[Jesus] ‘gave them this command: ‘Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.’ Acts 1:4
Brothers and sisters, patience is a virtue, but, if that’s true, no one told the toddlers. But, to be honest, us adults aren’t much better! However, waiting, and having patience, is exactly what the disciples have been told to do when Jesus left them to go to heaven. Jesus told them to wait, He said: ‘Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift of the Holy Spirit.’ The celebration of the Ascension took place on Thursday, and today we continue our wait until Pentecost when God’s Holy Spirit was given to the disciples. And as we wait, we are to use this time to reflect. To think more about Easter and all its strangeness. To think about the resurrection and what it teaches us about who Jesus is. The earliest disciples of Jesus, had the same sort of opportunity for reflection in the week after Jesus’ Ascension, too. And they had a great deal to reflect upon. Imagine yourself in their shoes. Just about fifty days ago, the master whom they had followed for a number of years now - Jesus of Nazareth - had ridden into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey, identifying himself as Israel’s Saviour, as the King of the Jews. The disciples must have been caught up in the excitement but they must, too, have been perplexed confused by the sudden transformation of their Master from wandering preacher to the man hailed as Israel’s King; no wonder John tells us in his gospel that Jesus’‘disciples did not understand all this’. And we should sympathise with them. Think back to the events they had seen leading up to the first Easter: Just five days after Jesus had entered Jerusalem on the donkey, one of the disciples slips away early from dinner. In going Judas, not only betrays Jesus, but he also reduces the number of the apostles to eleven and there are suppose to be twelve foundation stones to Jesus’ kingdom and now one is empty! At some point that is going to have to be sorted, and indeed, our reading Acts deals with that issue.
But back to that strange dinner, that strange Last Supper, in which Jesus, their teacher and Lord, has insisted - against everyone’s better judgement - that He should clean their feet. Was He losing his mind with his foot-washing? It would be understandable if He was. After all, not many people get declared Saviour of the World! But things move too fast for the disciples to properly consider that question. Before the night was out, stranger things have happened. By the morning, Jesus of Nazareth was condemned for execution and the man around whom the disciples’ lives revolved had been stolen from them. There was no hope to get him back! This was mission over, ended, kaput! As they flee from Jesus’ crucifixion and deny Him, doubt sets in to the disciples’ minds. They go back to old ways of life, fishing, keeping house, being good sons and daughters. But their minds are quietly occupied by a question that won’t go away: ‘Who is this Jesus of Nazareth whom we thought we knew?’ However, strange things keep happening, making this reflecting all the harder! There was the whole reversal of fortunes again only a few days later. The empty tomb, that terrifying moment with Mary and the gardener when Mary didn’t even recognise Jesus when he stood in front of her. The disciples on the Road to Emmaus have the same problem. They know Him well, and yet they do not know Him at all! Who is this man? But their Lord, and ours, knows exactly what they need. And Luke tells us that, in the days between Jesus’ rising from the dead and his ascending into heaven, Jesus opened the disciples’ minds so they could understand the Scriptures. Jesus told them everything that had been written in the past about who He was! Jesus told them how His death and resurrection fulfilled the prophecies of old and transformed the relationship between heaven and earth once and for all. We know that the disciples finally understood, because the Acts of the Apostles is littered with accounts of the different places and contexts into which they told the good news of Christ. And then, when the disciples were fully prepared, after forty days, Jesus left them. He went up into heaven to reign in majesty and He gave His disciples a command recorded twice by Luke: ‘Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift of the Holy Spirit’.
That is where we are today. We are in Jerusalem with those earliest apostles and disciples reflect upon all that has happened, and on who Jesus is. And the wonderful news, summed up by the apostles, is that Jesus is God with us. And the implications of this are earth shattering. We are able to get close to God because in Jesus, God is not only divine; but he is also human. In Jesus’ humanity, all of humanity is raised to the right hand of God. By being united to Jesus - and so being united to God - all of our brokenness, all of our mistakes, all of our darkness are swallowed up in light. We are able to be the people we are called to be and whom - in our clearest moments - we want to be, if only we didn’t keep tripping up and make mistakes by forgetting about God. United to Jesus we find we are bring made into our better selves. This is the good news that transforms everything. This is the good news that turns the world around, that by becoming man God has reached into our darkest darkness and that by ascending into heaven he has taken us up into his marvellous light. This is the good news that can change lives. And the strength, and power, and importance of this good news is precisely why, today, between Ascension on Thursday and Pentecost next Sunday, we are asked to pause, we are asked to wait, and we are asked to reflect. To ask that God’s Holy Spirit would come, and help us to more fully grasp, more fully understand the Scriptures, and so know Jesus better. Let the next week be a time of coming to know Jesus better, so that we are ready and able to take His good news to the world. Amen. (from Fr. Mike).