1st Reading: Acts of the Apostles 1:1-11
Jesus reminds his hearers that not only did he promise the Spirit, but so did his Father. John the Baptist also prophesied regarding the sending of the Spirit. Jesus thus relates the prophetic utterances of 2 prophets: himself and John the Baptist. But this is not a one-time event! It is the active movement of the Spirit in the ongoing life of the church. (Birmingham, W&W, p. 321) How is Spirit active in our church? How is Spirit active in YOU?
Reflect on the experience of the disciples after the death of Jesus. Imagine what it would have been like to have followed Jesus, lived with him, eaten with him, and now he was gone. He is not physically here anymore. How does that make you feel? What are you going to do now?
There is concern in verse 6 over God’s intention for the salvation of Israel. Where was Israel’s place in what God was doing in Christ? There is hope that Christ will deliver Israel, but there is also concern and question. Hope is not dead in spite of Israel’s rejection of Jesus. Acts highlights the drama of a people turning away from the messianic fulfillment that was theirs for the taking. However, this rejection is still fraught with the future hope of restoration. All is not lost for Israel (Birmingham, W&W, p. 322).
There is a feeling like the disciples want everything to be fixed FOR them. The ‘men dressed in white garments’ asked why they were looking up. In the movie Evan Almighty, Morgan Freeman who plays God, asks the same question. He says that is our problem: everyone is always looking up. Can you think of times when you looked up, rather than involved yourself in the solution?
2nd Reading: Ephesians 1:17-23
From Barclay’s Daily Study Bible Series (p. 90-94):
We see what Paul asks for a Church which he loves and which is doing well:
- A Spirit of Wisdom (Sophia, wisdom of the deep things of God): To be a thinking people. Plato said, “The unexamined life is the life not worth living.” A questioning faith is a healthy one!
- For fuller revelation and fuller knowledge: Our spiritual life is like a muscle. It must be exercised regularly. Just like any friendship, it takes effort.
- New realization of the Christian hope: isn’t this what the disciples are faced with in the Ascension?
- New realization in the power of God: Because of the resurrection, God’s purpose cannot be stopped by any action of men (or women). In a world which looks chaotic, it is well to realize that God is still in control.
We are the body of Christ. There is a legend that the angel Gabriel asks Jesus after the Ascension what will happen if the disciples grow tired and don’t spread the good news. “What if the people who come after them forget? What is away down in the twentieth century people just don’t tell others about you? Haven’t you made any other plans?” And Jesus answered: “I haven’t made any other plans. I’m counting on them.” To say that the Church is the Body means that Jesus is counting on us.
The Gospel: Matthew 28:16-20
From Raymond Brown’s A Risen Christ in Eastertime (p. 34-36):
They doubted. The doubt reminds us that, even after the resurrection, faith is not an automatic response. But Jesus is not repelled by their doubt, for he now comes closer to the disciples to speak. Doubting or not, they have worshipped him, and he responds to them. The mission is entrusted to the Eleven, even though some doubted. We are left to suspect that the word of Jesus solved the doubt, and that by proclaiming to others, their faith was strengthened. Does this resolve your doubts too?
“Make disciples of all nations” The apostles cannot simply wait for the Gentiles to come; they must go out to them. And if in the ministry the chief Jewish followers of Jesus (the Twelve) were called disciples, that privilege and title is to be extended to all nations (and you!).