Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.’
The Ascension of Jesus
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. And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God.
Ascension Day, the day Jesus returned to his father, is one of the more overlooked days in our yearly Christian calendar of celebration. Yet it is a vital part of the story of Jesus’ time on earth and the continuing story of relationship between humankind and God. Easter gave us the rollercoaster of emotions the disciples and Jesus himself felt as they went from the betrayal, pain and darkness of Good Friday, to the relief, excitement and joy of Easter Sunday. Here, forty days later, we see Jesus gathering them again on the mountain in Galilee, for what must feel to the disciples like another, pain-filled goodbye. Yet another moment of grief.
Goodbyes are hard. The loss we feel in those times can be in big and small ways. It may be the missing of a faraway loved one or the life-altering death of a friend or family member, a loss of health, of a relationship, of hope, or of a dream or ambition that gave us purpose. COVID-19 has brought various kinds of losses to people across the globe including illness, death, loss of connection and freedom to name a few. As human beings we are well acquainted with loss. In those times, we all need comfort, to derive strength to stand once again and keep going from those around us through love, connection and support. To know we are not alone.
Knowing this, Jesus reminds the disciples that he is not leaving them, rather he is returning to his father, but will always be with them (Matthew 28:20), just not in the physical form in which they’ve known him. He promises (John 16:7) that he will send them a helper, a comforter, an advocate – the Holy Spirit. The message for all of us, no matter who we are, becomes clear, echoing the ‘Emmanuel’ of Jesus’ birth: God is with us and will never leave us. We are not alone.
Jesus also gives them a purpose, a calling. He blesses them and tells them to go into the entire world and make disciples – to enact all that he had told and taught them – to continue his mission and ministry. In Matthew, he follows up this calling with the words “I am with you.”
Blessings as we remind ourselves that no matter how dark things can get we are not alone – Jesus is always with us. Be safe! Be well! He is Risen Indeed!
- What loss are you experiencing right now where you need to know the comforting presence of the Holy Spirit, to know that you are not alone, that God is with you?
- Take a moment and imagine you are sat on a park bench with Jesus – what loss are you experiencing that you would talk to him about? What comfort do you need from him?
- Perhaps take time to pray, to offer those things to God. Know that God is with you always.