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Resurrection Seventh Sunday

Season of Resurrection

Seventh Sunday: LUKE 24:44-53
DISCIPLES WHO PRAYED ALL THE TIME IN THE TEMPLE

INTRODUCTION

Jesus appeared on the day of his resurrection to his apostles, who doubted him and convinced them with evidence that he was the Risen Lord (Lk 24:36-43). Then he reminded them of his former instruction that everything written about him in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms had to be fulfilled. He enlightened them to understand the Scriptures, especially the resurrection after his passion and death. He asked them to remain in Jerusalem to receive the Holy Spirit. Then he took them to the Mount of Olives near Bethany. He blessed them and ascended to heaven while they were watching. The apostles worshipped Jesus and went to the Temple praising God. Like the apostles, let us also learn that God will change our mourning into dancing, take off our sackcloth and dress us with gladness (Ps 30:12) when we work for the kingdom of God. With our fellow Christians, let us also praise and thank God for making us his chosen ones and work with his church for the greater glory of God.

BIBLE TEXT

Last Instructions

(Lk 24:44) Then Jesus said to them, “Remember the words I spoke to you when I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms had to be fulfilled.” (45) Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. And he went on, (46) “This is what is written, the Messiah had to suffer and on the third day rise from the dead. (47) Then repentance and forgiveness in his name is to be proclaimed to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. (48) Now you shall be witnesses to this. (49) And this is why I will send you what my Father promised. So remain in the city until you are invested with power from above.”

The Ascension

(Lk 24:50) Then Jesus led them almost as far as Bethany; and he lifted up his hands and blessed them. (51) And as he blessed them, he withdrew from them and was taken up into heaven. They worshipped him and (52) returned to Jerusalem full of joy and (53) were continually in the Temple praising God.

INTERPRETATION 

Background

According to Luke, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and others who accompanied them went to the tomb of Jesus with spices at the daybreak on the Sabbath after the burial of Jesus. To their surprise, they found the tomb stone rolled away from the entrance and the body of Jesus missing. Two men in dazzling garments appeared to them and told that Jesus had been risen. They went to the eleven apostles and reported the details to them. “But their story seemed like nonsense and they did not believe them” (Lk 24:11). Peter hurried to the tomb and found the same.

While two disciples were walking to Emmaus, Jesus joined them in disguise. They recognized him at the breaking of the bread. They went back to Jerusalem and shared their experience with the other disciples (Lk 24:13-35). While they were speaking about it, Jesus appeared in their midst (Lk 24:36-43).

Last Instructions

(Lk 24:44) Then Jesus said to them, “Remember the words I spoke to you when I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms had to be fulfilled.”

Then Jesus said to them

Jesus appeared to the apostles in Jerusalem while they were discussing on the experience of the two disciples who met Jesus while going to Emmaus. He greeted them, saying, “Peace be with you.” But “they were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost” (Lk 24:36-37). Jesus showed them his hands and feet with flesh and bones and allowed them to touch him for evidence that he was not a ghost. They might have noticed the marks of crucifixion on him. Jesus allowed Thomas to see and touch his wound marks on his hands and side during his next appearance (Jn 20:25-27). At the request of Jesus, the disciples gave him a piece of baked fish to eat (Lk 24:41-43). Then Jesus instructed them.

Remember the words I spoke to you when I was still with you

During his public ministry, Jesus taught his disciples quoting from or referring to the Old Testament. His mission was to accomplish God’s promise of a Saviour. After the original sin, the LORD God said to the Serpent: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; They will strike at your head, while you strike at their heel” (Gen 3:15). From then on, humanity has been expecting for the offspring of Eve who would strike the head of Satan. Prophesies were many on the Messiah, who would be victorious despite the strike on him by Satan. Thus, besides Jesus himself, the Scripture had predicted the suffering of the Redeemer and his success over the evil.

The following are the words Jesus spoke about his passion, death, and resurrection, according to Luke.

1. After Peter’s confession about Jesus as “The Messiah of God,” he made the first prediction of his passion. He said, “The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised” (Lk 9:22).

