Jesus’ departure and ascension was both an end and a beginning for his disciples.


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Today is the Feast of the Ascension. Matthew, Mark, and Luke, in their Gospels, all tell us that after the Resurrection and various appearances, Jesus was taken up into the heavens. No hint of when. But if we had no other information, it could have been as early as Easter evening. John’s Gospel concludes with a post-resurrection appearance in Galilee, and Paul cites a tradition of several appearances. But more concretely, the Acts of the Apostles mentions that these appearances occurred over a period of 40 days – which is why the Church has chosen to celebrate the Ascension when we do, exactly 40 days after Easter.

Forty is a significant number in the scriptures. Moses went to the mountain to seek the face of God for forty days in prayer and fasting. The people of Israel were in the wilderness for forty years in preparation for their entry into the promised land. Elijah fasted for forty days as he journeyed in the wilderness to the mountain of God. For forty days after his resurrection Jesus appeared numerous times to his disciples to assure them that he had risen indeed and to prepare them for the task of carrying on the work which he began during his earthy ministry.

Jesus’ departure and ascension was both an end and a beginning for his disciples. While it was the end of Jesus’ physical presence with his beloved disciples, it marked the beginning of Jesus’ presence with them in a new way. Jesus promised that he would be with them always to the end of time. Now as the glorified and risen Lord and Savior, ascended to the right hand of the Father in heaven, Jesus promised to send them the Holy Spirit who would anoint them with power on the Feast of Pentecost, just as Jesus was anointed for his ministry at the River Jordan. When the Lord Jesus departed physically from the apostles, they were not left in sorrow or grief. Instead, they were filled with joy and with great anticipation for the coming of the Holy Spirit.

All the preparation that Jesus used with His disciples about His true mission, His human fate, and His goal seems in scripture to have missed its mark. As He is about to be raised up to Heaven, they still ask, “Lord are you at this time going to restore the Kingdom to Israel? (Acts 1:6)

What they wanted was not what they would get; what they got was what God knew they needed.

Isn’t that a lesson for us for our prayers?

Jesus is in Heaven so the Holy Spirit could care for us and give us knowledge, understanding, counsel, wisdom, fortitude, piety and fear of the Lord. All we need is to praise God and to do His work.

Thank you, Lord, for calling us to do Your will and to show us the way!

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