Our Whole Selves
May 29, 2022
Jesus is such a distraction.
The disciples discover this after the resurrection. They want to feed him fish and watch him eat it or shove their fingers in his hands. They want to hold him, embrace him, have breakfast on the beach with him. Like teenagers in love, they want to be near him but can’t find anything to talk about.
This way of being with Jesus is a terrible distraction—from what Jesus taught, from the mission Jesus has in mind for his disciples, from the fullness of God’s love that Jesus has shown. It’s like walking into a cool independent bookstore and never making it past the rack of greeting cards in the front. It’s like going to a sports event and spending the whole game in line for popcorn. It’s like going out to the finest dinner and filling up only on breadsticks.
Jesus is sensitive to our infatuation, and so he does the one thing that will help. He leaves—not forever, not in spirit, but so that the full scope of what he means can continue. Scripture describes this ascension as a flight up into the clouds—which is super cool and very superhero, but is also obviously intended to be symbolic, considering the guy who flies off had spent time and energy teaching everyone that the kingdom of God was very near to them, even within them. Jesus symbolically steps aside, he ascends, so that the Spirit of his work can continue. As my favorite summary of the ascension describes it, Jesus becomes the light by which we see, rather than the guy we stare at. He lights up the world as the light of the world.
Jesus can still be such a distraction. We confuse love with infatuation. So many love stories never tip past that first obsessive moment—which is delightful and lovely and powerful!—and seeing our beloved, holding their hand, will matter throughout a long relationship. Marriage, though, has a good deal to do with mortgages and dishes and listening and sharing and growing up. A loving relationship buoys us, builds us up, helps us become our whole selves, and sends us to create something new for the world.
As we mark the ascension, we need to consider Jesus with the same care. We’ll never grow past needing to spend time together in worship and reflection and prayer, but life with Jesus is also lived in the world of mortgages and dishes. We need to stop staring at him and see where he wants to take us.