The Ascension of Christ (c. 1510-1520)
by Benvenuto Tisi
public domain

Ascension, Luke 24:44-53

Historical Description:  

Benvenuto Tisi, widely known as Garofolo, was instrumental in spreading the High Renaissance style to his town of Ferrara. This painting, “The Ascension of Christ,” bears elements of Garofolo’s Ferrarese School and the Raphaelesque style the school emulated. In particular, Garofolo’s depiction here of Christ’s Ascension is strikingly similar to Raphael’s depiction of the Transfiguration.

This painting comes from a nave chapel in the church of Santa Maria in Vado in Ferrara. It was sent to Rome when the Duchy of Ferrara was delegated to the domains of the papacy in 1598. The piece now resides in Rome at the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica (National Gallery of Ancient Art).

Devotional Reflection:  

This is a brilliant depiction of Christ’s Ascension for one reason: everybody is pointing in a different direction. If the images on the canvas were to come alive and we could hear what each character in this painting had to say, it might sound like: “Hey! Let’s go this way! There are people over there!” “No! Jesus said go to Jerusalem. Let’s go this way!” “Look, I see two angels! Wait a minute, are those angels yelling at us?” And, all the while, Jesus is ascending to heaven while pointing up saying, “Hey guys! Pay attention. I am going this way!”

This painting captures the confusion and fear that the disciples experienced with Christ’s Ascension. They frantically pointed in every direction, speculating what their next move should be. They pointed up to heaven, excitedly recounting the miraculous thing they just saw. They pointed to the left, wanting to tell everyone what they just saw. They pointed to the right, toward Jerusalem hopeful for the gift of the Holy Spirit. And they pointed down their feet, fearfully and anxiously wondering where their sandals would take them as they live out their calling as witnesses.  

That question — now what? — has not only been asked by the disciples. There are countless times in our lives when we nervously point in every direction, fearfully and audibly wondering: now what?

We do not have to go very far back in the headlines to find an instance when a whole town was left fearfully and anxiously pointing in every direction. Not long ago, a tornado ripped through the town of Joplin, Missouri, leaving thousands of people frantically pointing in every direction. Before that it was a Tsunami in Japan. Before that it was an earthquake in Haiti. And, even closer to home, anxiety and fear are brought on by cancer, divorce, anger, debt; these events leave us nervously pointing up, down, left, and right, wondering what to do and where to turn.

At His Ascension, Christ was confirmed wholly and undeniably as the Lord of all Creation. He rules over all. Now Christ commands the earth to rotate and He commands the stars to streak across the nighttime sky. He commands the winds and the waves to blow and He commands them to cease. Christ commands the flowers to open their petals with the rising sun and He commands them to close up as the sky grows dim. Christ commands your heart to pump blood and He commands your lungs to take in oxygen. He commands my life and He commands your life.

We have doubts and fears. We have cancers and debts and tornados, dissension in the workplace and at home. More than that, we lay claim to the ascended and triumphant Lord of the entire universe.

Christ is in command of the wind and the waves of your life. When your mind is cluttered with ten thousand doubts and fears and questions — pause — and know that the Lord of the universe is in control. From His throne of majesty, from the pinnacle of God’s Kingdom, Christ lovingly rules the lives of His people!

We can as His baptized children cast our anxieties onto Him. We do not need to point frantically in every direction wondering which way to turn. We are God’s people and we do not need to do that. Rather, we are able to take a deep breath and calmly point heavenward and, joining with the disciples and all of God’s people, say “The Lord of the Universe Rules My Life!”   

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