8. Led to Location

Short Meditations on the Ascension: 8. Led to Location

Lk 24:50a  When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany,

As Luke winds up his Gospel, these verses are really summary verses. Continuing and recapping the story in Acts 1, after the ascension Luke records, Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk from the city.” (Acts 1:12). A footnote signifies it was about a kilometre or five eighths of a mile. They have returned to Jerusalem from the weeks of teaching in Galilee (Acts 1:3-, Mk 16:7, Mt 28:16, Jn 21:1-) but now the time for Jesus’ departure has arrived. In other words, Jesus knows that his time of teaching his disciples has come to an end.

We have been observing his teaching in summary form in the verses we have been considering, but now that has come to an end. I wonder if you were Jesus what you would have been feeling as you prepared to leave this group of disciples who have been with you for three years, have seen and heard all you have said and done, and who have been commissioned by you to go and carry on doing the same things? (Jn 14:12) Now it is down to them – after they have received the Spirit in ten days’ time.

Jesus knows these people, knows their frailties and fragilities and past and potential failures, but now it is time to let them get on with it. Leaders train, equip, enable, empower, and then have to step back and let their people get on with it. We may do the same with our children and there comes a time when we have to step back and give them space to go and live their lives out as they will, trusting that God will go with them and oversee them.

So he knows it is time to leave. He doesn’t just walk out of the door in the room where they are staying (Acts 1:13) – Jesus has obviously resettled them back there in Jerusalem – and doesn’t just disappear mysteriously. No, this has to be public – at least to them – but not to all the world. In the same way as they have been observers for three years and now been called to be ongoing witnesses, so they alone must observe his departure, and so he takes them to that familiar site of the Mount of Olives where they had often stayed overnight (Jn 8:1, Lk 21:37) a place where he had taught them (Mt 24:3, 26:30-) where the Garden of Gethsemane is and where he had prayed (Lk 22:39-). It is a place with many memories that must be faced, a place of special significance with this little group, and it is here that Jesus must leave them, and when he goes, in this place they will be left with many familiar memories that will say to them, no, this was not a dream, this was real, it all happened and you must never forget that. But here is the starting place for the rest of your life.

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