God’s Word for You
Luke 24:50-53 He left them and was taken up into heaven.
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Thursday, July 18, 2019
Jesus Ascends Into Heaven
50 He led them out as far as the vicinity of Bethany. He lifted up his hands, blessed them, 51 and then it happened while he was blessing them: He left them and was taken up into heaven.
It was a Thursday. Luke doesn’t give any indication here of what day it was when Jesus “led them out” to the Mount of Olives, near Bethany, but in Acts (Acts 1:3) he will establish the date as being forty days after his resurrection, which puts the ascension of Jesus just ten days prior to Pentecost. This places the ascension on a Thursday. The fuller account of the ascension as a whole is given there in Acts, along with the miracle of Pentecost.
Here we have the location given clearly as “the vicinity of Bethany,” which was east of Jerusalem, over the crest of the Mount of Olives. There is a fork in the road on the hill; one path proceeds to Bethany, the other runs down to Jericho. It was somewhere near this place that Jesus stopped, spoke with them once again, and blessed them. This was the posture that Aaron, the first high priest, used when blessing the people (Leviticus 9:22). Raising the hands showed (1) Jesus’ office as high priest. He blessed them with all authority to bless (that is, to pray that they would be blessed) and also to grant all blessing. The lifted hands also showed (2) Jesus’ office as king, since it placed him in a position of power and authority. Finally, the lifted hands showed (3) Jesus’ office as prophet, since the uplifted hands and blessing were there to comfort his disciples and to strengthen their spirits. In addition to this, his preaching (verses 46-49) was the conclusion of his prophetic office. Now his apostles were commissioned to take over the preaching ministry. “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation” (Mark 16:15); “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20).
During the blessing, Jesus left them. One last time in his Gospel, Luke falls to his favorite term, egeneto “and it came to pass.” It happened that this was the moment when he was taken from them, and Jesus’ body was lifted up as they watched. His physical body was removed from the earth. Was it done quickly? Was it done slowly? Whatever the answer, we have one other piece of information from Acts 1:9, “A cloud hid him from their sight.”
Jesus has ascended in his body, and is seated at the right hand of the Father (Mark 16:19; Acts 7:55; Romans 8:34). It is here that he intercedes on our behalf. It must also be said: “The Scriptures do not teach us to pray to the saints or seek their help, for the only mediator, propitiation, high priest, and intercessor who the Scriptures set before us is Christ. He is to be prayed to, and he has promised to hear our prayers. Such worship Christ especially approves, namely, that in all afflictions he be called upon. ‘If anyone sins, we have an advocate with the Father,’ (1 John 2:1)” (Augsburg Confession XXI,2-4).
52 They worshipped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. 53 Throughout the days that followed they remained in the temple courts, praising and blessing God. Amen.
Since the apostles returned to Jerusalem with “great joy,” we see that for once they were not grieving. The Savior had finished his work and told them to wait for a special gift. For the moment, this was enough. They worshiped Jesus, giving him full honor as God, and this worship we continue to carry out to this day.
Luke concludes his first volume by placing the apostles in the temple courts. There they waited for the Lord to send the Holy Spirit to them. In what manner this would happen, they had no inkling. But they were commanded to wait, and so they spent the time in worship, praising God and blessing him.
Our study of Luke’s Gospel together is at an end. I pray it has been as beneficial to you as it has to me. I thank you, the reader, for permitting my translation, comments, and observations to be a part of your life of faith. May God continue to bless you always.
Pastor Timothy Smith