The Ascension, John Singleton Copley, 1775
Christ is the Way is a Sermon Three Discourses published 1851. The translation is by Walter Lowrie (Princeton University Press 1941)
Christ is the Way Part One
Acts 1:1-12, Ascension Day
O Lord Jesus Christ, who didst behold Thy fate in advance and yet didst not draw back; This who didst suffer Thyself to be born int poverty and lowliness, and thereafter in poverty and lowliness didst bear the sin of the world, being ever a sufferer until, hated, forsaken, mocked, and spat upon, in the end deserted even by God, Thou didst bow Thy head in death of shame — oh, but Thou didst yet life it up again, Thou eternal victor, Thou who wast not, it is true, victorious over Thine enemies in this life, but in death wast victorious even over death; Thou didst lift up Thy head, for ever victorious, Thou who are ascended into heave! Would that we might follow Thee!
Christ is the way. This is His own work, so surely it must be true.
And this way is narrow.
He then makes the observations that the narrow way is set out in Christ’s own life: “thou hast only to look at him, and at once thou dost see that the way is narrow.” Yes, Christ said this – but Christ also lived this life: “this is much more solid and much more forcible proclamation that the way is narrow … than if his life had not expressed it.”
The life of Christ was a constant comment and illustration – a proof that the way is narrow.
SK then compares the life of Christ and his preaching – being one and the same – with the life and preaching of many who came later, “a man whose life …. expresses the exact opposite, then preaches Christianity for half an hour. Such preaching transforms Christianity into its exact opposite.”
How then was Christ’s life narrow:
It was narrow in his “poverty and wretchedness” of his birth young life. It was present in his life being assaulted with temptation.
It was narrow in that he had to work to avoid being king – when so many men (“the universal human trait to aspire to be regarded as something great”) – aspire to be king.
And think of his love:
Now he performs again a work of love towards this people (and His whole life was nothing else but this), but He knew at the same instant what it means, that also this work of love contributes to bring Him to the cross
His life only proceeds into narrower straits. One could live with something difficult knowing that things will improve: but to know that they will only become more difficult, more trying is a narrow way. He could have defended himself. He could have ended his difficulty – and so it was narrow to know his difficulty, how it would end; to know that he could also end the suffering, and then to proceed.
Yes there is an ascension – but the Ascension does not come without death. There is a way to the Ascension but it is a narrow way that leads through death.