This Sunday we celebrate the last Sunday of the Easter season. For forty days following his Resurrection, Jesus appears to the disciples. He turns their sorrow into joy. Once, they thought death was the end; now, they realize there is so much more to the Plan.
“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.”
Jesus speaks in an odd way: "while I was still with you." Although he is with them now, it is as if the Resurrection has made him move beyond. He reminds the disciples of what he spoke to them while he lived a life like theirs, a life that ended in death. Now, he has moved beyond death; his life is new, it is eternal, it will never end. He is filled with the life of God.
Everything written about him in the scriptures, Jesus says, must be fulfilled.
This is the Plan.
Plan? Whose Plan?
Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures,
They did not get it before. While Jesus was still with them in this life, they did not understand. Now, in his Risen life, he opens their minds to understand the Plan.
Plan?? What Plan?
he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day
Oh, that Plan. Check. All done. The Plan is already complete.
And?? There's more to the Plan?
that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations beginning from Jerusalem.
This is interesting. Repentance and forgiveness of sins are as much a part of the Plan as Jesus' death and Resurrection. They are next on the check list. What does this tell us? How important is it to God that everyone repent and be forgiven? Is this done yet? Do all nations—all people—know about the repentance and forgiveness of sins? We can see that the Plan is not yet complete.
Already complete and not yet complete. Both. Death is not the end, only the beginning. Beginning from Jerusalem, Jesus says. There is work to be done.
Jesus says to the disciples,
You are witnesses of these things.
A witness is someone who sees something happen. What have the disciples seen happen? Part One of the Plan: Jesus Risen to new life, never to die again. They have seen the power of God, Life stronger than death, Love that forgives all sins. He stands before them right now, loving them so much.
And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised;
A promise of more. Something is coming. What is it? Who is it? Do we know?
so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
Jesus uses that word full of the promise—"until." Until means something is going to happen. Until means they will see it happen. They will witness the promise.
They will witness the promise of the power of God coming to them, the power of Life stronger than death, the power of Love that forgives all sins. The promise of God, given to them.
Only to them?
Do only disciples get clothed with power from on high, Life stronger than death, Love that forgives all sins? What about us? Do we ever get clothed with power from on high, Life stronger than death, Love that forgives all sins?
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.
Jesus blesses them. God's favour rests on them. They are loved and they know it.
Jesus in his Risen life does not stop blessing them. He continues to bless them even as he returns to God forever and ever. How long, then, will his blessing last?
And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy and they were continually in the temple blessing God.
The disciples have not witnessed another death. They witness the beginning of a new life.
The disciples have not been left alone. They are eternally blessed.
Full of joy, they return to Jerusalem to wait until they receive the promise.
Full of joy, they return to Jerusalem to bless God with praise and thanksgiving.
Full of joy, we celebrate the Ascension of Jesus into heaven, the power from on high, the work that begins—blessings without end.