Before I Leave
Luke 24: 44-53
The Scriptural necessity of the passion and resurrection of Jesus has been established. But now a new feature has been added and that is the mission of the church which also follows scriptural prophecy, the interpretation of which is given by the risen Lord. After the experience of the Upper Room there came the world-wide mission of the Church. The days of sorrow were gone and the great joy of the resurrection of the Lord was to be taken to all people.
They are to spread the gospel, “the good news of Jesus Christ.” They have had three years of companionship with Jesus, they were witnesses to his death and can testify to His resurrection. So out to all people must go the call to repentance and the forgiveness of sin. I believe that the forgiveness of sin is paramount in the beginning of the mission of the church. Much of this belief goes back to Old Testament understanding whereby the misfortunes and maladies of a person where inextricably associated with the sinfulness of the person. Countless examples are included in the Gospels where Jesus forgave sin so that one might be able to be physically healed.
So before one could be healed spiritually, they must feel that they have been healed physically. To be healed physically, the disciples were given the ability to go and forgive sin. This is not to say that they themselves had the right or ability to forgive sin, but that they did have the ability and right to forgive in the name of Jesus Christ.
But Jesus would not send them out before equipping them with the tools for the task. First, He opened up their minds that they could understand the scriptures. Then He told them to stay in Jerusalem until the promised advocate of God was given to them. This was the promised Holy Spirit who would fill their hearts, their souls, and their minds for the task ahead. It is amazing that Jesus would give this responsibility to men in which he knew their weaknesses, their inabilities and their shortcomings. But Jesus saw in these men something in which He knew that they would carry out the task given to them.
Is this not true with each one of us. Jesus knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows our hearts and minds; He know our strengths and weaknesses, He knows our inabilities and shortcomings; and yet we too are equipped and called and given the responsibility for the mission of the Church.
Having given them their farewell instructions, Jesus lead the disciples from Jerusalem to Bethany. Here he prayed upon them the blessing of God and then departed from them. The ascension of Jesus must always remain a mystery, for it attempts to put into words that which is beyond description or understanding. One stage of their lives had passed and another was just beginning. The day when their faith was dependent on a flesh and blood person was gone. Now they were linked to someone who was forever independent of time and space.
But this was really not the ending, it was really the beginning. The disciples did not leave Bethany broken hearted; they left it with great joy. They were joyful because they now knew that they had a Master from whom they could never be separated. Paul states in his letter to the Romans that “I am persuaded that nothing in life or in death can separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus my Lord.”
Finally, the ascension gave to the disciples the knowledge that they had a friend, not only on earth, but in heaven. It has to be a most priceless thing to know that we too have a friend who awaits us in heaven. To die is not to go out into the dark, it is to go to Jesus.
So, the disciples go back to the temple of Jerusalem praising God and giving to God all joyful praise. Thus for Luke the story begins and ends in the House of God!
Grace and Peace