2. After the transfiguration of Jesus on a mountain, followed by casting out demon from a boy, Jesus predicted a second time his passion to his disciples. “Pay attention to what I am telling you. The Son of Man is to be handed over to men” (Lk 9:44).

3. After answering to Peter’s question on what the apostles would gain by giving up their possessions for following Jesus, he gave a detailed prediction of his upcoming passion. “Then he took the Twelve aside and said to them, ‘Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem and everything written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be handed over to the Gentiles and he will be mocked and insulted and spat upon; and after they have scourged him they will kill him, but on the third day he will rise.’” (Lk 18:31-33). 

Everything written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms had to be fulfilled.

By the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms, Jesus meant the whole Old Testament. The predictions of him in the whole scripture had to be fulfilled. The Jews divided the Old Testament into three sections: The Law, the Prophets, and the Holy Writings or Hagiographa, that includes the Psalms. Hagiographa contains the books in the Old Testament that are not contained in the Law and the Prophets. The prophesies in the Bible include Jesus’ birth, ministry, death, resurrection, and his role in the church.

     Writing about Jesus in the Law of Moses and their fulfillment.

The Law of Moses comprises the first five books in the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The following are some parallels of Jesus given in the Torah and New Testament.

God said to the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; They will strike at your head, while you strike at their heel” (Gen 3:15)
Jesus is the offspring of the woman. “The Son of God was revealed to destroy the works of the devil” (1 Jn 3:8b).

“Melchizedek, king of Salem, brought out bread and wine. He was a priest of God Most High” (Gen 14:18).
Jesus is the priest according to the order of Melchizedek. “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek” (Heb 7:17).

God told Abram, “I will maintain my covenant between me and you and your descendants after you throughout the ages as an everlasting covenant, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you” (Gen 17:7).
“Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his descendant. It does not say, ‘And to descendants,’ as referring to many, but as referring to one, ‘And to your descendant,’ who is Christ” (Gal 3:16).

Jacob told his sons, “The scepter shall never depart from Judah, or the mace from between his feet, until tribute comes to him, and he receives the people’s obedience” (Gen 49:10).
“It is clear that our Lord arose from Judah” (Heb 7:14).

The oracle of Balaam, “A star shall advance from Jacob, and a scepter shall rise from Israel” (Num 24:17).
This star is Jesus. “Alleluia! The Lord has established his reign, [our] God, the Almighty” (Rev 19:6).

     Writing about Jesus in the Prophets and their fulfillment.

“The Prophets” is the second and largest division of the Old Testament. That is subdivided as the Former and Latter Prophets. The Former Prophets are Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings. The Latter Prophets are Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the twelve Minor Prophets: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.

Matthew, who wrote the gospel for Jewish-Christian readers, gives many references to the prophesies on the Messiah and their fulfillment in Jesus.

Isaiah 7:14. “The virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel” (Mt 1:23).

Micah 5:1. Jesus Christ was born in “Bethlehem of Judea” (Mt 2:5-6).

Hosea 11:1 “Out of Egypt I called my son” (Mt 2:14-15).

Jeremiah 31:15. “Rachel weeping for her children, and she would not be consoled” (Mt 2:16-18).

Isaiah 40:3. “A voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord …” (Mt 3:3).

Isaiah 9:1-2. “The people who sit in darkness have seen a great light” (Mt 4:15-16).

Isaiah 53:4. “He took away our infirmities and bore our diseases” (Mt 8:7).

Malachi 3:1. “Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you …” (Mt 11:10).

Isaiah 42:1-4. “He will proclaim justice to the Gentiles” (Mt 12:18-21).

Isaiah 6:9-10. “You shall indeed hear but not understand, …” (Mt 13:14-15).

Isaiah 29:13. “This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me” (Mt 15:7-9).

Zechariah 9:9. “Behold, your king comes to you, meek and riding on an ass” (Mt 21:4-5).

Zechariah 13:7. “I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be dispersed” (Mt 26:31).

Zechariah 11:13. “They took the thirty pieces of silver, the value of a man” (Mt 27:9-10).

Besides Matthew’s direct quotes from the Prophets, there are several other prophetic references to Jesus’ ministry in all the gospels.

