By Sr. Anne, SSJD.
Have you ever been with someone who is leaving town or even dying who likely would say to you remember me? or remember when? or even do not forget to feed the dog? These are just some examples of a situation in that one person is leave taking and the other is left behind. Such is the scenario we have with Jesus just about to leave the earth in His Ascension to heaven and who gives his disciples some final instructions. We have this account of the Ascension of Jesus through the Gospel of St. Luke and the Book of the Acts of the Apostles. In the recording of the event, the remembrances of two unnamed disciples, both of whom were eye witnesses to this last event in Jesus’ life on earth, are given here by St. Luke. The account of the Ascension from the gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles are the only ones recorded anywhere in the Bible in detail. St. Mark makes a passing mention of it towards the end of his gospel but none of the other gospels mention the Ascension of Jesus. I have put these remembrances together in order to get a sense of the Ascension as recorded from St. Luke, the historian.
We begin the account of the Ascension with an introduction from St. Luke in the Acts of the Apostles:
I dealt with everything that Jesus had done and taught from the beginning until the day he was taken up, after he had given instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After the Passion, Jesus appeared alive to the apostles – confirmed through many convincing proofs – over the course of forty days, and spoke to them about the Kingdom of God. Acts 1:1-3
Then the scene shifts to the last time the apostles were together having a meal and some conversation in the upper room.
A disciple recalled that someone in their group asked Jesus a question about the Kingdom of God because the conversation at that time was centred around that particular subject
While meeting together they asked “Has the time come Rabbi? Are you going to restore sovereignty to Israel?” Jesus replied “It is not for you to know the times or the dates that God has decided.” Acts 1:6 & 7
Rather than focus on God’s reign at this point, Jesus re – directed them to the task ahead of them and gave them their final instructions
Then Jesus said to them “Remember the words I spoke when I was still with you: everything written about me in the Law of Moses and Prophets and the Psalms had to be fulfilled.” Then Jesus opened their minds to the understanding of the scriptures saying: That is why the scriptures say that the Messiah must suffer and rise from the dead on the third day. In the Messiah’s name, repentance and the forgiveness of sins will be proclaimed to all nations beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.” Luke 24:44-48
This was followed by a promise that they would not be abandoned by him and how they will be empowered by the Holy Spirit to do the work he had just assigned them to do when he said:
“Take Note: I am sending forth what God has promised to you. Remain here in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” Luke 24:49
“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; then you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8b
Another one of the disciples remembered the scene of Jesus’ promise differently:
On one occasion, Jesus told them not to leave Jerusalem. “Wait, rather, for what God has promised, of which you have heard me speak. John baptized with water, but within a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” Acts 1:4 & 5
The Ascension was remembered by one of the disciples in the following way as recorded in St. Luke’s gospel
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. Luke 24:50 – 51
Another disciple remembered the Ascension in the following way and is recorded in the book of Acts
When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two messengers in white robes appeared and stood beside them.
They said, “You Galileans – why are you standing here looking up at the skies? Jesus who has been taken from you – will return, in the same way you watched him go into heaven.” Acts 1:9-11
The disciples continued to wait for Jesus’ eventual return in the second coming, but in the meantime, this is what they did afterwards
And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. They were found in the Temple constantly, speaking the praises of God. Luke 24:52 – 53
As we continue to wait for the second coming and the promise of Pentecost, we too, like the disciples who witnessed Jesus’ ascension, continue to worship Jesus in Spirit and are found in the chapel daily constantly praying and singing the praises of God.