Luke 24: 50 – 53 The ascension of Jesus
When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up to heaven. Then they worshipped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.
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St Luke wrote another account of Jesus’ ascension into heaven in Acts.
After he said this, he was taken up before heir very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
They were looking intently into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. ‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.’
Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk from the city. (Acts 1: 9 – 12)
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The account in St Luke’s gospel says: ‘When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany…’
The account in Acts says: ‘Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk from the city.’
The Mount of Olives was on the route between Bethany and Jerusalem, and it was a short journey, so the two accounts are in agreement as to where the event took place.
We need to remember that St Luke was not an eye-witness of these events. These accounts are composites, a combination of what eye-witnesses remembered and told St Luke many years after the events had happened, and oral/written accounts circulating in the early church before our canonical scriptures were agreed.
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St Matthew also has an account of Jesus’ ascension.
Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commended you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’ (Matthew 28: 16 – 20)
St Matthew’s account says: ‘When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted.’ I wonder whether St Matthew was one of those who doubted?
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Because of the paramount importance of the resurrection, I’m going to spend several days studying it next week. Today, I shall limit myself to the passage from St Luke’s gospel.
When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them.
The last act of the risen Jesus in his human form was to bless his disciples. It was a formal blessing; he lifted up his hands; it was a priestly blessing. That blessing extends to us, too.
While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up to heaven.
The Greek is a little different from the NIV translation. It doesn’t mention heaven, rather it says ‘He withdrew from them’.
Then they worshipped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.
Whatever the apostles experienced on the Mount of Olives, it was enough to convince them that Jesus was to be worshipped. They fully believed that he was the Son of God, and believing that, they worshipped him and experienced great joy.
And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.
Once back in Jerusalem, they were obedient to Jesus’ command to ‘Stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.’ But they didn’t spend their time in the upper room where they had hidden in the days before the ascension. Instead, they spent their time in the temple, praising God.
Thank you for the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus. Please help me to study the bible so that I may grow closer to him.
In Jesus’ name, Amen