Friday, 18 May 2007

ascension Luke 24 50-53

Jesus leads his disciples out to the Mount of Olives in the direction of Bethany. The description is brief, almost laconic. For a full description we have to turn to Luke’s second volume. When Jesus reaches the Mount he raises his hands in blessing. The Son of the Most High, the daystar, the Saviour in a manger, the Son of Man, the righteous man unjustly crucified, the risen Lord finishes the task the priest Zechariah had failed to complete at the outset of our story. It is as if the whole world had been waiting for the blessing of God, only to find those qualified to give it dumb and unbelieving: Israel, God’s son and agent through whom blessing was to be communicated to the world had seen the vision but never taken it seriously, ever since Sara had laughed at God’s promise, it had been never properly communicated the love and grace of God to the nations. With this blessing the training of the apostles is now complete: they simply await empowering. For Jesus, however, this is the final exodus. He disappears in front of their eyes. Those who had slept through the transfiguration now stared open eyed into the heavens waiting for something sensational to happen again. But this time there is no heavenly host, no vision of Elijah and Moses, no cryptic conversation about the exodus. This is the exodus, and he just slips quietly away as enigmatically as he was conceived.

Two witnesses appear and tell them to stop watching the skies and get on with work on the ground. They return to Jerusalem praising God, constantly in the temple. The hosannas of palm Sunday ring out again – but not to one riding lowly on a donkey – to one crowned in heaven as Lord of all. These hosannas are not to end in tragedy: they are not just a fickle one off event. They are continuous. They are for all time. They are for eternity.

From now on it is down to the apostles: they are going to be at the centre of attention: the presence of Christ in the world will largely depend on them. They, gifted with the Holy Spirit, will be God’s agent. Perhaps the ascension is a wrongly titled event. The exodus of Jesus is less about his glory than the more wonderful incarnation of God in his people. At Pentecost the process is completed and the new Body of Christ is unleashed on the world with an impact hitherto unseen. At last Jerusalem rocks.

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