How would you like to have been present during Jesus’ final moment on earth? This is what Luke is writing about in these verses and the impact is profound.
First, the impact of Jesus’ final moment is profound because Jesus used the occasion to open their minds so they could understand the Scriptures (v. 45). As fellow believers in Christ with those first disciples our minds have been opened as well.
What is key to understanding the Scriptures? First, that everything must be fulfilled (v. 44). There is profound continuity between the Old Covenant and the New, with the cross as the nexus toward which the Old Covenant points forward and from which the Old Covenant can be fully appreciated looking back.
Another key to understanding the Scriptures is to grasp the essence of the gospel. What is the gospel? Repentance and forgiveness of sins. To repent means to take responsibility for something and turn away from it. Believers are those that have taken responsibility for their own sinfulness and turned from their former sinful way of life. Forgiveness of sins points to the the core problem every human being has: the God-shaped void in his heart. Sin may take the form of either willful disobedience of God or passive disregard for God, but spiritual separation from God is the result nonetheless.
Today’s evangelical church still preaches forgiveness of sins but may not adequately explain what sin actually is. Nor does it give sufficient attention to the priority of repentance. The invitation of the gospel is nothing other than this: repent and be forgiven.
Second, the impact of Jesus’ final moment is profound because his final act was one of blessing (v. 50). Jesus lifts his hands to bless his disciples the way a pastor lifts up his hands in benediction. At this precise moment Jesus is taken up in a cloud into heaven. Luke writes that the disciples “worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.” Imagine the profound impact of having Jesus be lifted into heaven at the precise moment he is standing before you with his hands raised blessing you.
As believers in Christ this is the blessing we have inherited. Things are not only going to turn out okay, but things are going to turn out wonderfully. Jesus hands of blessing remain over us just as they were over the heads of his first disciples.
May the Ascension of Jesus impact us as profoundly as it did his first disciples, by opening our minds to the Scriptures and bringing the blessing of Jesus over the rest of our lives.
Image: Ascension of Christ, 1461, Mantegna, Andrea (1431-1506), Florence, Italy.