     Writing about Jesus in the Psalms and their fulfillment

The third section of the Hebrew Scriptures is the Writings (Ketuvim or the Hagiographa) that also include the 150 Psalms. Out of these, 73 are attributed to David. Majority of the Psalms are composed for liturgical worship praising God or praising Zion, the city where God dwelt among his people. Other Psalms are for thanksgiving or lament. Sixteen of the Psalms are Messianic, and some others refer to the life, rejection, passion, and resurrection of Christ. So, they are cited in the New Testament. Besides Psalms, Hagiographa comprises Proverbs, Job, Song of Solomon, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Chronicles.

Matthew quotes the following psalms.

Mt 13:34-35. “I will open my mouth in a parable” (Ps 78:2).

Mt 21:42. “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone …” (Ps 118:22-23).

Mt 22:44. “Sit at my right hand, while I make your enemies your footstool” (Ps 110:1)

Mt 27:35. “They divide my garments among them; for my clothing they cast lots” (Ps 22:19).

Besides the above, there are several references to the Psalms and other books of the Old Testament that are fulfilled in the life and ministry of Jesus. Some examples from Psalms referred by the evangelists:

Mt 2:11 Wise men would worship Jesus and present him gifts (Ps 72:10).

Mt 21:16 “Out of the mouths of infants and nurslings you have brought forth praise” (Ps 8:3).

Jn 1:11 “His own people did not accept him” (Ps 69:9).

Mt 21:42 “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone” (Ps 118:22-23).

Jn 2:17 “Zeal for your house will consume me.” (Ps 69:10; 119:139).

Mk 15:29-32 “Likewise the chief priests, with the scribes, mocked him” (Ps 22:7-8).

Lk 23:34 “They divided his garments by casting lots” (Ps 22:19).

Jn 19:28 “In order that the scripture might be fulfilled, Jesus said, ‘I thirst’” (Ps 22:15).

Mt 27:34 “They gave Jesus wine to drink mixed with gall” (Ps 69:22).

Lk 23:46 “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit” (Ps 31:6).

Jn 19:37 “They will look upon him whom they have pierced” (Ps 22:17).

Mt 28:6 “He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said” (Ps 16:10).

Mk 16:19 He “was taken up into heaven” (Ps 24:7-10).

Mk 16:19 He “took his seat at the right hand of God” (Ps 110:1).

(45) Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. And he went on,

The Scriptures contain the word of God revealed throughout the centuries through God’s representatives. Since God is spiritual, humans have limitations in understanding the mysteries of heaven. When Jesus revealed the mysteries of heaven, many could not understand him. Jesus had to interpret his parables to the disciples in private. He told them quoting from Isaiah, “I speak to them in parables, because ‘they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand’” (Mt 13:13).

Understanding the mysteries of heaven is a gift from God. That is why the Psalmist prayed, “Open my eyes to see clearly the wonders of your law” (Ps 119:18). Jesus said, “I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike. Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will” (Mt 11:25-26). Jesus granted the knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven to his disciples (Mt 13:11). Still, they often failed to understand Jesus’ actions and teachings, especially his predictions on his passion, death, and resurrection. After the third prediction of Jesus’s passion, Luke documents, “But they understood nothing of this; the word remained hidden from them and they failed to comprehend what he said” (Lk 18:34).

Listening and understanding the Word of God can have a positive impact on the listeners.

1. The twelve apostles left everything they had and followed Jesus full time during his public ministry (Mt 19:27; Lk 18:28), and later continued preaching the gospel facing persecution and martyrdom.

2. The Samaritan woman who spoke with Jesus helped the people of her town to become believers in Jesus (Jn 4:4-42). The Samaritans invited Jesus to their town. After listening to him, “they said to the woman, ‘We no longer believe because of your word; for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the savior of the world’” (Jn 4:42).

3. Nicodemus, who had discussions with Jesus at night (Jn 3:1-21) became an admirer of Jesus. He defended Jesus in the Sanhedrin (Jn 7:50-52) and cooperated with Joseph of Arimathea in the burial of Jesus, contributing a mixture of myrrh and aloes weighing about one hundred pounds (Jn 19:39-40).

