In getting ready this week to preach I encountered a lot of people who seemingly cannot make sense of the Ascension of Jesus. Now, to be fair what I encountered was their writings, letters, sermons and blogs; not these people personally. And that is why I would take the whole of the last encounter the apostles have with Jesus and read it with the account of his Ascension. Encounter Jesus in the midst of the Church and experiencing him as the risen and arising Lord go together. They go together like toast and tea; like hand in glove; like peanut This peace is not just any peace but God’s own peace. Peace that moves a person from fear to faith. It is a peace that moves a person from misery to mercy. It is a peace that removes the idols of people’s lives and replaces them with the awe and wonder of the presence of the Almighty and everliving God.
The reaction to Christ’s presence is fear and bewilderment of those who are supposed to know him best. They suppose they are in the presence of a ghost or are hallucinating all together his presence among them because of their shared grief. So he shows them the marks left by the nails in his hands and his feet. Yet knowing it is really him, the Church remains befuddled by this moment. And so Jesus goes one more step and asks for something to eat. Hey give a piece of broiled fish leftovers from the recently completed supper of that day. Jesus goes and washes up and comes to the table and eats his piece of fish.
It is in this moment that I have to wonder what it was that the disciples talked about with each other as they watched the fish disappear into Jesus’ mouth. We aren’t told but I know there must have been something said. Peter, Thomas, even John the beloved disciple must have had something to say, even if it was only “Wow!” Then there was time through the late afternoon for Jesus to open up the Scriptures and show them that everything that needed to be done was done and everything that needed to be said was said. He did this to open not only their minds to understand but also their hearts that they might believe and truly live into the lives they had been given.
Then Jesus took them on a short walk to a familiar place where two important things happened. First Jesus blessed his friends and told them to wait for the power of the Spirit before they go to live into the blessing. Second, Jesus as he leaves takes his humanity with him to the heights of the heavenly throne. And there he waits to come again at the Father’s biding to return and to bring with him the new creation that will last and grow into eternity.
So we await our Lord and his return, not left alone and to our own devices but to live into the blessing he provides and with the power to become the children of God through the indwelling of the Spirit of God.