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Ascension Thursday

For those who follow the liturgical calendar, today is Ascension Day, Thursday May 8. For those of us who don’t, the Ascension passes unnoticed. Does it matter? Well, Jesus seemed to say that it did.

There is so little said by the Gospel writers about the forty days from Jesus’ resurrection to His ascension. I find this odd. What was going on in those days?

In most of the accounts of the times when Jesus appeared to them after his resurrection, there is this statement that they were not sure it was Jesus or that they doubted it really was Him. (Matthew 28:17; Luke 24:16, 37, 41; John 20: 25; 21:7,8,12) There is mystery here—yes, it was Jesus, but there was something different about Him.

I wonder if they realized that this was not the Jesus of Nazareth that they had walked with for the past few years. He had changed. Everything had changed. This is now Jesus the Messiah, the Christ. The resurrection opened the possibility of a totally different future for them all…and so for us today.

I think the challenge for us is always the familiarity of the “stories”. We think we know what happened, and the how and the why. For me now, the invitation is to sit with each story, to ponder it, to allow the Spirit to open my understanding at a deeper level—not just about what happened then, but how what was happening changes how I live my life today. Not just an intellectual understanding, but a spiritual insight.

Can we sit with what the Gospel writers did share? I suggest you choose one account and ask the Spirit to open your understanding of what that means to you today. Are you curious? Is there something in one of these familiar passages that you have missed?

Matthew 28:28:16-20 Maybe the most familiar—the great commission!

Mark in the original manuscript did not record anything.

Luke 24:36-49

John 20: 19-29; 21: 1-23

Read and reread the passage you chose, and then sit quietly. Maybe just one phrase or word will stand out for you; focus on that and ask the Lord to show you what He has for you today.


Luke in the book of Acts gives us the most extensive rendering of those days between the resurrection and the ascension. He tells us that Jesus showed Himself to the apostles He had chosen, giving many convincing proofs He was alive. That he appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the Kingdom of God. But we have no details about this teaching. Has it already been said? Was he just reiterating what he had already taught them? All we know for sure is that He commanded them to wait in Jerusalem for the gift the Father promised—the Holy Spirit.

Even with all that, they still asked Him if He was at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel. Did they still not really understand what this Kingdom was that Jesus constantly talked about? Do we?

The coming of the Holy Spirit was to change everything for them and give them the power to be His witnesses in Jerusalem...and then to the ends of the earth! And He was taken up before their very eyes. Two men in white appeared by them, addressing them as “Men of Galilee”, and assuring them of Jesus’ eventual return.

So here they were alone without their leader. The surprising thing to me is that they don’t seem to be too perturbed. There is no further mention of them hiding for fear of the Jews. They stayed together—about one hundred twenty of them, including the women who had traveled with them, and Peter moved into the leadership role. Something had already changed for them in those forty precious days.

What then is there for us in this story? There is something deeply profound about this baptism with the Holy Spirit that we today seem to have mainly moved away from. As you read further in the book of Acts, being baptized with the Spirit was a central part of the conversion experience.  I wonder if the invitation today is to allow the Father to fill us with His Holy Spirit, and to learn how to live in relationship with this Spirit.

And hang on with us through the next ten days as we move towards the amazing story of the coming of that Holy Spirit in power that changed everything.

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