this world is incomplete and unfinished).  Jesus is the ascended man, which means that in Him, humanity has entered into the life of God. Through His ascension we also may ascend into life with the Triune God.

These meditations  are theologically rich and are helpful in seeing the blessings implicit in Christ’s ascension. My favorite part of the book was Chester and Woodrow’s discussion of the Lord’s Supper.  The ascension implies Jesus’ absence, but in Communion, the church experiences his “Real Presence.” Not in the Catholic sense, of Transubstantiation, or in the Lutheran sense of Christ’s ubiquity. No, Chester and Woodrow draw on Calvin’s sacramental theology and argue that Christ’s presence is made available to us in Communion through the Spirit’s work.  “The communion meal expresses our union with Christ and so reinforces it to our experience (69)”

I happen to think that Calvin’s reflections on the Table are the high point of his theology and loved the way Chester and Woodrow articulated it in this context.They close this book with a conclusion which describes our ascension through Christ and an ‘Ascension Hymn’ written by Chester.

I recommend this book alongside another popular treatment of the Ascension, Tim and Aaron Perry’s He Ascended into Heaven: Learning to Live the Ascension-Shaped Life (Paraclete Press, 2010) and more academic  books like Douglas Farrow’s Ascension and Ecclesia or his Ascension Theology (the latter of which I have not read).  Farrow is referenced in both this and the Perrys’ book and is meaty. However the gift of Chester and Woodrow’s book is that they make deep theological reflections available to non-theologians (if there is such a thing). I enjoyed this book a lot and give it 4.5 stars!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book from Christian Focus Publications in exchange for my honest review.

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