May 18, 2023
Today is known as Ascension Day, marking when the resurrected Jesus leaves and is “carried up to Heaven.” We enter the last ten days of Easter, which in some places called Ascensiontide, making our way to Pentecost and the receiving of the Holy Spirit.
When you read the gospel accounts, it is truly remarkable to see how little time the risen Christ was with the disciples before he leaves. In the Gospel of Luke, there are only two accounts of actual encounters with the resurrected Jesus: the road to Emmaus that involved the sharing of a meal (24:13-35) and his appearance to the disciples in Jerusalem as they received the news of the Emmaus event and were discussing it (24:36-53). In the passage we have been focussing on in this series (24:1-12), resurrection is experienced, but the Risen Christ does not appear.
In the second of these brief encounters, the Risen One, having opened their eyes to his resurrection in the eating of food (eating fish and honeycomb), then opens their minds to understand the scriptures (from Moses, through the prophets and psalms) and says, “That is how it is written, and that is why it was inevitable that Christ should suffer and rise from the dead on the third day. So must the change of heart which leads to the forgiveness of sins be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning in Jerusalem” (24:46-47). The Risen One then names them as witnesses and “hands over the commands of my Father….”, takes them out of Jerusalem to Bethany and is lifted into the sky as the blessing is given.
The Risen One:
- opened their eyes in table fellowship
- opened their minds in the telling of scripture
- gave them a job: affirmed them as witnesses and commissioned them: “change hearts that lead to the forgiveness of sins”
And this is enough.
Enough to change death into life. Sorrow into joy. Despair into hope. Fear into courage.
Enough to change you. Change the world.
Runners tell me that the last segment of a marathon is the hardest. As we enter these last ten days of Easter, when Jesus is absent and the Holy Spirit is pending, dig deep into the resurrection resources the Risen One gave the apostles and friends that Monday. As with them, Christ has opened your eyes, opened your mind, and changed your heart. This is the Risen Life to trust, hold, and live as we await the gift of the Spirit. This is the Risen Life we are invited to live always.
Prayer: Holy One, resurrect me. Let your Risen Christ live in me that I may be your love, grace, forgiveness, peace, and joy in the world. Claim me as Christ’s own. Amen. Alleluia.
Photo: A scan of the Rabbula Gospels (c. 550) depicts the Ascension of Jesus via WikiCommons