25 May 2017Luke 24:44-53
“You are witnesses of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised.” (vv. 48-49)
Psalm: Psalm 24
Today is the day which the Christian Church has set aside to commemorate the Ascension of Jesus, his leave-taking of his disciples. Our passage for today marks the very end of Luke's Gospel and the Gospel writer carries forward the story of the empowerment of the disciples in his second book, the Acts of the Apostles.
As with Jesus' conversation with the two on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35), here we have an account of Jesus explaining to his disciples all that has happened to him in the light of the Scriptures. Interestingly Jesus moves straight from speaking about the Messiah suffering and rising from the dead (verse 46) to declaring that repentance and forgiveness of sins are to be proclaimed to all nations (verse 47). To the disciples, he says, "You are witnesses of these things." Jesus' disciples then and his disciples throughout the ages are called to be rooted in Scripture and active in telling the story of Jesus. The Church, alongside those called as followers of Jesus, is to preach repentance and forgiveness to all nations.
God's purpose for the world in the suffering and death of Jesus is to bring the whole world within the ambit of God's divine love. To this we, too, are called to be witnesses. This is not just a matter of individual repentance and forgiveness, although it certainly is that.
We are also called to witness to a world full of dispute and dissension on the small, local or family scale, and in the relations between warring groups and nations. No one party in a dispute is all right or all wrong. No one party occupies the moral high ground to the exclusion of the other. It is in the midst of such disputes that we, as Christians are called to be reconcilers, bringing the message of repentance and forgiveness. This is a very daunting calling but Jesus' disciples were given a promise, as we are, "see I am sending you what my Father promised".
- Have there been occasions in your Church or worshipping community where disputes have arisen but where you have drawn back from 'witnessing', have been reluctant to seek reconciliation? Why do you think that is?
- The Church has exercised a role as mediator and reconciler in a number of serious conflicts - in Northern Ireland, in South Africa and in Sierra Leone. How might you and your church community become involved in initiating or supporting such acts of witness?