John 17 1-11 (The reading for Sunday 24th May 2020)
As you know last Thursday was Ascension Day, the account of which we can read in the Acts of the Apostles Chapter 1.
Before our Lord ascended to heaven his apostles, who were gathered together in Jerusalem asked him, ‘Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He replied, ‘It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority…’
People are still asking that same question today. Some Christian bookshops are full of novels and theological books and magazines which all seem to be asking, ‘Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?’
Jesus’ Ascension message seems to suggest that his followers should put aside such political ambitions. Politics changes things. But God transforms things. And God can open our eyes to see the world in new, and liberating ways.
On Ascension Day, the disciples’ minds were transformed – like the couple on the Emmaus road. On the Ascension mountain all the disciples together had their minds opened, at last, to understand the scriptures. Now, at last, they understood who Jesus was, that he was the Christ who suffered and rose from the dead on the third day. So, in John’s gospel reading for today, Jesus could say, thankfully, to the Father, ‘Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.’
And the disciples also understood who they now were, the people who would be his witnesses, preaching repentance and forgiveness of sins in his name. The kingdom of God would come through his followers’ peaceable testimony to the waiting world:
‘…and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’
So, we need to gratefully grasp the power of the Ascension, because as it transformed the disciples it can transform us too.
We need the power of the Ascension in our church. We are easily discouraged by failure or falling numbers. And sometimes our vision is as low as the pavement. The Ascension encourages us to have confidence not in our church but in Jesus’ Church, not in our faith but in Jesus’ gospel, not in our success but in Jesus’ Ascension.
And just as the disciples knew after our Lord’s ascension who they were and the task that was ahead of them in spreading the good news of the Gospel, so let us also be witness to the kingdom of God in our daily lives. Amen
Psalm 46 Verses 1-3
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth shall change,
Though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea
Though it’s waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult.