61 But Jesus, conscious that His disciples grumbled at this, said to them, “Does this cause you to stumble?
62 “What then if you see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before?
63 “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.
The verses that precede the above passages describe how Jesus told His disciples that unless they eat His flesh and drink His blood, they would have no life within themselves (vs. 53-66). His disciples grumbled and stumbled over His statements. Now, we pick up the discourse in verse 61. Jesus tells His disciples that if eating His flesh and drinking His blood causes them to stumble, what then if they see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before? The inference here is that seeing Christ’s ascension would really flip them out.
Before we can see the relevance of His ascension causing stumbling, we first must ask the question, “What does Christ ascending to where He was before, really mean?” Christ’s ascension is an on-going reality we must all deal with.
It was never the intent of the Father that Christ remain on an earthly level in relating either to His disciples, or us. The overall purposes of God are not concerned about our daily living with its myriad difficulties. We could respond, “Oh, are you saying God doesn’t care about my daily life?” Not on a personal level. God is concerned with forming His Son in each of us. He is concerned with His nature displacing Adam’s in us. To the extent our everyday lives further God’s mission, they are important. This truth is offensive to the religious nature in us. Adam in us takes offense because he always wants to be preeminent. The ascension of Christ eliminates the self-focus.
25 “These things I have spoken to you in figurative language; an hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figurative language, but will tell you plainly of the Father.
26 “In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I will request of the Father on your behalf;
27 for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me and have believed that I came forth from the Father.
28 ¶ “I came forth from the Father and have come into the world; I am leaving the world again and going to the Father.”
It was necessary for Jesus, the son of God, to be manifested in this physical realm. He was manifested in the flesh that He might lift us up into His world. This is akin to the passage in Ex. 3 related to God delivering Israel out of Egypt.
8 “So I have come down to deliver them from the power of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and spacious land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanite and the Hittite and the Amorite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite.”
God “came down” to deliver the Israelites that He might “bring them up” into a land flowing with milk and honey, i.e., the promised land. This same truth is expressed spiritually in Eph. 4.
8 Therefore He says: “When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, And gave gifts to men.”
9 (Now this, “He ascended” — what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth?
10 He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.)
Christ descended that He might lead those captive to this earthly realm into the higher realms of spirit. Christ ascended far into the heavens. Here is a great spiritual truth: It is God’s goal that each of us follow Christ in His ascension. We must throw out the religious past tense that Christ historically “ascended.” Yes, He ascended, but the reality of that ascension must be experienced daily for us. His ascension is always in the eternal now, not the past. Hebrews 4:14 states, “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.” Jesus passed through all of the realms of heaven in His ascension to the Father. And so must we. Many realms, or levels of spirit, are to be passed through in our perfection as sons. Each realm, or level, is a learning experience and time of transformation for us. It is just like going to school. No one is going to skip from kindergarten to college. Grade by grade, level by level, we ascend into God. This is the practical perfection of sons. Now, how fast we make these transitions is entirely up to us. How open are our spirits to God’s dealings in us? Have we learned to appropriate with our spirits? Many variables determine our level and speed of growth.
It was stated earlier that it was never the Father’s intention that Christ remain on a physical, or soulish level. Yet, this is exactly what religion attempts to do. It attempts to keep Christ in a soulish, physical manifestation. It attempts to keep Him individualized as only one man. And this is the stumbling block Jesus referred to in our beginning text. This is why, after asking the disciples the question about His ascension, He immediately states, ““It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.”
16 “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever;
17 that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.
18 ¶ “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.
19 “After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also.
20 “In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.
21 “He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.”
Jesus prefaced these verses by telling His disciples that He was going away (vs. 1-15). Jesus told them that He would not leave them as orphans, but that He would come to them. In John 16:13 Jesus told the disciples that the Holy Spirit would lead them into all of the truth. Jesus Christ was ascending to the Father so that many sons in His image might come forth. The religious side of our nature stumbles at this truth. It wants to hold onto its personal Jesus. But there can be no change in our lives, no displacement of the Adamic nature with Christ’s nature, if we hold to an earthbound, private Jesus. We must follow Him in His ascension in order to be changed. Paul put it this way in 2nd Cor. 3:
17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.
18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.
If we understand the way of change, it’s easy to see why so much of Christianity is stifled. We have a mystical reference to present day Christianity in Hos. 7:8. “Ephraim mixes himself with the nations; Ephraim has become a cake not turned.” A cake not turned means there is no change of nature. Jesus Christ is not a figurehead. The Lord Jesus Christ is dispersed through the Holy Spirit into the hearts of many sons. This is His real and current manifestation.