The Ascension of the Lord
Can you imagine what a spectacular sight it was? Exactly as promised, Jesus ascended into heaven. The scriptures were fulfilled. The Redeemer returned to the Father in a final climactic miracle.
But there is another often overlooked miracle tucked into this gospel that deserves our attention. Just before the Ascension, Luke tells us: Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures. In these few words Luke describes one of the truly transformative events in human history. Suddenly it all made sense. Jesus had told them over and over that he had not come to overthrow God’s covenant but to fulfill it. He was the answer to the prophet’s prayers. He was literally the embodiment of God’s love.
How many times had he taught this to these unschooled manual laborers? How many times had they struggled to understand? Now they knew the answer. They knew Jesus as they had never known him before. Now they had the wisdom and in a few days they would have the will… when Jesus would send down the Holy Spirit… to multiply their new found knowledge and put it to work… to send them out into the world to carry on his work of redemption… to change the world.
Without fully understanding the old covenant, how could Matthew, Mark, Luke and John ever have transcribed the new covenant? How would generations yet unborn come to know that the Word was made flesh? And yet miraculously there it was. Not as obvious as the medical miracles of cleansing lepers or curing the deaf, the blind and the lame, this intellectual and spiritual miracle resounds down the centuries to bless us today.
The Bible that grew from this miracle is not a disjointed collection of legends. It is an integrated account of God’s covenant with his creation, divided into old and new testaments, but united in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. That was Christ’s parting gift to the disciples and through them to us. It is our link to redemption… our road map to salvation… our promise of eternal life.
Through the power of this miracle, the word of God has been translated into hundreds of languages. It has been carried to the remotest corners of the earth. It has been broadcast by astronauts orbiting the moon. It is the center piece of Christian worship across the world. It is the essence of literally millions of social media messages every single day of the year.
But today, all the news about God’s Good News is not good. The Word is under assault every day… and not only from the usual suspects: the mockers, the bigots, the anti-Christian zealots and the secular establishment. The world has always been a formidable obstacle to the word, but so too are the flesh and the devil. Jesus did not enlighten the disciples and inspire the evangelists just for us to be too busy or too lazy to live in his word. Yet sometimes days, weeks or even longer can go by without our ever cracking the Bible. Too often it sits gathering dust while we are in desperate need of its strength, its direction, its consolation. Our own sloth and neglect will always do the devil’s work in the world, if we let them.
Clearly, this “other miracle” of understanding the scriptures is not a one-time event. It is repeated in the lives of countless Christians who are guided by an inspired understanding of the word of God. Jesus did not give us this grace of understanding to turn us all into theologians or Bible-quoting whiz-kids. He performed this miracle to inform and to form our daily lives… to fill us with the faith from which grows our hope and our charity. He gave us this “other miracle” so we could follow him home to the Father.
The Reverend David Sellery, Author, Resource Creator and Retreat Leader. Committed to a vocation that focuses on encountering God in the midst of everyday life, I serve as an Episcopal priest who seeks to proclaim the good news of God in Christ in worship, pastoral care, education, stewardship, congregational development and community outreach, while continually engaging our wider culture with dynamism and hope.