I cannot believe in the miracle of the ascension, in the bodily ascension of Jesus Christ. Where was he going? In the light shed upon this question by the telescope, I again ask, where was he going? The New Jerusalem is not above us. The abode of the gods is not there. Where was he going? Which way did he go? Of course that depends upon the time of day he left. If he left in the evening, he went exactly the opposite way from that he would have gone had he ascended in the morning. What did he do with his body? How high did he go? In what way did he overcome the intense cold? The nearest station is the moon, two hundred and forty thousand miles away. Again I ask, where did he go? He must have had a natural body, for it was the same body that died. His body must have been material, otherwise he would not as he rose have circled with the earth, and he would have passed from the sight of his disciples at the rate of more than a thousand miles per hour.
It may be said that his body was "spiritual." Then what became of the body that died? Just before his ascension we are told that he partook of broiled fish with his disciples. Was the fish "spiritual?"
Who saw this miracle?
They say the disciples saw it. Let us see what they say. Matthew did not think it was worth mentioning. He does not speak of it. On the contrary, he says that the last words of Christ were: "Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world." Is it possible that Matthew saw this, the most miraculous of miracles, and yet forgot to put it in his life of Christ? Think of the little miracles recorded by this saint, and then determine whether it is probable that he witnessed the ascension of Jesus Christ.
Mark says: "So, then, after the Lord had spoken unto them he was received up into heaven and sat on the right hand of God." This is all he says about the most wonderful vision that ever astonished human eyes, a miracle great enough to have stuffed credulity to bursting; and yet all we have is this one, poor, meager verse. We know now that most of the last chapter of Mark is an interpolation, and as a matter of fact, the author of Mark's gospel said nothing about the ascension one way or the other.
Luke says: "And it came to pass while he blessed them he was parted from them and was carried up into Heaven."
John does not mention it. He gives as Christ's last words this address to Peter: "Follow thou Me." Of course, he did not say that as he ascended. It seems to have made very little impression upon him; he writes the account as though tired of the story. He concludes with an impatient wave of the hand.
In the Acts we have another account. A conversation is given not spoken of in any of the others, and we find there two men clad in white apparel, who said: "Ye men of Galilee why stand ye here gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus that was taken up into heaven shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go up into heaven."
Matthew did not see the men in white apparel, did not see the ascension. Mark forgot the entire transaction, and Luke did not think the men in white apparel worth mentioning. John had not confidence enough in the story to repeat it. And yet, upon such evidence, we are bound to believe in the bodily ascension, or suffer eternal pain.
And here let me ask, why was not the ascension in public.