Gospel (C): Luke 24:46-53
The Inspiration for Christian Witness
How have other Christians inspired you? Has their inspiration ever caused you to thank God?
Everyone in the world needs a little inspiration. An uplift and a sense of well being. The problem comes in the direction of that inspiration. The self-help industry is "big bucks." Gurus of the "New You" pop up constantly. But to what end? Do they really help? Or do they lack in a true direction?
In a small room tucked away in a forgotten part of Jerusalem, some scared followers of a Galilean rabbi were getting a pep talk. A little inspiration. But the focus of the talk was not on them, but on the great work God was doing in their midst.
46 Jesus told his followers, "The Bible says the Messiah would suffer death and would rise three days later. 47 It also says his followers would go to people from every nation with a message: 'Turn back to God and he will forgive you!' They would first announce the message in Jerusalem. 48 You witnessed everything I told you. 49 Listen! I will send upon you what my Father promised. But you must stay here in the city until God clothes you with the power of the Spirit."
50 Then Jesus led his followers as far as Bethany. After he raised his hands up, he blessed them. 51 As he blessed them, Jesus left and was carried into heaven. 52 After they worshiped him, the followers of Jesus were very happy. They went back to Jerusalem 53 where they constantly praised God in the Temple.
Luke broken his Ascension scene into two parts: the summation of the Resurrection scene in Jerusalem and his ascension outside the city.
46 (JESUS) said to (his disciples), "It has been written thus: for the Christ to suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and, to be preached in his name, for repentance and forgiveness of sins to all nations, beginning in Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses to these (events). 49 Look! I send the promise of my Father upon you. But you are to (remain) in the city until you might clothe with power from (God)."
24:46-48 "It has been written thus:" The risen Jesus stated two events were foretold in Scripture: 1) his death and resurrection, 2) the world-wide proclamation of forgiveness in his name. The disciples were to participate in the fulfillment of Scripture. As such, they were active witnesses to God's power in their lives.
24:48 "But you are to (remain) in the city until you might clothe with power from (God)." The word "remain" is literally "be seated" of "settle yourself." "God" is literally "the High," a reference to God's "location" in heaven or the source of his power.
We all have the nightmare of getting caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. Imagine being caught in the right place at the right time.
As followers of Jesus, the disciples were active participants in events that seemed to be out of their control. At the arrest of Jesus, they showed cowardice. Most of those who remained witnessed the death of Jesus from a safe distance. The walked away dejected, for death, they believed, was irreversible. Then, they witnessed the greatest of all miracles. They Master had returned from the dead! For the past several days, they saw their world end and reborn in a way unimaginable!
This series of events fulfilled Scripture. This was God's part. But the next series of events were the response of the disciples. They were to spread the Good News, the implication of the death and resurrection of Jesus. Because Jesus had risen from the dead, God gave people a new opportunity. They could turn back to him and be saved. No longer were they distant from their maker. He had come with an invitation and an opportunity to live as Jesus did. Forever.
They could not do this alone, however. They needed God's help, which Jesus promised them. The Spirit would "clothe" them with power. The power to get commit themselves to the Messianic mission. To invite everyone to new life. To gather the faithful together. To evangelize.
50 HE led them out, as far as Bethany. Having lifted up HIS hands, he blessed them. 51 It happened in his blessing them, HE departed from them and was carried into heaven. 52 They, having worshiped HIM, returned to Jerusalem with great joy. 53 They were constantly blessing God in the Temple.
Blessing led to blessing. Notice the words bless or blessing were used three times: Jesus' last act, the posture of his ascension, and the prayer of the apostles in the Temple. As a Jew, Jesus would not have called blessing down upon the apostles, but would have praised God for his followers. Hence, the blessing of Jesus and the apostles were praises to God. Jesus praised God for his followers even as he was carried into heaven. And apostles continued the praise.
Luke ended his gospel on a note of worship. As Jesus praised the Father, his followers praised, as well. Praise in the Temple would become an early component of evangelization in the Jerusalem church. Such praise would lead to arrest and persecution. But the pressure from the religious leaders would not stop growth of the Christian movement.
Catechism Themes: Christ already reigns through his Church . . . (CCC 668-670) & Until all things are subject to him. (CCC 671-672)
Christ's Ascension into heaven symbolized his Lordship. He now revealed his participation in the Father's power and authority. What the Son possessed by his divinity nature, he made manifest in the economy of salvation.
While Christ now reigns with his Father, he still dwells in his Body, the Church. Through the Church, Christ acts in the world. Through the Church he announces the immanence of God's Kingdom. The Church, imperfect as an assembly of sinners, still dares to declare the Kingdom. For the Church is made whole through the work of Christ's Spirit.
The Church continues the mission of the Master in her evangelization. Part of the invitation to Christ is our worship. As Jesus praises the Father, so should we.
Has worship ever moved you to action? How? How has worship of God sustained you in times of trial and uncertainty?
In Luke, the risen Lord inspired his followers to praise God and wait. The vision was before them. But they needed something more. A little help from heaven above. That help would come soon in the form of wind and fire.
Like the disciples in that forgotten room, we need inspiration. God has given us living inspiration, the Spirit itself. The Spirit moves us to vision and action, to praise and worship. We will soon celebrate the gift of the Spirit. Until that time, let us see the wider picture and thank God for his vision, not just our own.
God calls us to witness to his power. How can you give such witness this week? How can you praise God for that opportunity?