Ascension Week – Part 1

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Devotional Word for Monday, May 18, 2020

This Thursday, May 21st, will mark 40 days since Resurrection Sunday. Does that ring a bell with you? Probably not. It should, though. Here are the first three verses of the book of Acts. Listen to them and you’ll understand why this Thursday should be memorable for you. 

The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when He was taken up to heaven, after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen. To these He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God. [Acts 1:1-3]

Jesus was raised from the dead – spirit, soul, and body – on Resurrection Sunday, the day we call Easter. He was taken up to heaven – spirit, soul, and body – on the 40th day after Resurrection Sunday. If those events had happened in the year 2020, Jesus’ Ascension would take place this Thursday. This ought to raise in our minds the question: What did Jesus do during those 40 days? Did He continue on with the disciples like before, was He with them all the time? If His body was raised from the dead, what sort of properties did it have? You can probably think of many other questions you’d like to ask about those 40 days. Don’t you wish you could talk with the disciples and ask about those 40 days?

Well, we can’t do that, obviously, but we can hear what they might have talked about with one other. A good Scripture passage to hear from is 1 Corinthians 15:3-7. Paul reminds that congregation of the foundational truths of the Christian faith and goes on to enumerate some instances of the post-resurrection interactions of Jesus with His followers. Here’s what Paul wrote: For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 

Paul goes on to relate that Jesus appeared to Him as well, but that would have been well after the 40 days we’re thinking about at the moment. What this list tells us is that Jesus appeared to Cephas, that is, Peter. Jesus also appeared to His disciples. Then Paul records the amazing instance of Jesus appearing to more than 500 folk at one time. He says this can be corroborated because many of those 500 are still alive at the time he writes this letter! Jesus also appeared to James. That would be Jesus’ brother James, the one who became the head of the church at Jerusalem, who wrote the epistle of James, who became known as James the Just, and who died a martyr at the hands of the Jewish high priestly authorities in the early 60s – thirty years after Jesus’ Resurrection and Ascension.

When we think of Jesus’ resurrection, we mostly think of what happened on Easter morning at the tomb, or at the locked Upper Room that evening. We need to expand our thinking. In preparation for His Ascension, let’s use this week to consider what was the teaching the resurrected Jesus did among His followers during the 40 days until His Ascension. The first point would be that it really was Jesus. The reality of His resurrection – body, soul, and spirit – would open vistas of vision for His disciples unimaginable just a few weeks earlier. So, think about those 40 days. Search the Scriptures for insights about those days. Let’s see if we can gain some new insights as well.

Speaking of 40, do you know what happened 40 years ago today? It was May 18, 1980. One of the signal events corroborating young earth creationism exploded onto the scene. Yes, it was the day Mount St. Helen’s erupted in Washington state. In the aftermath it became clear that processes many thought took millions of years turned out to require less than forty months or forty weeks or forty days or forty hours. If you go to the Answers in Genesis website and type in Mount St. Helen’s in the search box, and a wide array of informative articles and other materials will be available to you. Yep, that number 40 is a good one. Let’s pray: Gracious God, again we want to thank You for Your goodness to us. Your Word is rich, filled with truths that fill our souls and renew our minds. Just as You, Lord Jesus, taught Your followers in those 40 days between Your Resurrection and Your Ascension, so teach us as we consider those days during this week. Send the Holy Spirit to minister to us. May this not be mere knowledge for the sake of knowing, but knowledge that translates into how we think and how we live. We want to live for You and have the mind of Christ formed in us. We ask all this in Jesus’ name. Amen.