Returning

40 Names of Jesus in 40 days of Lent — Day 43

Sunday after Ascension 2022

Christ has died,
Christ is risen,
Christ will come again.

Heart-shaped cloud
Image from Pixabay

In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.

And while staying[a] with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with[b] the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

Acts 1:11 ESVUK

The ascension is when Jesus started working from home.

Luke made it clear in writing Acts that Jesus had not finished working. “In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach.” All that Jesus began to do and teach, says Luke, not all that Jesus taught. Jesus has not given up doing and teaching, that goes on today and will continue until Jesus comes again. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit is available to everybody who is a Christian. The work of Jesus continues through all who have the Holy Spirit. The ascension is when Jesus started working from home.

Is Luke using apocalyptic (apocalyptic means revealing) language here? When Luke reported Jesus telling of his return in chapter 21 of his Gospel the context is clearly apocalyptic, that code language that uses picture language rather than literal thought to get its meaning across. Here there are apocalyptic elements, the presence of angels to give the message is an element of apocalyptic. It is possible that Luke, not being an eyewitness, is reporting apocalyptic as fact. Now it is hard to tell, it is going on for 2,000 years since the writing and the code for interpeting apocalyptic has been lost.

In the same character.

Verse 11 says, “This Jesus … will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” The same way or the same character as an alternate translation puts it. It is not about the physical means, on the clouds, even though the book of Revelation uses Jesus returning on the clouds. Even then it is used figuratively as a victor returning. Jesus Christ will return and will have the same manner, the same character as he had when he was on Earth before. Jesus is already the victor, having won the battle against evil through his death and resurrection.

τρόπος trópos, trop’-os; from the same as G5157; a turn, i.e. (by implication) mode or style (especially with preposition or relative prefix as adverb, like); figuratively, deportment or character:—(even) as, conversation, (+ like) manner, (+ by any) means, way.

Jesus’ character of love will not be changed. Jesus’ meekness, will not be changed. He will still uphold the downtrodden and he will still stand up to those in authority who abuse their power.

Other than the Sunday after Ascension the other time of year when liturgical churches look forwards to the coming of Jesus is Advent. I close with a prayer, the collect for the first Sunday in Advent from the Book of Common Prayer.

ALMIGHTY God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious Majesty, to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, now and ever. Amen.

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