I have a few questions.
If i have the story right, Jesus was crucified and then resurrected three days later. That is, Easter. Now that’s a neat trick and i suppose a good reason to celebrate … especially since he apparently didn’t resurrect zombie style and gnaw on the Apostles. Praise be that our Lord and Savior came back with a taste for souls rather than brains. Resurrection doesn’t have anything on ascension though. Yes i know, there’s still another 40 days before he pulled that one off, but nobody except Catholic school kids and maybe Congress will get that day off so this is the best time to discuss it.
After proving to everyone that he really was alive, Jesus eventually led the disciples to Mt. Olivet, gave them a little speech, and rose up into the clouds. “When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven.” (Luke) In Acts, we get Jesus telling the assembled that they’ll get the power of the Holy Ghost and spread the word to all the known world. “And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:9-11)
So, we’re talking about literal, bodily ascension into heaven. In Mark 16:19-20, Jesus is seated (past tense) at the right hand of God. But in Ephesians 4:10 we’re told that Jesus ascended “higher than all the heavens.” That’s presumably a very long trip in a very short amount of time, depending on our definition of heavens. It can’t be just up in the clouds, or on a sunny day we’d be treated to a lot of dead people floating in the sky and that would be weird. So we have to assume that “heavens” is likely at least as far as the moon, but that’s hardly higher than all the heavens any of the disciples could see with the naked eye. I don’t know, maybe heaven is located on the dark side of the moon and that’s why we never went back. Any further than that and we run into some problems.
If Jesus ascended bodily into heaven, then heaven has to be a physical place. A mere gathering point for spiritual souls could be anywhere or nowhere, but you need space to house all the people who’ve ever lived … excepting the ones, like me, who go to hell. So where is it? We now know that “higher than all the heavens” is a really long way away, given the presumption that it’s all “up” from here. Did Jesus have to go to the edge of the solar system, the galaxy, where?
I’m willing to give Jesus a lot of credit. If anyone could reach the speed of light, it’d be that guy. On the other hand, i don’t know if he’s above the special theory of relativity. That would explain a lot actually. We’re all anxiously awaiting the return of Jesus, and in John 14:2-3, he explains, “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” Jesus will return in the same manner as he left. At roughly 149,896,229 cubits per second, our Lord and Savior can cover a lot of ground in a hurry, but according to the Special Theory of Relativity, our vantage point relative to his means that a short trip for him will seem much longer for us.
That’s a pretty big bummer. It’s been almost 2,000 years. The man would be covering 5 trillion cubits per year. No wonder his imminent return always ends up being further in the future, even if he’s almost back, the relative slowing down of time for us compared to Jesus probably means that we have a while to wait yet. Those are big numbers, depending on exactly where heaven is located.
Of course, the CERN scientists have accelerated a particle faster than the speed of light and some physicists theorize that not only is it possible to exceed the beard rippling 149,896,229 cubits per second but that a parallel universe exists where everything moves faster than that all the damned time. However, before arguing that Jesus is almost certainly the kind of guy who could go faster than the speed of light, remember that those theories calculate an odd phenomenon. The faster something goes beyond the speed of light, the more mass it loses. At infinite velocity, the object’s mass becomes zero.
Here’s where i get confused. Bodily ascension higher than the highest heaven but from the text it appears that Jesus made it to sit at the right hand of God almost instantaneously since it’s written in the past tense. If he achieved infinite velocity, then he couldn’t have ascended bodily as he’d have no mass. If he’s constrained to the speed of light, he might still be on the road and we’re going to have wait a long time … or at least it will seem like a really time … for him to finish the round trip.
You’d think that the Church would have provided a cosmological map locating heaven by now. If it showed us that, we could track Jesus like NORAD does to Santa. Sort of a Distant Early Rapture Warning System. The least it could do would be to tell us how fast Jesus travels in a vacuum and which direction he headed off in so we can do the math. The universe is a big place, and i’ve spent too many Easters looking at pictures of the sky like a “Where’s Waldo” picture for a glimpse of Junior without success.