Summary: From Easter to the ends of the earth, via the Ascension of Jesus.
THE UNFINISHED BENEDICTION
Easter had been a hectic, confusing day: but, in our text, Jesus pointed the disciples first to His own words, and then to the Old Testament Scriptures in order that they might put some meaning on all that had happened (Luke 24:44-45). This is where we must always begin: with Jesus, who is both the key and the fulfilment of Scripture, and with the Scriptures themselves. Trying to understand Jesus without the Scriptures is futile; and comprehending Scripture without Jesus opening our understanding is impossible (Luke 24:45).
“It is written,” begins Jesus, “that the Messiah should suffer and rise” (Luke 24:46). He was giving them - and us - new reading glasses to read already familiar passages and verses. From now on we see these old things as in a new light.
Not only this, but the church’s commission arises out of the Old Testament. Jesus continues, “and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:47). If we search the Scriptures, we will find that that was always the plan.
Then we have the link with the New Testament: “you (all) are witnesses of these things” (Luke 24:48). Yet the church’s witness is nothing without the “enduing with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). So, the infant church needed first to wait in Jerusalem for the promise of the Holy Spirit.
Now that the church had an understanding, an identity, and a purpose (all arising out of the Easter event): Luke’s Gospel fast-forwards to the Ascension of Jesus. We can imagine the band of disciples, trooping along behind Jesus as they go for one last walk together. No longer despondent, they are remarkably buoyant as Jesus lifts His hands in benediction (Luke 24:50).
And in the very act of blessing them, “He was parted from them and carried up into heaven” (Luke 24:51). He went as the forerunner, ‘to prepare a place’ for us (cf. John 14:2). He went as High Priest, ‘ever living to make intercession’ for us (cf. Hebrews 7:25).
This was no sad parting. The disciples “worshipped Him” there. Then, as instructed, they returned to Jerusalem: “with great joy” (Luke 24:52). Thereafter they were “continually in the Temple worshipping God” (Luke 24:53).
Luke’s Gospel had begun in the Temple, with Zacharias’ vision, and now ends right there. The place where heaven and earth meet. The place where God met with man. An appropriate base to endow the church for their world-wide mission.
It is nice, as we conclude, to think of Jesus’ unfinished benediction. Perhaps it was still on His lips as He took His seat at the right hand of the Majesty on high? Maybe it is continuing even now, and will only know its final “Amen” when He physically returns for His own?
As we continue to worship and serve Him in this world, may the Lord bless us with continuing understanding of what He has accomplished for us. May we fulfil our mission in the power of the Spirit and see fruit for our labours in this present ‘waiting’ time. And to His name be all the praise and honour and glory.