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Thursday, May 9, 2013
Today’s Reading | Luke 24:36–52
While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence.
Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. (NRSV)
The ascension of Jesus is a critical moment in the wider Luke-Acts narrative—a final foreshadowing from Jesus about the day of Pentecost that is to come. After physically appearing to the disciples, Jesus commissions them to go forth from Jerusalem to all nations, proclaiming repentance and a forgiveness of sins. The increased emphasis on Jesus’ physicality in both Luke and John is intriguing (and likely polemical), but the author’s true focus lies in verse 49: “See, I am sending upon you what my Father promised.” He is referring to the Holy Spirit, and the promise of the Spirit’s arrival is the true joy of this day, a promise that will come to full fruition on the Day of Pentecost.
What a wonderful reminder it is to us that we are not left to our own devices when it comes to following the difficult path of discipleship, that we are enabled and empowered by the Spirit to live lives of service, proclaiming that though all have fallen short, our God is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. It is tempting, of course, to stay solely in the world of the Gospels, learning Jesus’ teachings, but the story of the ascension challenges us to not remain in that world forever. Instead, we must put those teachings into practice. Jesus may no longer physically be with us, but this story is far from over—it has only just begun.
Dear God, I am ever grateful for the promise of your Spirit given on this day. May the ascension be a reminder of the life that you have called me to live as one of Jesus’ disciples. Amen.
Written by Matt Helms, Minister for Children and Families
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