4. While Jesus was interpreting the Scriptures “beginning with Moses and all the prophets” to the two disciples who were traveling to Emmaus, their hearts were burning within themselves (Lk 24:13-35).

5. When Philip met an Ethiopian eunuch who was reading Isaiah, he asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” The eunuch’s reply was, “How can I, unless someone instructs me?” (Acts 8:30-31). Philip’s interpretation led to the conversion and baptism of the eunuch and he continued his journey rejoicing (Acts 8:35-39).

6. While Lydia from Thyatira, a dealer in purple cloth, listened to Paul’s preaching, “the Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what Paul was saying.” She and her household received baptism (Act 16:14-15).

When Jesus opened the minds of the disciples to understand the Scriptures, they got better spiritual insight than before. Their doubts on the resurrection of Jesus were cleared, and they became more convinced of the Messiahship of Jesus.

(46) “This is what is written, the Messiah had to suffer and on the third day rise from the dead.”

There are several references to the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus in the Old Testament. Some of them are:

1. God had prophesied the unsuccessful attack of the Satan on the Messiah and his victory over the evil. “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; They will strike at your head, while you strike at their heel” (Gen 13:15)

2. Jesus’ own people rejected him (Jn 1:11). “I have become an outcast to my kindred, a stranger to my mother’s children” (Ps 69:9).

3. The rejection of Jesus by the Jewish leaders, and God making him the foundation stone of the new Israel, was predicted in Psalm 118:22-23. “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. By the LORD has this been done; it is wonderful in our eyes.”

4. Betrayal of Jesus by Judas was predicted in Zechariah 11:13. “Then the LORD said to me, throw it in the treasury - the handsome price at which they valued me. So, I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the treasury in the house of the LORD.”

5. At the Last Supper, Jesus told his disciples how they would disperse during his passion (Mt 26:31) by referring to Zechariah 13:7. “Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, against the one who is my associate - oracle of the LORD of hosts. Strike the shepherd that the sheep may be scattered; I will turn my hand against the little ones.”

6. During the crucifixion, the executers of Jesus gave him wine mixed with gall to drink (Mt 27:34). This was predicted in Psalm 69:22, “Instead they gave me poison for my food; and for my thirst they gave me vinegar.”

7. The soldiers who guarded Jesus at his crucifixion divided his garments (Mt 27:35) were mentioned in Psalms 22:19. “They divide my garments among them; for my clothing they cast lots.”

8. “But I am a worm, not a man, scorned by men, despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they curl their lips and jeer; they shake their heads at me” (Ps 22:7-8) was realized when the chief priests, with the scribes, mocked Jesus while he was on the cross (Mk 15:29-32).

9. Psalm 22:9 “He relied on the LORD - let him deliver him; if he loves him, let him rescue him” was fulfilled when the chief priests with the scribes and elders mocked Jesus saying, “He trusted in God; let him deliver him now if he wants him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’ The revolutionaries who were crucified with him also kept abusing him in the same way” (Mt 27:41-44).

10. John, referring to Psalm 22:15, documented, “In order that the scripture might be fulfilled, Jesus said, ‘I thirst’” (Jn 19:28).

11. When Jesus died on the cross (Lk 23:46), he quoted Psalm 31:6, “Into your hands I commend my spirit.”

12. The nailing on the cross (Jn 19:37) was predicted in Psalm 22:17. “They have pierced my hands and my feet.”

13. “For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, nor let your devout one see the pit” (Ps 16:10) was a reference to the resurrection of Jesus.

14. The enthronement of Jesus at the right hand of God (Mk 16:19) was predicted in Psalm 110:1. “The LORD says to my lord: ‘Sit at my right hand, while I make your enemies your footstool.’”

(47) Then repentance and forgiveness in his name is to be proclaimed to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.

Repentance and forgiveness in his name

The initial stage of accepting the gospel of Jesus or Christianity is repentance from the part of the recipient. Jesus promised forgiveness from God for such people. We cannot receive forgiveness without repentance. Adam and Eve did not ask pardon from God for their mistake. Instead, they expressed excuses and put blame on others. John the Baptist, Jesus, and his disciples preached the message of repentance to enter the kingdom of God. Though Jesus sacrificed himself for the remission of humanity, each individual must do his or her part of repentance for the cleanliness of the soul to enter the heavenly realm.

