Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Ascension of Jesus

The ascension of Jesus is quite an interesting event.

What are we to make of it all. Forty days after Jesus' resurrection from the dead, having appeared to the disciples in a series of surprisingly sporadic visits, Jesus assembles with them one more time. They are filled with a sense of anticipation. Surely this is the moment that they have been waiting for - surely Jesus is going to take the throne of David, summon many legions of angels and lead a heavenly army against the Romans. Then he would be installed in Jerusalem to rule the world as the messianic Son of David and they as his trusted advisers.

Yet, Jesus is just as infuriatingly mysterious as he always has been, telling the disciples to mind their own business and then to wait in Jerusalem for the coming of the Holy Spirit. There are some things here that should catch our attention - for example, Paul tells us that Jesus appeared to some five hundred at one time (presumably on the mountain in Galilee), yet when we read about the group in Jerusalem it had dwindled to one hundred and twenty. What happened to the other three hundred and eighty? Did the idea of waiting for the Holy Spirit strike them as not quite exciting enough?

And what of these one hundred and twenty? Who were they? We are told virtually nothing about them, yet they exerted enormous influence on not only their own culture, but ultimately on the course of human history. In the line of our curiosity about the lives of influential people we would like to know more about this group: what were their political affiliations? How many men and how many women? In this, as in so much of the biographies of the people around Jesus, we are told virtually nothing. And, lest we become complacent, the little we know of the eleven disciples who are left of the original twelve, does not make us any more confident. These eleven have hardly covered themselves in glory. Just the contrary. In their time with Jesus they have showed themselves often confused about what is going on, lacking in both faith and foresight, frequently bickering about status and position. Their unofficial leader, Peter, denied he knew Christ when confronted by a servant girl, making his promises to face death for Christ utterly laughable. And the other disciples had fled like frightened rabbits. So we might be tempted (with good reason) to think that Jesus, in trusting these people was making a tragic error of judgment. However, we are due to be surprised. This motley crew will change the world. Amazing!

1 comment:

  1. I like your comment about the 120 disciples and how they change the world. They were the first church. I find it amazing that out of all the people who followed Jesus, only a small number stuck around.