Thursday, July 9, 2009


While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, ‘Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.’ And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’ They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence.

Then he said to them, ‘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.’ Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.’

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. And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God.

- Luke 24:36-53

Luke ends his gospel with this final appearance of Jesus before his apostles, while they are gathered together, and it is so astonishing to them - the news is still so new - that they cannot take it in. Luke records that they are "startled and terrified." Jesus' eating is something, I'm told, that is not necessary - his glorified body needs no food. So this is a special occasion, one more teaching occasion for them all, one last appearance to assure them of the reality of the fulfillment of what is written about Him.

I find that the substantiality of this display of Jesus' appearance - his reassurance to them that he is "not a ghost" but something real, of substance - is a kind of reassurance meant to tell us of the reality of his Presence in the world. The glorified Christ is not merely the Son of Man who walked the earth in a particular time and space, he is, indeed, not confined to time or space at all. The Risen Lord is - in the Greek - Pantokrator. The all-powerful. He assumes his dispensation as Risen Lord, meaning that he is with us all the time; everywhere we are, he is present to us.

Luke ends his gospel here, and continues in the Acts of the Apostles. Jesus tells them that they must remain in Jerusalem, until they are clothed with the great gift of power that he is sending to them. And his words tell us what his mission is for his apostles and disciples everywhere. They are to proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins in his name. They are the witnesses to "all these things" including the fulfillment of the scriptures.

I think it is important to understand the words "repentance and forgiveness of sins" here, together, as given to the apostles for what they are to preach. Because this is the great revelation of the life of Jesus, the dispensation in the teaching of the Risen Christ. Do we practice this sense of transformation within ourselves? This opening up to change? Transformation is the crux of what his teachings are about, and this involves so much of our effort and our endeavor. If we miss this point, we miss the entire summing up of this gospel and this good news.

Jesus' Ascension is recorded only by Luke. It is significant in that it indicates his new status, at the "power of the right hand of God." After this, we are told, the apostles worship him, and are found in the temple blessing God. They returned to Jerusalem, we are told, "with great joy." Let us consider this joy and how it works. It's the product of the realization of a gift, of something that cannot leave them, that will belong to them in faith, as witnesses of all of these great things. Most especially joy is the gift that belongs to those who understand there is a purpose and meaning to life, and a mission to belong to, to carry on with. May this mission which is summed up in "repentance and forgiveness of sins" be also something which gives you joy, and for which you, too, give great thanks to God.

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