We see these two key elements of reconciliation - repentance, and forgiveness - in the parable of the prodigal son. When the younger son repented and returned to the father, he wholeheartedly welcomed him and gave back all privileges in his home beyond the son’s expectation. Jesus came with the mission of reconciling humanity with God. He has the authority to forgive sins, and he shared that with his apostles to forgive sins in his name.

to be proclaimed to all the nations

During his public ministry, Jesus served the Jews, the Samaritans, and the Gentiles and traveled through their regions. However, he had instructed the apostles to limit their ministry to the Jews during his public ministry. “Jesus sent out these twelve after instructing them thus, ‘Do not go into pagan territory or enter a Samaritan town. Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel’” (Mt 10:5-6). After the resurrection, Jesus asked them to preach to all the nations regardless of their religious status and nationality because salvation is for all, starting with the Jews.

When God called Abram from Ur, He said to Abram, “I will make of you a great nation, … All the families of the earth will find blessing in you” (Gen 12:2-3). Through the chosen people of Israel, the first-born son of God (Ex 4:22-23), He offered salvation for all people. Psalm 117:1 invokes, “Praise the LORD, all you nations! Extol him, all you peoples!” At the dedication of the Temple, Solomon prayed in public, “Do all that the foreigner asks of you, that all the peoples of the earth may know your name, may revere you as do your people Israel, and may know that your name has been invoked upon this house that I have built” (1 Kgs 8:43). God said of Israel, “I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth” (Isa 49:6). Jesus confirmed universal salvation by saying, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life” (Jn 3:16).

beginning from Jerusalem

Jerusalem is the God-selected epic center of the Jews and was part of Canaan that God assigned to Abraham and his faithful descendants. Melchizedek was king and priest of Salem (Jerusalem) when Abraham settled in Canaan (Gen 13:12). God brought back the Israelites from Egypt to this promised land. David captured Jerusalem from the Jebusites (2 Sam 5:6-9), and Solomon built the Temple there. God considered Zion (Jerusalem) as his holy mountain. “I myself have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain” (Ps 2:6). Isaiah had prophesied, “All nations shall stream toward it. Many peoples shall come and say: ‘Come, let us go up to the LORD’s mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob, That he may instruct us in his ways, and we may walk in his paths.’ For from Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem” (Isa 2:2b-3).

Because Jerusalem was the headquarters of Israel, Jesus wanted to spread his gospel from there and sent the Holy Spirit upon the apostles while they were there. While at Antioch in Pisidia, Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly to the Jews, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first, but since you reject it and condemn yourselves as unworthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles” (Acts 13:46). Thus, the gospel spread to the Gentiles of all nations.

(48) Now you shall be witnesses to this.

The apostles had been with Jesus full time once they joined his group. So, they had seen what he had done in public and private. They listened to what Jesus preached, and Jesus trained them. As a succession plan, Jesus prepared the apostles to continue his mission and to spread it all over the nations. Besides this training, he empowered them with the Holy Spirit to do their service. They also experienced the Risen Lord and witnessed his ascent to heaven. Before his ascension, Jesus told them, “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” (Acts 1:8). After receiving the Holy Spirit, “With great power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great favor was accorded them all” (Acts 4:33).

(49) “And this is why I will send you what my Father promised. So remain in the city until you are invested with power from above.”

And this is why I will send you what my Father promised.

The Holy Spirit is the promise of the Father who comes from Him. Jesus summarized the relationship of the three persons of the Most Holy Trinity, “The Advocate, the holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name - he will teach you everything and remind you of all that [I] told you” (Jn 14:26). The Father who sent the Son would send the Holy Spirit. In the name of Jesus, the spirit came. The mission of the Spirit is to teach the recipients and remind them of the teachings of Jesus.

