Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Head that Once Was Crowned With Thorns

Today is Ascension Sunday, meaning it is the Sunday in the octave of the feast of the Ascension. The Ascension is one of my favorite liturgical seasons; I only wish it lasted longer. For one thing, it has some great hymns associated with it, and it can be hard to convince Anglicans to sing those hymns at any other time of year, so we never fit them all in.

Here and here are my last two posts on the theological richness of Ascensiontide from previous years. Here at What's Wrong With the World is a post on the apologetic problems with the "objective vision theory" of the resurrection of Jesus and the way in which that theory is incompatible with the doctrine of the Ascension.

I would also add that the Ascension has special apologetic importance in the following way: Those who treat the apostles as sincerely mistaken in their belief that Jesus was risen must (though they don't always admit this) be attributing some sort of hallucinations to them. But in that case, why did the hallucinations stop, for all of them, at the same time, and with their asserting that they stopped walking and talking with Jesus because He ascended into heaven? Interesting, that. One would not expect severe mental illness and mass hysteria among all those people to be so abruptly cut off, so self-limiting.

Indeed, if the Ascension were not narrated in the Bible, we would have to invent it. It's the only explanation for the obvious difference between the interactions narrated in the resurrection narratives and the behavior of the disciples in the early chapters of Acts (after the Ascension narrative), where they don't seem to be under the slightest impression that Jesus is walking and talking among them.

Notice, too, that if they did not really believe (as some claim) that Jesus was literally, physically resurrected, they did not need to have an Ascension at all. Jesus could have gone on being spiritually present to them in the same way indefinitely. If, on the other hand, he was physically resurrected, the Ascension is very nearly a necessity to explain his physical absence later on. His body had to have gone somewhere.

The teaching of the Ascension is thus strong evidence against hallucinations and against non-physical theories of the resurrection (and of the disciples' teaching) and in favor of the bodily resurrection of Jesus.

Hymn time. Below are the words to "The Head That Once Was Crowned With Thorns." We sang it this morning. Singable and with great words.

The head that once was crowned with thorns
Is crowned with glory now;
A royal diadem adorns
The mighty victor’s brow.

The highest place that Heav’n affords
Belongs to Him by right;
The King of kings and Lord of lords,
And Heaven’s eternal Light.

The joy of all who dwell above,
The joy of all below,
To whom He manifests His love,
And grants His Name to know.

To them the cross with all its shame,
With all its grace, is given;
Their name an everlasting name,
Their joy the joy of Heaven.

They suffer with their Lord below;
They reign with Him above;
Their profit and their joy to know
The mystery of His love.

The cross He bore is life and health,
Though shame and death to Him,
His people’s hope, His people’s wealth,
Their everlasting theme.


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