C Cycle – Ascension of the Lord 19
Lk, 24: 46-53
It had to be an interesting day for the disciples. For more than a month they have been coming to grips with the death and resurrection of Jesus. They have encountered Him in the upper room, on the road to Emmaus, on the shore of Lake Tiberius. They have touched Him, eaten with Him, listened to Him and now they watch and listen as He is taken up to heaven; to be with His Father,
Luke, in today’s gospel, tells us the disciples are in Bethany, that place where Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, and they are told to wait in the city until they are clothed with power from on high. Then he blesses them and was taken up to heaven. They are filled with joy and each day are in the temple praying and praising God.
Matthew’s gospel avoids telling us a city but give us the region of Galilee to the mountain where they had learned so many things from Jesus and witnessed so many miracles. Jesus tells them to go and make disciples of all the nations and then tells them he would be with them until the ends of the earth. Matthew focus is on the mission, while Luke is focused on what we must go to prepare for the mission.
How are we to respond to the Ascension of Jesus? Like so many feasts we tend to treat it as a historical event and as such we remember the details of the event while we fail to appropriate for ourselves the significance of the event for us today. What I am saying is we tend to keep Jesus on the throne at the right hand of God , safely tucked away in Heaven. That makes this day a day to remember as an historical fact, In one sense we like Jesus up there with God and not here with us because this means we do not have to interact with him here only give him homage.
We ignore the very words of Jesus saying to us, “I will be with you until the end of the age.” We ignore the words of Jesus spoken in the upper room the night before he died telling us “…apart from Him we can do nothing” (Jn. 15:5).
If we mentally keep Jesus in heaven seated on the throne at the right hand of God how can we attach ourselves to Him? How can we appropriate for ourselves the promise of Jesus to be with us always if we keep Him on the throne of God? How can we experience the love of God and the forgiveness of God if we do not place ourselves in God’s presence? Do we believe God when he promised us, He is “…a God who is near, not a God who is far off” (Jer. 23:23)?
Far too many of us going to church on the Feast of the Ascension will leave the church without ever considering the words or the works of Jesus that proceeded His mission to show us the Father and to show us who we were created to be – men and women made in the image and likeness of God. We were endowed at our conception by our God to continue the work of Jesus by our words and actions. Yes, we need to understand the ascension is more than a story about Jesus, but it is a clear directive for us to increase our faith and experience the power of God.
God’s plan to restore the glory we lost with the sin of Adam was laid out for us in His promises. God’s plan was to change us, so we would always do his will and that promise involved God’s love overcoming our stubborn self-serving desires by the gift of Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
God’s plan is direct, simple and has never changed from the beginning of creation. We, you and I, were made to be in an intimate relationship with Him. We clearly can see that plan as given to us in the stories in Genesis. Us and God are to engage in daily conversation. The give and take of a loving relationship we often talk about, but seldom do we attempt to experience was then and remains God’s plan for us. God desires our hearts not our obedience or works but our love and our desire to be in His presence – sins, faults and weakness cannot separate God’s love from reaching our hearts.
The gift of Jesus was to atone for the sins of all of us so we could stand before God forgiven and the guilt of our sin forgotten. But at the Ascension Jesus lets us know He will still be with us and promises to send to us the “promise of the Father, to clothe us with power from on high.”
That one line is the thing we need to appropriate for ourselves as the fruit of the Ascension and the fruit of the life and works of Jesus Christ.
The Holy Spirit is hovering over us waiting for our invitation to change our hearts. We are invited to “wait until we are clothed with power from oh high.” We are invited to be in prayer and await the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
Next week and God’s desire for us to experience Pentecost will be the event we celebrate. This is where the Ascension was directing us, not to the sky but to a place where we pray expectantly for the promise of God.
Following the example of the disciples and 120 believers we need to heed the words of Jesus and in expectant prayer say, Come Holy Spirit Come, fill my heart, enkindle in me the fire of God’s love and baptize me in fire and Spirit as John the Baptist promised Jesus would do.
Pray those simple words over and over during this coming week. Do not miss a day and on Pentecost Sunday invite the Holy Spirit into your heart to change you, to pour the love of God into your heart and to let you feel forgiveness.