Summary: The ascension of Jesus in Luke 24:50-53 shows us the remarkable manner in which Jesus left his disciples.
The Gospel of Luke opens with these words in Luke 1:1-4:
1 Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, 2 just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, 3 it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.
For twenty-four chapters Luke has compiled a narrative about the life and ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. It is a most remarkable account of the most remarkable person who has ever walked the face of this earth. For twenty-four chapters we have been riveted to Jesus’ preaching and healing ministry. We have learned that Jesus came to proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God, and how he demonstrated his authority over disease, demons, death, nature, and sin itself. We have learned how God the Father sent his son, Jesus Christ, to seek and to save the lost.
Today, we come to the final, remarkable conclusion in The Gospel of Luke. It ends, as commentator David Gooding said, with an “indescribably august event, the ascension of the King.”
Let’s read about the ascension of Jesus in Luke 24:50-53:
50 Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. 51 While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple blessing God. (Luke 24:50-53)
Theologian Robert Webber wrote the following in his magisterial work titled, The Complete Library of Christian Worship:
The most common term for the yearly celebration of time in worship is the Christian year. The Christian year, developed in antiquity, was a vital part of worship until the Reformation, when Protestants abandoned much of it because of the abuses attached to it in the late medieval period. . . . The current return to the Christian year among Protestants advocates a very simple and unadorned year that accents the major events of Christ, a Christian year similar to that of the early church.
Webber lists the following days or seasons in the simple Christian year: Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Holy Week, Easter, and Pentecost. We are familiar with these celebrations. However, one of the most significant events in the account of Jesus is almost always completely overlooked by the Christian Church. I am of course referring to the Ascension of Jesus.
Hardly any attention is given to the ascension of Jesus. Hopefully, our study today will change that perspective.
The ascension of Jesus in Luke 24:50-53 shows us the remarkable manner in which Jesus left his disciples.
Let’s use the following outline:
1. The Benediction at Jesus’ Ascension (24:50-51)
2. The Reaction to Jesus’ Ascension (24:52-53)
3. The Implications of Jesus’ Ascension
I. The Benediction at Jesus’ Ascension (24:50-51)
First, let’s look at the benediction at Jesus’ ascension.
Chapter 24 of The Gospel of Luke begins with the resurrection of Jesus on Sunday. The women went to the tomb of Jesus to anoint his body with spices. However, when they got there they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, two angels said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen” (Luke 24:5-6). They went back and told these things to the apostles, but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened (Luke 24:11-12).
Luke noted that later on Sunday Jesus appeared to two disciples who were traveling from Jerusalem to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35). The two disciples immediately rushed back to Jerusalem, a journey of about seven miles, and told the apostles and other disciples that Jesus was alive! Suddenly, Jesus appeared in the midst of the disciples in Jerusalem (Luke 24:36-49), and showed himself alive to them also!
Luke began his second volume, The Acts of the Apostles, with the note that Jesus “presented himself alive to [the apostles] after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3). What a glorious forty days that must have been for the apostles! That was undoubtedly the most intensive, exhilarating, eye-opening, faith-enriching, and heart-warming forty-day crash course in theology that ever took place! Finally, all their lack of understanding about the person and work of Jesus was cleared up.