Summary: Luke in his account of the Ascension draws the listener to remember the story of Elijah’s Ascension. Pentecost is the day the church received the Mantle of the Spirit as Elisha received Elijah’s Mantle.
The Mantle I
(Copyright: Rev. Bill Versteeg 2008)
The disciples had been arrested by miracles.
First there was the crucifixion, an offering offered in righteousness and purity, even the Roman Centurion had to admit that this crucified one was “the Son of God.” But many doubted. Thomas, one of them, struggling with not knowing. He had a condition of being stuck between two opinions - either Jesus was God or he was not, either he was Lord or he was not, and the only thing that would convince him would be to see the sure evidence that the sacrifice was accepted - Jesus with the scars of sacrifice still in his hands. And when Jesus appear to him, his only response was “My Lord and My God.” Resonating the words of the nation of Israel many many years earlier, when they struggled with two opinions on Mt. Carmel, the fire came down, they witnessed the sacrificed accepted and they cried out “The Lord he is God, The Lord he is God.”
The disciples continued to be arrested by miracles. Jesus appearing to them, eating with them, breaking bread with them, opening their minds to old words, their own story. Truly it was ingrained in their mind when they called Jesus “Lord” - the Lord he is God, the Lord he is God.
Then this last Thursday, years ago, they witnessed yet another miracle, another event that would cause them to reflect on their rich and storied history. He promised to cloth them with power from on high, and then, blessing them, he ascended into heaven. Reading the story of the ascension, picturing it in our minds, might sound anticlimactic, like a good movie that has just come to the credits. But that would only be if we have forgotten an ascension that happened, once again, much earlier. The ascension of Jesus would have brought this story to their minds.
2 Kings 2 (NIV)
Elijah Taken Up to Heaven
2 When the LORD was about to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. 2 Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here; the LORD has sent me to Bethel.”
But Elisha said, “As surely as the LORD lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel.
3 The company of the prophets at Bethel came out to Elisha and asked, “Do you know that the LORD is going to take your master from you today?”
“Yes, I know,” Elisha replied, “but do not speak of it.”
4 Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here, Elisha; the LORD has sent me to Jericho.”
And he replied, “As surely as the LORD lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So they went to Jericho.
5 The company of the prophets at Jericho went up to Elisha and asked him, “Do you know that the LORD is going to take your master from you today?”
“Yes, I know,” he replied, “but do not speak of it.”
6 Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here; the LORD has sent me to the Jordan.”
And he replied, “As surely as the LORD lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So the two of them walked on.
7 Fifty men of the company of the prophets went and stood at a distance, facing the place where Elijah and Elisha had stopped at the Jordan. 8 Elijah took his cloak, rolled it up and struck the water with it. The water divided to the right and to the left, and the two of them crossed over on dry ground.
9 When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?”
“Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,” Elisha replied.
10 “You have asked a difficult thing,” Elijah said, “yet if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours—otherwise not.”
11 As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. 12 Elisha saw this and cried out, “My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!” And Elisha saw him no more. Then he took hold of his own clothes and tore them apart.
13 He picked up the cloak that had fallen from Elijah and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. 14 Then he took the cloak that had fallen from him and struck the water with it. “Where now is the LORD, the God of Elijah?” he asked. When he struck the water, it divided to the right and to the left, and he crossed over.