There were Old Testament promises of the descent of the Holy Spirit. “I will pour out my spirit upon your offspring, my blessing upon your descendants” (Isa 44:3b). “I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my spirit within you so that you walk in my statutes, observe my ordinances, and keep them” (Ezek 36:26-27). “It shall come to pass I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even upon your male and female servants, in those days, I will pour out my spirit” (Joel 3:1-2)

So remain in the city

The Risen Lord advised the disciples to remain in Jerusalem waiting for the Holy Spirit, the promise of the Father, for their baptism in the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4). The Holy Spirit came on them on the Day of Pentecost in Jerusalem and started the church.

until you are invested with power from above.

Jesus presented the Holy Spirit as a power descending from heaven. At the annunciation of the birth of Jesus to Mary, Angel Gabriel also qualified the Holy Spirit as a power from heaven. “The holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (Lk 1:35). The Holy Spirit that descended from heaven in the form of a dove did not fly away from Jesus but remained with him (Lk 3:22) and guided him (Mt 4:1; Lk 4:18-19) in his ministry. The same Spirit guided the disciples of Jesus after the Pentecost (Acts 13:2) and continues the same even now. At the Last Supper, Jesus told his disciples, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, which the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows it. But you know it, because it remains with you, and will be in you” (Jn 14:16-17). At the time of baptism in the Holy Spirit, this power of the Most High came and remains with us.

The Ascension

(Lk 24:50) Then Jesus led them almost as far as Bethany; and he lifted up his hands and blessed them.

Then Jesus led them almost as far as Bethany

Luke, in his gospel, presents ascension as if it took place on the day of resurrection. However, the same author describes it after forty days in his second volume of the book, the Acts of the Apostles. “He (the Risen Lord) presented himself alive to them by many proofs after he had suffered, appearing to them for forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:13). Luke summarized the post-resurrection period and presented ascension as a prolongation of the resurrection because both are part of the glorious victory of Jesus. The evangelist foresaw the details of the ascension that he was about to present in the Acts 1:1-12. In the gospel, the ascension is the end of the public ministry of Jesus. Whereas in the Acts, it is the beginning of a new phase for the formation and initial development of the church.

Then Jesus led them almost as far as Bethany

Bethany is a small village on the eastern slopes of the Mount of Olives, fifteen furlongs (1.88 miles) away from Jerusalem. The evangelist wrote, “As far as Bethany” to specify that Jesus led the disciples to a secluded place in Bethany out of town for privacy. According to the Acts, this took place only “a sabbath day’s journey away” (Acts 1:12) from Jerusalem. Hence, the location must be an isolated place in the Mount of Olives between Jerusalem and the town of Bethany.

Bethany became popular because of the following events in the Biblical times:

1. Martha, Mary, and Lazarus lived there. Jesus raised Lazarus on the fourth day after his burial here (Jn 11:1-44).

2. A woman anointed Jesus with an alabaster jar of costly perfumed oil while Jesus was dining in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper (Mt 26:6-13; Mk 14:3-9).

3. The triumphant entry of Jesus to the Temple started from “Bethphage and Bethany at the place called the Mount of Olives” (Lk 19:29).

4. After cleansing the Temple, Jesus “went out of the city to Bethany, and there he spent the night” (Mt 21:17).

5. Jesus bid farewell to his disciples and ascended to heaven from Bethany (Lk 24:50-51).

6. During the ascension, two men dressed in white garments appeared to the apostles, and told them that Jesus “will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven” (Act 1:11). So, the expectation is that the second coming of Christ will be in the same place.

The ascension took place at a place on the Mount of Olives (Acts 1:11) close to Bethany. The mount is biblically important for several other reasons:

1. The Mount of Olives is also known as the Mount of Anointment because it provided olive oil for the Temple and for the anointing of Israel’s kings and priests.

2. At the life-threat from Absalom, “As David went up the ascent of the Mount of Olives, wept without ceasing. His head was covered, and he was walking barefoot. All those who were with him also had their heads covered and were weeping as they went” (2 Sam 15:30).

3. Solomon built high places of worship to pagan gods of his foreign wives on the mountain opposite Jerusalem. He “burned incense and sacrificed to their gods” (1 Kgs 11:7-8).

4. Josiah destroyed the high places of worship Solomon had built south of the Mount of Olives (2 Kgs 23:13-14).

5. According to Prophet Zechariah, when the Messiah would return, “God’s feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is opposite Jerusalem to the east. The Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west by a very deep valley, and half of the mountain will move to the north and half of it to the south” (Zec 14:4).

