What happened after the Resurrection? This week, we hear another part of the story. The last chapter of the Gospel of Luke and the first chapter of the Acts of the Apostles relate that Jesus remained with his disciples for forty days after rising from the dead, during which time he continued to instruct them and promised that they would be “baptized with the Holy Spirit” to become his witnesses “to the ends of the earth” (even to Shoreline, Washington). Then, while they were watching, “he was lifted up and a cloud took him out of their sight.”
This coming Thursday is the fortieth day after Easter. Forty days is a number packed with significance. Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness prior to the beginning of his public ministry, which we recognize in Lent. Now we observe the conclusion of the 40 days after Easter, in which Jesus Christ ascended to the Father in heaven. St. Barnabas will celebrate Jesus’ ascension on Thursday May 25th with liturgies both at Noon and at 7:00 p.m. All are welcome.
What are we to make of the Ascension? In a way, it was inevitable. Jesus rose from the dead, but even before his crucifixion he had said that he was going “back to the Father” and that he would not remain with his disciples forever. He said that it would be to his disciples’ benefit that he go away, because then the Holy Spirit would be sent to them. How that works (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) is the mystery of the Trinity, and surely the disciples had a hard time understanding it as well. But if the plan was for Jesus to return to the Father, he had only limited ways of accomplishing this. He could have crept away when no one was looking, but that would have left the disciples wondering if he was maybe coming back. He could have faded away like the Cheshire cat or popped out of view like a soap bubble, but then the disciples might have wondered if he had ceased to exist. He could have used Hollywood effects like lightning and rapidly boiling cloud banks, but that would have looked like something a Greek god might do. Jesus chose a loving way to go to the Father: rising out of sight into a cloud (which reminds us of the cloud that surrounded him during the Transfiguration). His disciples knew that Jesus was in control, that he was alive, and that he was doing what he had predicted.
This left the question of when the “baptism with the Holy Spirit” was going to happen. Stay tuned for that, and God bless us all.
The Ascension of Our Lord