The Standard May 28, 2020
Last Thursday was Ascension Day and this Sunday will be Pentecost, forty days and fifty days after Easter, respectively. We read in Scripture what the Apostles’ Creed affirms about Jesus that on “the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven.” At the end of his gospel the writer of Luke describes Christ’s ascension and continues with a more detailed description at the beginning of his follow-up volume, the Book of Acts.
“In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: ‘Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ Then they gathered around him and asked him, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He said to them: ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. ‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.’” (Acts 1:1-11)
Jesus begins and ends his ministry teaching about the Kingdom of God. Imagine how the puzzle pieces must come together in the minds of his followers once they see him in bodily form after the Resurrection. They have to think back with newfound understanding on so many of the Lord’s parables and teachings. Before his arrest and crucifixion, when Jesus speaks of rebuilding the temple in three days and his forthcoming suffering, his disciples are a bit confused. During Jesus’ forty post-resurrection days on earth he continues to explain to them the plans of God and they are filled with great joy.
Christ’s final message before the ascension is threefold: We can’t know the times or dates for him to return. We will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon us. We will be God’s witnesses. “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.” (Matthew 24:36-37) “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.” (Matthew 24:42) Although we do not know when Jesus will return, he promises to be with us as the Holy Spirit helps us carry out the Great Commission. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)