6. Jesus prophesied the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the present world while “he was sitting on the Mount of Olives” (Mt 24:3).

7. The agony of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane was in the Mount of Olives (Lk 22:39).

he lifted up his hands and blessed them.

Before his ascension into heaven, Jesus gave a farewell blessing to his disciples. He had given his farewell message during his last supper with them. He had continued giving instructions to them after the resurrection. This blessing was like Aaron’s benediction of the Israelites after offering sacrifices for them (Lev 9:22).

God gave a formula of blessing to Aaron through Moses to bless the Israelites: “Speak to Aaron and his sons and tell them: This is how you shall bless the Israelites. Say to them: The LORD bless you and keep you! The LORD let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you! The LORD look upon you kindly and give you peace! So shall they invoke my name upon the Israelites, and I will bless them” (Num 6:23-27). Jesus might not have used the same formula. St. Paul gives a Trinitarian formula for blessing: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the holy Spirit be with all of you” (2 Cor 13:13).

(51) And as he blessed them, he withdrew from them and was taken up into heaven. They worshipped him and …

As he blessed them, he withdrew from them and was taken up into heaven

While Jesus was ascending to heaven, he kept on blessing the disciples with his lifted hands. So, it was a slow and effortless ascension. While doing so, Jesus gave a common blessing, unlike the imposition of hands on each of the disciples. Though the disciples could not witness the resurrection, they got the opportunity to be eyewitnesses of the ascension. In Acts 1:9, Luke says, “as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight.”

Before Jesus’ ascension, God took Enoch and Elijah to heaven without facing death. “The whole lifetime of Enoch was three hundred and sixty-five years. Enoch walked with God, and he was no longer here, for God took him” (Gen 5:23-24). There is no mention of any eyewitness to this. When Elijah was taken up, his successor Elisha was an eyewitness. “As they walked on still conversing, a fiery chariot and fiery horses came between the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind, and Elisha saw it happen” (2 Kgs 2:11-12). When Jesus ascended to heaven, the 11 apostles saw that. After a while, though they gazed, they could not see him because “a cloud took him from their sight” (Acts 1:9).

They worshipped him

The disciples worshipping Jesus is a clear sign that, after his resurrection, the disciples deemed Jesus as God because the Israelites worshipped God only. When people worshipped Jesus, he allowed them to do so, acknowledging his divinity.

Kneeling or paying homage to Jesus meant worshipping him. John wrote in Revelation, “I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed them to me. But he said to me, ‘Don’t! I am a fellow servant of yours and of your brothers, the prophets and of those who keep the message of this book. Worship God’” (Rev 22:8-9). The following were some occasions when people did homage to Jesus as a sign of worship:

1. The magi worshipped Infant Jesus at the manger in Bethlehem (Mt 2:11).

2. A leper who approached Jesus for healing worshipped him (Mt 8:2).

3. An official kneeled down before Jesus to regain the life of his daughter who died (Mt 9:18).

3. The people on a boat, who saw Jesus walking on the water, worshipped him (Mt 14:22-33).

4. When a demoniac saw “Jesus from a distance, he ran up and prostrated himself before him” (Mk 5:6).

5. Jesus gave sight to a man born blind. When he recognized Jesus as the Son of Man, he worshipped Jesus (Jn 9:38).

6. A Canaanite woman worshiped Jesus when she requested to heal her daughter tormented by a demon (Mt 15:25).

7. The mother of the sons of Zebedee paid homage to Jesus asking favorable positions for her sons” (Mt 20:20).

8. The disciples acclaiming Jesus, “Hosanna to the Son of David” was an expression of worship (Mt 21:9; Jn 12:13).

9. When Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary after his resurrection, they worshipped him (Mt 28:9).

10. When Jesus invited Thomas to touch his wound marks, he expressed his worship of Jesus saying, “My Lord and my God!” (Jn 20:28).

However, this is the first time Luke reports the apostles worshipped Jesus. They were more convinced of his divinity than before.

