Just over a month ago, the world marked the 100th anniversary of the demise of the RMS Titanic. The unsinkable ship went down to the murky north-Atlantic deep. Like a floating city of lights, clean and fine and elegant in every appointment—it darkened; it fractured; it foundered. Now all its intricately carved banisters and mantelpieces, all its monogrammed china and crystal martini glasses—all of it lies in the mud, covered with aquatic mold.
Maybe you remember the scene in the Leonardo DiCaprio-Kate Winslet movie: the ship’s designer, on board for the maiden voyage—he knows that the Titanic will sink in one hour. He has surveyed the ice-berg damage, knows where the holes in the hull are, and he has reached his inescapable conclusion. The huge ship is slowly going down.
He wanders through the salon on the dining deck. He stares uncomprehendingly at the passengers drinking cocktails and chatting, ordering tea, talking about the economy or their daughters’ upcoming weddings.
Never did Hollywood give us a more vivid image of Jonah in Nineveh. It will all pass away, people. The end is inevitable. Prepare to meet thy doom…
When the Lord Jesus ascended, where did He go?
He rose from the dead and walked again here on earth. The Apostles, the women who stayed close to Him, and 500 other people all saw Him with their own eyes. He remained on earth for forty days. He ate and drank. Unquestionably alive, unquestionably alive in the body. He arose in Jerusalem. He traveled to Galilee. He occupied various locations during those forty days.
Then He ascended. He left the earth. The place where it rains, the place where dogs bark and asparagus grows, the place where traffic jams sometimes occur, and people watch t.v., and they marry and are given in marriage; the place where you can get cellphone coverage and a good steak; the place where we speak lots of different languages and can hardly understand each other a lot of the time—this place, the world. He left.
Where did He go? He ascended into…
Our Lord and Savior went to heaven. He ascended to His Father and our Father. He ascended in a body like ours, with a soul like ours. He ascended as a man to the divine fullness from which He had come as God.
Christ had run His race. He had fulfilled His mission.
Now, He did love the world, loved living in the world. He enjoyed every falafel sandwich He ate here below. He savored every sip of wine. He loved to gaze at the stars and to talk with His friends. He smiled on every good and wholesome thing in this world.
But He spent His time here as a journey. He had no lasting city on earth.
After all, he designed this ship. He knows perfectly well just how fragile it all really is. I mean, He made it out of nothing. Formed the world out of nothingness. Utter nothingness.
He made pomegranates, Scarlett Johansson, the Grand Canyon, Guinness Stout, Himalayan snow leopards, and Mozart—He made them all out of nothing.
So He knows that the cosmos is like a ship with sixteen kitchens and 2,000 brand-new sets of sheets, with promenade decks and shuffleboard, all floating precariously on the dark, icy waters of utter oblivion.
In other words, this pilgrim life of ours is a temporary set-up. This earth, this terra firma—it really ain’t so firma. Not firm like heaven, anyway.
So the Lord ran His race, and then ascended to the place that has always been and always will be. The place that doesn’t change, doesn’t sink, doesn’t have a beginning or an end.
Anybody ever taken a business trip to Atlanta? How about a vacation to the Outer Banks, or to Myrtle Beach? Taken a trip with the kids to Disney World? Toured Europe?
How about heaven? Ever used up some frequent-flyer miles and a free weekend, and…had an iced-tea with St. Joseph or St. Francis, before turning in at the Heaven Hilton?
Didn’t think so. It is all blessedly beyond us. Heaven, for now, lies altogether beyond us.
The best thing we can do is to say to Jesus, “Lord, we don’t really know anything about where you went. All we know is what You yourself have told us: that the walls are sapphires and the streets are diamond carbuncles. That the lion lays down with the lamb, and every tear is wiped away. That the dew on the grass is a dew of light, and all the dry bones stand forth vigorously with serene smiles. We know that there are no lamps or even a sun, because the Lord God is the light.
“And we know that You Yourself are our way there.”
One thought on “To An Unsinkable Location”
I know it’s improbable; but in 1967, I worked for a month doing stability diagrams for barges hauling out sections of the Newport, Rhode Island, suspension bridge roadway trusses for lifting up into place and hanging off the suspenders. This amounted to taking large loads and perching them ten feet above the deck of the barge on falsework, then trying to assure that they could be hauled out to the bridge without overturning.
By some coincidence, I had been on a sea-going tug hauling stone from Kingston, Jamaica, to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, four years before; and one of the barges capsized in a storm, blowing the hatches, and dumping much of the aggregate. We rode home with one in tow, and one riding like a sail. So, I didn’t need the admonition to make sure of stability.
The secret to stability is frequently ballast. In short, putting a load heavy enough and low enough to resist the tendency to capsize. In a sense, partly sink the boat in order to save it. Fifteen years later, I worked up a scheme to get the Sequoia under the fixed bridges to Georgetown Harbor (it was never effecuated; and the restaurant it was to be is carrying on ashore) by flooding some compartments while keeping others watertight.
The point is control and circumstance; and the measure of a man is what he does when circumstances are out of his control. Thomas Andrews found out; and he acted as a man. He didn’t dodge the consequences; he advised the Captain of the prediciment and urged people to get into life boats; and he died with his ship. Eli was such a man (1 Samuel 3: 18). Jesus Christ was such a man. God grant that I may be such a man if put to the test; but that I may not be put to the test.
In God we trust.