What an interesting place to leave Luke's Gospel. Notice this is listed as yet another appearance followed by the Ascension. During the previous appearances, Jesus has been appearing and disappearing; after all that is what appearances are. But with this appearance and disappearance, Luke’s Gospel comes to an end. Why should it end here? What is different about this appearance and disappearance that the others didn't have? Why does Luke finish his gospel here? It is curious you have to admit.
Luke tells us that Jesus leads them to Bethany. What are they doing in Bethany? What is so special about Bethany? Why is Bethany the focal point of Jesus final moments on earth at the end of His first time here? We do know that He had special connections to Bethany as I have told you already in the Gems. (Bible Gems 80, 81 and 82) There were special people there in Bethany, so perhaps the attraction is the family that Jesus loved. No, they are not in focus here. Although the translation in English reads “He led them to Bethany” as above from the NLT, the Greek preposition used is the word [heos] which can be translated until, up to, as far as, near, in the vicinity of. This does not mean they went to Bethany as such but that they were in the Bethany area or within sight of Bethany. Jesus did not lead the disciples to Bethany but rather to the Mount of Olives. Bethany is located on Eastern slopes of the Mount of Olives. The inference here is not that Jesus led them through the streets of Bethany but it is the Mount of Olives that is in focus here.
When they get to the Mount of Olives, Jesus, now in His glorified body, lifts up His hands to heaven and blesses the disciples. That is the purpose of going to the Mount of Olives, to bless them. What is happening with this blessing? Lifting the hands to heaven is the indication that this was a priestly blessing or benediction. Jesus was pronouncing a Divine benediction over them but in doing so He was calling down upon them God’s divine power. He was asking God to bless them, to impart power to them. But of course it was made clear to them that they were to wait for the time when this power would be imparted. It was not in God’s timing to impart the power at that moment.
It is intriguing that the text tells us, it was while He was speaking the blessing over them that He was taken up from them. Imagine that. It is not that Jesus lifted His hands, blessed them and imparted power to them and then after that He was taken up. Rather while He invoked the blessing He was taken up. That's pretty out there. It is like when Jesus appeared after Cleopas and his mate had given their report. What a perfect moment to back up what they had just said. Now while Jesus was pronouncing the blessing on them He was rising before their eyes as He was taken up. What an emphatic set of circumstances under which to bless them. I bet that got their attention. Their eyes would have been out on stalks; mine would have been. The tense of "taken up" is the imperfect continuous, indicating there was on going action of the blessing at the same time their worship is taking place and the blessing is being pronounced. It was all on.
As He rose He was received by the cloud according to Luke’s account in the book of Acts (you will find more on that if you choose to read the Gems i wrote on Acts). It is like the cloud hid Him from view and then when He gets to the level of the clouds, He disappears. That's interesting. In the Old Testament, the cloud signifies the Presence, the Presence of God. Now it is the Cloud that receives Christ into heaven. It is also synonymous of Yah, who rides the clouds.
Deut 33:26 "There is none like the God of Jeshurun, Who rides the heavens to your help, And through the skies in His majesty.
Psalms 68:33 To Him who rides upon the highest heavens, which are from ancient times; Behold, He speaks forth with His voice, a mighty voice.
As the disciples observed the Ascension with their own eyes it convinced them of who He is. Their only appropriate response is to worship. You only worship Deity, especially if you are a Jew. What they have witnessed leads them to worship. Their fears appear to be gone. ADORATION is the appropriate response. Now they are filled with JOY. Their Lord is in heaven and all is right on earth. He will make good on His promise by His omnipotent power. They have just seen Him rise before their eyes. Luke concludes this closing segment of his Gospel with the fact that now they can’t get enough of going to the temple and praising God and worshiping Him. “Continually” or as often as they can, they are at the temple, captivated by what they have seen. They are not hiding out any more behind closed doors. No longer fearful but filled with faith they want to spend all their time in the Presence of God. Now that Jesus has gone, the temple is the next best place to be. They get it. The gospel is now in safe hands. The disciples have come of age it seems.