(52) returned to Jerusalem full of joy and …

returned to Jerusalem

Though most of the apostles were from Galilee, and Jesus ministered there more than in Judea, the apostles did not return to Galilee or resume their family life and original profession. From the post-resurrection instructions of Jesus, they realized that the ascension of Jesus was not the end of their call. They had to wait in Jerusalem to receive the Holy Spirit. The spread of the church should start from Jerusalem to all the nations. Jesus’ last message to them prior to his ascension was, “repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem” (Lk 24:47). “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” (Lk 24:49). So, they returned to the Temple for spiritually preparing for the descent of the Holy Spirit on them.

full of joy

Even though Jesus left the disciples, they returned to Jerusalem with extreme joy for several reasons. A few weeks ago, their master had the heartbreaking trail, torture, and death. That seemed to be an utter failure of Jesus and for them. They were left in darkness. However, Jesus rose from the dead as he had predicted, appeared to them several times, and they could witness him ascending to his Father. The disciples knew that “the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God” (Lk 22:69). Still, that is not the end but the beginning of a new phase in the salvation history.

Jesus promised he would send the Holy Spirit upon them, and they would continue his mission until his return in glory to judge the universe when the Father will make his enemies a footstool for his feet (Ps 110:1; 1 Cor 15:25; Heb 10:13). They remembered Jesus’ Last Supper discourse, “I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be” (Jn 14:3). So, they had many reasons to be joyful after the ascension of the Lord.

Luke’s gospel begins and ends with the events of joy. He starts with the announcement of the birth of John (Lk 1:5-25) and Jesus (Lk 1:26-38). It ends with the resurrection (Lk 24:1- 49) and ascension of Jesus (Lk 1:50-53).

Luke gives importance to the joy in heaven over the conversion of sinners. Through the parable of the lost sheep (Lk 15:4-7), Jesus taught, “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance” (Lk 15:7). Jesus concluded the parable of the lost coin (Lk 15:8-10) saying, “I tell you, there will be rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Lk 15:10). In the parable of the prodigal son (Lk 15:11-32), the father told the elder son, “Now we must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found” (Lk 15:32).

(53) were continually in the Temple praising God.

After visiting the Infant Jesus born in a manger, “The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen” (Lk 2:20). Similarly, the apostles felt they should go to the Temple to praise and thank God. For them, it was the fulfillment of Psalm 30:12-13. “You changed my mourning into dancing; you took off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness. So that my glory may praise you and not be silent. O LORD, my God, forever will I give you thanks.”

Luke begins and ends his gospel in the Temple. He began with the annunciation of the birth of John to Zachariah while he was incensing in the Temple (Lk 1:5-25). The gospel ends with the praise of the apostles in the Temple. They continued in prayer in the Temple and in the upper room as given in Acts 1:13-14, awaiting the descent of the Holy Spirit.

MESSAGE

1. Jesus came with an achievable, but hard to reach, goal. Overcoming temptations and hardships, he accomplished it and entered his glory. Jesus invites us to follow his path to enter eternal glory by taking up our cross (Lk 9:23).

2. The apostles were downhearted with the passion and death of Jesus. God changed their “mourning into dancing” (Ps 30:12). Let us keep up our faith and be steadfast in Jesus’ ministry, even during hardships and failures. It is God who produces fruits for our labor (Mk 4:26-29).

3. Though the apostles had heard the word of God from the Scriptures and from Jesus, he had to open their minds to understand its mysteries. Let us also try to learn and seek the help of Jesus to understand the Bible.

4. The apostles had to proclaim repentance and forgiveness in the name of Jesus to all the nations. We share the same responsibility as Christians, especially with the reception of the Sacrament of Confirmation (Chrismation). Lay people can do this at their homes, workplaces, and in the community, complementing the ministry of the priests and religious.

5. The apostles worshipped Jesus out of conviction when they saw Jesus ascending to heaven. Let us experience Jesus and worship him in the church by participating in the Holy Mass.

6. Though the apostles had received the Holy Spirit from Jesus, they waited for the descent of the same Spirit on them on the day of Pentecost to get further empowerment. Though we have received the same Holy Spirit at the time of baptism, let us renew the Spirit with the other sacraments of the church.