Doubts and all

When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted… (Mt 20:17)

We are a little uncomfortable with that doublet:  worshiped, doubted.  I mean these are the apostles – they have been with Jesus for three years and have seen incredible signs and wonders, the lame have walked, the deaf hear and mute speak.  Surely these apostles would be people of great faith. Continue reading

Ascension: the nations

 All power…all nations… all that I have commanded you…with you always – One should be struck by the repetition of the word “all” in this passage:

  1. Jesus has been given all power (v.18).
  2. Disciples are to be made of all nations (v.19).
  3. Disciples are to obey all that Jesus commanded (v.20).
  4. Jesus will be with the disciples always (literally “all the days”; v.20).

The universality of Jesus’ power and his continuing presence provide the dynamic for the universal discipleship mandate. The disciples will be able to make disciples of all the nations only as they recognize that Jesus has been given all authority and that he will be with them all the days until the end. The universal task is daunting, but it can be done because of the continuing power and presence of Jesus. Continue reading

Ascension: but they doubted

Commentary – Jesus was from Galilee and since the beginning of his public ministry had moved from the northern most reaches of Israel to its center in Jerusalem – the locus of the confrontation and rejection by the leaders of Israel. But now the “Galilean” has triumphed against all odds and it a manner none had foreseen.   The preparation of the “twelve” was not lost in their abandoning Jesus at the Passion. They are now restored to their positions of trust and responsibility and given final instructions for fulfilling the mission to which they had already been called (cf. 10:1-15) – but the scope is now far wider than Israel and included all the nations (28:19) Continue reading

Ascension: context

 Matthew 28:16-20 16 The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted. 18 Then Jesus approached and said to them, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” Continue reading

The Promise

ascension-of-jesusWhen I was in seminary, our homiletics professor had lots of advice and pointers for the Sunday homily – I am about to ignore one of the pieces of advice. The professor was pretty adamant about not explaining theology. And I mostly agree with his point – it can make a homily really dry and fill it with language that needs its own explanation. The professor’s final point was that you are likely to give an inaccurate or heretical version of the theology in any case. Continue reading

Ascension: witnesses

ascension-of-jesus46 And he said to them, “Thus it is written that the Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day 47 and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And (behold) I am sending the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” 50  Then he led them (out) as far as Bethany, raised his hands, and blessed them. 51 As he blessed them he parted from them and was taken up to heaven. 52 They did him homage and then returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and they were continually in the temple praising God. (Luke 24:46-53) Continue reading

Ascension: taken up

ascension-of-jesusJesus taken up into heaven (1:6–11). Although we have entitled this section ‘The ascension’, it is doubtful whether the actual act of ascension is the central feature in the story. Luke is more concerned with what was said than with what happened. The vital question was the one posed by the disciples: now that Jesus had been raised from the dead, was God going to complete his purpose by finally establishing his rule? The answer given was twofold. First, the time of this event remained God’s secret; what was more important was the immediate task of the disciples which was to act as witnesses to Jesus from Jerusalem to the end of the earth. The spread of God’s rule was to take place by means of the disciples, empowered by the Spirit. This was the final command of Jesus before he left the disciples. Secondly, the departure of Jesus was interpreted as a pattern for his ultimate return to the earth to inaugurate the final establishment of the rule of God. These verses thus spell out God’s purpose and the place of the church in it. They postulate that the period of witness and mission must precede the return of Jesus. They were thus in effect a warning to the disciples not to expect a speedy winding up of history. For Luke’s readers some forty or more years later they were a reminder of an ongoing task: the gospel must still be taken to the end of the earth. At the same time the words contain a note of promise in that the departure of Jesus is compensated for by the coming of the Spirit, given by Jesus himself (2:33). Continue reading

Ascension: mission

ascension-of-jesusThe Church’s Mission Begins. Luke begins Acts as he began his Gospel, with a foreword to his patron Theophilus, reminding him that the “first book” covered the time until Jesus was taken up by God to heaven. The Gospel ends with a brief reference to this incident (Luke 24:51), which was preceded by important teaching given by Jesus to his disciples. So important was this teaching that we have three accounts of it. Luke records it in the Gospel (Luke 24, especially verses 44–49); he then summarizes it briefly in this introductory part of Acts, and then he covers certain aspects of it once again in the story of the ascension which is the first incident in the main narrative in Acts (1:6–11). The repetition is partly for emphasis, and at the same time it indicates that the period from Easter Sunday to the Ascension is both the conclusion of the earthly ministry of Jesus and the beginning of the work of the church. This period had two important characteristics. It provided evidence that Jesus was alive (1:3),, having risen from the dead, and it was the time when Jesus gave his mission orders to the apostles (1:4f.; cf. 1:7f.). Continue reading

Ascension: context

ascension-of-jesus1 In the first book, Theophilus, I dealt with all that Jesus did and taught 2 until the day he was taken up, after giving instructions through the holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3 He presented himself alive to them by many proofs after he had suffered, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. 4 While meeting with them, he enjoined them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for “the promise of the Father about which you have heard me speak; 5 for John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the holy Spirit.” 6 When they had gathered together they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He answered them, “It is not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has established by his own authority. But you will receive power when the holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” 9 When he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight. 10 While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going, suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them. 11 They said, “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.” Continue reading

A sea change

USNA-graduationWe are firmly in the midst of high school and college graduation season. Every institution has their own traditions and ways to celebrate – including my alma mater, the United States Naval Academy. Every May, the seniors march on to the field at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium for graduation. The women and men are dressed in their “choker” whites (future Naval Officers) and blues (future Marine Corp officers). Theses graduating midshipmen take their places, listen to the speakers of the day, walk across the stage to receive their diploma, take the oath of office, and then it happens… Continue reading