May 29, 2022
With his two brief accounts of the Ascension (in the Gospel and in Acts), Luke remains our main source of information about Jesus’ Ascension to heaven. What is striking here is that the passage speaks more about the disciples—their fears, their questions and their mission—than about Jesus himself. Throughout the resurrection narratives, Jesus has helped the disciples to understand the story of Jesus within the larger story of salvation history. Beginning with Moses and all the prophets, Jesus indicates that the Messiah would not immediately be a glorious king, but on the contrary, that it was necessary that he should suffer and die before entering into his glory. In this light, the suffering and death of Jesus do not destroy the messianic credentials as the disciples had feared. Indeed, their hearts now “burn” as he opens the scriptures to them. The angels in the tomb (“Remember what he said to you…that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners and crucified.”), Jesus on the road to Emmaus (“Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”), and now Jesus at the supper with all the disciples (“Thus it is written that the Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day.”)—all contain words that try to help them to understand this. This is what makes them witnesses of the resurrection and ministers of the wort. Now they need to wait for the outpouring of the Spirit (an allusion to the prophet Joel 3:1-5, who looks forward to the day when God will “pour out the Spirit upon all flesh”) which they will receive at Pentecost. It will be through the Spirit’s presence and power that Jesus’ commission for mission will be extended to the entire world. As we struggle with our own fears, questions and doubts about our ability to be good disciples, we too can be assured by the Risen Lord that through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit we will carry on the mission of the resurrection of society. Indeed, as the Risen Lord assured St. Paul, God can best work through our limitations. For the power of the Risen Lord is made perfect in weakness (2 Cor 12:1-10).