The Ascension is the climax of Luke's gospel. Note that Luke’s story of Jesus begins in the temple with Zacharias and now it closes with the disciples in the temple. What began in the temple (the Presence of God) ends in the temple. Luke’s goal in his gospel was to write an ordered account of Jesus ministry. Luke has now reached his goal. Everything now is in safe hands. In the closing portion of his account of Jesus story, Luke majors on the doubts that everyone had. But now doubts are allayed, fears are gone and the disciples are now not cowering behind closed doors afraid of their own shadows. Now they are out in the open and daily it seems, in the temple praising God for what He has done in Christ. Oh they are not now just telling the Acts of God, they know the Ways of God behind the scene. They know why He came, what He did and why He did it. They have had it explained from Genesis to Malachi a number of times and they understand their own Scriptures. They know that He had to experience all He did in order to enter into His Glory and they have seen with their own eyes Him enter into His glory. They are ready for what is to come. They have been told to wait, they are ready to wait.
It is interesting that the account of the ascension is brief. It seems a curious way to close the gospel. But in this case brevity has nothing to do with lack of importance. I have deliberately given you the parallel portion from Acts in the account above but I do not intend to comment on it now. Why not? Why don’t I do the normal thing I do and bring the accounts together by comparing them? Because in this instance we have repetition but not merely repetition for comparison. It is an amazing example of repetition across chapter boundaries but in this case it is repetition across book boundaries. From the close of the first volume to the opening of the second volume with some time between. Ah this is meant to be a sequel. “Luke” is now entering its second series. “24” (the chapter) will be coming back in a new series, wait for it. Then when we begin the new series, we will start with remember, “previously in 24, the chapter” these things happened. Let me remind you once again. Only the second time Luke gives us a fuller summary. We get some editor’s cuts included the next time. Luke gives us a fuller account in the second book but it seems appropriate for me to wait to the beginning of the next season to expand on what is written there. Rather in the close of his first book Luke leaves us with the essence of the ascension and the final gem related to their worshipful response. Now there is a hiatus. We will have to wait and see what happens when the new series comes to our screens.
Yes my point exactly. As I normally do when we close one book we have been gemming and are about to move to the next one, I give you time to look back over the previous book and re-read it to get the best possible understanding after we have picked the details apart. Now is the time to go back and put the big picture together from the details of Luke. The astute ones among you will realise there is more to Luke than meets the eye. Luke has a number of themes that he repeats in his gospel. As you reread it I am sure those themes will begin to rise to the surface. For example Joy is a feature of Luke’s gospel. Note that his gospel closes with JOY. As you go back and read it I know you will see a number of features come to the surface. Take note of them and interact with me if you want to.
Following Luke I suggest you spend the time reading Luke’s second book of the Acts of the Apostles to familiarise yourself with it. Oh I hope you see you are not just reading it to prepare for the Gems of Acts. You are reading Acts in the light of Luke’s Gospel. The two go together. I have told you already that Luke doesn't really deal with the Great Commission in his gospel because he intends to follow up the story. So before you begin Acts, re-read Luke and then immediately, while Luke is fresh in your mind, read Acts. If you really wanted you could re-read the Gems I wrote on Luke’s gospel and then the Gemz on Acts. But I suspect that might be too much. I never imagined I would write just over 600 Gems on Luke’s gospel. I started at Gem 726 and this Gem (1327) is now the final Gem for Luke. Maybe re-reading the Gems is a bit much to ask. Whatever you do is up to you. In a short time now the Gems will be available to you to search and read to your hearts content on the new website. I will not send any more Gems as I have been doing while I edit the Gems of Acts to make them compatible for the new website. But I will post and send the odd Gem that stands out but not too many. No more than one in a 100.
One question I do want to leave you with is – Why do the angels say in the beginning of Acts “Jesus will come back again in the same way you saw Him go”. What does that mean? What same way? What will be the same? Just one thing for you to ponder during the break before the new website is available and before I begin gemming Philippians live.
If you always do what you always did, you'll always get what you always got.
We can’t watch TV for 3 hrs then read the Bible for 3 min and expect to grow spiritually. Rick Warren
You cannot gain experience without paying a price. Bob Gass
You just have to hope that the price is not greater than the value of the experience you gain. Bob Gass
You cannot judge what the price will be until after you have gained the experience. Bob Gass
It's tragic to pay the price for experience and not learn the lesson. Bob Gass