April 24 – 29
“The Life of Jesus: Ascension”
Monday, April 24 John 13:1-5
“He had come from God and would return to God”
Jesus’ decision to wash his disciples’ feet is anchored in his assurance of his relationship with God. He knows both his origins and his destiny, and as such understands the authority he has been given. This gives him the standing to do something his followers never expected. Footwashing was commonplace in Greco-Roman and first-century Jewish culture and appears as a ritual of daily cleansing as a religious act (such as washing the hands and feet in hot water before Sabbath), or as a token of hospitality when someone first entered a home.
Footwashing was a degrading and lowly task, usually performed by a household servant. According to ancient sources, when done by a wife (for her husband), a child (for his/her parents), or a pupil (for his teacher), it was considered an act of extreme devotion. But since it was an act with social implications, we do not find those with a “higher” status washing the feet of those beneath them. When Jesus takes off his outer clothing and wraps a towel around himself, he is adopting the posture of a slave.
Confident in who I am in you, Lord, may I serve others willingly. Amen.
Tuesday, April 25 John 16:16-28
“I leave the world and go to the Father”
Between the beginning of birth pains and the birth of new life is “a little while.” This is a time of great discomfort for a woman and is clearly far from pleasant. Yet, it is the necessary way in which the body prepares itself for the final delivery of the child. And, once the child is born and the “little while” has come to an end, there is great rejoicing. Jesus uses this as an illustration of his disciples’ relationship with him. For “a little while” they will experience the pain of Jesus’ death, but then he will be raised from the dead and their sorrow will turn to joy. His death on the cross will have been a necessary reality in order to bring forgiveness of sin and eternal life to those who, by faith, receive him.
Having been sent by the Father and come into the world, Jesus has established a bond of union with his fellow human beings, including the bond of suffering and death; leaving the world, he returns to reestablish in its fullness his union with the Father, a union into which we his disciples are welcomed, as well.
In “a little while,” Lord, I will be with you for all eternity. Amen.
Wednesday, April 26 Mark 16:19-20
“He was taken up into heaven”
The resurrection of Jesus and his subsequent ascension into heaven is Good News for all of us, not merely amazing miracles reserved for Jesus’ benefit alone. Through his resurrection from the dead, our resurrection from the dead is assured and we will be raised to eternal life when he returns in his second coming. Further, his ascension reveals that the work of salvation is complete. Jesus’ full glory has been restored and his position at the right hand of God assures his power for those to whom he has entrusted the task of sharing the Gospel with others.
No greater testimony of the living and reigning Christ can be presented to the world than to have each generation of Christians show the evidence attributed to the church after Pentecost: “And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all” (Acts 4:33). Great power and great grace in the continuing witness of Christ’s disciples are signs of the Resurrection and of the sending of the empowering Holy Spirit following Jesus’ ascension.
Work in me by your Spirit, Lord, as I share the Good News with others. Amen.
April 24 – 29
“The Life of Jesus: Ascension”
Thursday, April 27 Luke 24:50-53
“He left them and was taken up into heaven”
Luke closes his Gospel with Jesus taking the disciples out to Bethany, lifting up his hands, blessing them, and departing into heaven. The ascension is summarized here and detailed in Acts 1:9-11. In this way, Luke who authored both the Gospel bearing his name and the book of Acts, uses Jesus’ ascension as a bridge between Jesus’ ministry in which his disciples are primarily learning from him, and the ministry of the disciples as they carry on Jesus’ mission of bringing the Kingdom of God to others.
Jesus blessing the disciples is not merely a parting gesture but an affirmation that while he will be away from them bodily he will continue his work from “the right hand of God the Father Almighty.” What follows for them are worship and joy. They return to the temple, where Luke’s story began with Zechariah being visited by an angle and told that his wife would bear a son, in order to praise God for all that has taken place. The heart of a believer who walks with Jesus responds to his blessing with joy.
I rejoice, Lord, in the many ways you continue to bless me. Amen.
Friday, April 28 Acts 1:6-11
“He was taken up before their very eyes”
Jesus’ ascension takes place after his giving the Great Commission for the last time. In the writings of the New Testament the ascension is associated with Christ’s exaltation to God’s right hand (see Ephesians 1:20-21; Philippians 2:9). The expression “he was taken up” carries this idea, for the Jews thought of heaven as “above” and earth as “below.” The cloud also expresses this thought for in biblical language the cloud often served as a symbol of divine glory. That this took place “before their very eyes” shows that Luke wants us to know that something objectively observable took place.
The upward gaze of the disciples is interrupted by the appearance of two men whose white clothes suggest that they are angels. They specifically give Jesus’ post-ascension abode as heaven, and the promise that he will come back in the same way as they have seen him leave would have helped make some sense out of Jesus’ repeated statements to the disciples about his second coming.
You will return in glory, Lord, and I eagerly await that wonderful day. Amen.
Saturday, April 29 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
“The Lord himself will come down from heaven”
The Old Testament speaks of the Day of the Lord. For the Jews, all of history consisted of two ages – the present age and the age to come. The end of this present age and the beginning of the age to come would be inaugurated with the Day of the Lord. That day would end this sinful, fallen age and usher in a golden age which includes the eternal abolition of sin, suffering, war, and death. It would also mark the final judgment of God. For Christians, the Day of the Lord and the second coming of Christ are one and the same.
There is no language to adequately describe the incredible wonder of that great day. Paul here uses apocalyptic writing. It uses vivid imagery and is not intended to be taken literally at all points. Among examples of this style found in the Bible are the Books of Daniel and Revelation. The reality Paul is proclaiming is that which Jesus himself promised: he will return. And with him will be those who have fallen asleep in him, that is, those who have died as believers before his return. Then, Christians who are still living on that day will join with them and the Lord.
However it happens on that day, Lord, I will be with you. Amen.