“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.” (Luke 24:44 – 49)
The Day of Ascension of the Lord marks the day when Jesus returned to heaven. Unlike other passages that we have read, the reason for Jesus’ life, ministry, death, and resurrection are revealed to the disciples gathered there. But this was not the same as the coming of the Holy Presence.
I must tell you, beloved reader, the faith and Christian journey is not as sequential and linear as it was for the disciples. Understanding and the presence of the Holy Spirit come in spurts and starts – neither are complete or completed in one divine action. In fact, sometimes part of one needs to come before or after the other in order that the whole thing makes sense. Maybe this was true for the disciples, but on the writer of the gospel of Luke’s reflection the revelation may have seemed in chronological order.
“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; and they were continually in the temple blessing God.“ (Verses 50 – 53)
It seems that the impact of Jesus on them was a personal one; what I mean is that it impacted their worship practices. They knew now who Jesus was, and what he represented in terms of who the Lord God was that they had worshiped before. But as we are aware, there was more to come. And it would bring a different sort of change, and an even newer perspective that they would eventually share with others.
“I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power.” (Ephesians 1:15 – 19)
In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, by praising and blessing them, he lists for us some of the attributes that Christian followers should have. You may say “this is Paul not one of the original twelve”, and I will remind you that the example of the original disciples was present to Paul when he was still Saul. And he was instructed by a convert who had been taught by the disciples. Paul points to the same faith and attributes (well, the same large category) that Jesus taught his disciples, and since Jesus was in God and God was in Jesus . . . . you know it was from the Divine.
“God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” (Verses 20 – 23)
Paul says, and I believe, we are the body of Christ. Not only in a corporate group we call church, but individually as well. The Holy Presence came to each individual disciple, and it was not a Presence that was felt only when they were together in their original group. But each of them carried it with them as they went out preaching the gospel of Christ and the Lord God. That is how it could also be in Paul since he was not part of the original. It is also why, beloved reader, we too can have the Holy Presence in us. But . . . I am getting ahead of myself. We are still at the site of the Ascension. So let us end by praising the Lord God who watches over us and blesses us without end! Selah!
“ Clap your hands, all you peoples; shout to God with loud songs of joy.
For the LORD, the Most High, is awesome, a great king over all the earth.
He subdued peoples under us, and nations under our feet.
He chose our heritage for us, the pride of Jacob whom he loves. Selah
God has gone up with a shout, the LORD with the sound of a trumpet.
Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises.
For God is the king of all the earth; sing praises with a psalm.
God is king over the nations; God sits on his holy throne.
The princes of the peoples gather as the people of the God of Abraham. For the shields of the earth belong to God; he is highly exalted.” ( Psalm 47)