4. The Starting Place

Short Meditations on the Ascension: 4. The Starting Place

Lk 24:47a  to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem  

Jesus, remember, is preparing his disciples before he leaves them and ascends back to his Father in heaven from whom he had come (see Jn 6:38,51) and he does that by opening up the Old Testament scriptures to show that everything that had taken place has been prophesied and was the decreed will of God. This will has to be declared, he says, so go and preach it, preach the Cross, preach forgiveness of sin, and preach it to the whole world.

“to all nations”. Now here is something different that we might forget. Previously Jesus had declared, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” (Mt 15:24) It’s true, his focus had been to Israel but that, we may suggest, was because Israel were the prepared environment for him, the place God had been working on for centuries to prepare them to receive him, and it was from Israel that the first disciples came. All of those with him at this moment were Jews, were part of the nation of Israel and it was they who would have the privilege of continuing the work that God had given to Israel, to reveal Him to the world.

We can so easily take this for granted but from the beginning, the Lord said to Abram, “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you,.” and we see that repeated again and again (e.g. Gen 17:3, 18:18, 22:18) and then to Isaac (Gen 26:4), and Jacob (Gen 28:14) and Moses, Joshua, David etc. all knew this. They were as Isaiah put it, to be a light to the Gentiles (Isa 42:6) so that, my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” (Isa 49:6) which Simeon picked up and prophesied over the baby Jesus (Lk 2:32) and the apostles would later pick up and preach (Acts 13:47, 26:23). This that had happened was not just for a select group of people, but for the whole world. I think the disciples struggled with this idea because it took persecution to get them out of Jerusalem where they seemed stuck (Acts 8:1). We much prefer the comfort of our home area to the unknowns of the rest of the world, but that is where we are to go.

“beginning at Jerusalem”. Now we’ll come across this more than once but there is a sense that it’s got to start somewhere and that is Jerusalem, the place of the Cross, the city of God. The truth is that God had chosen Jerusalem as a His focal point in Israel and so even when the land was divided after Solomon, Jerusalem remained the focal point with the Temple. After its destruction and the following Exile, the remnant were brought back to rebuild the temple – in Jerusalem. It had subsequently been rebuilt. (2 Chron 36:23). But Jerusalem has some bad memories for the disciples that have to be faced, and we’ll see that later on.

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