The last verses of the Gospel of St. Luke are the final measures of the greatest symphony ever written. The final movement of St. Luke’s Symphony includes the last several chapters of Luke, and here in verses 36-53 we have the final resolution and bringing together of all the themes and actions Luke has introduced earlier in his masterpiece.
In these several verses, St. Luke actually reaches all the way back to the Old Testament, to Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms, to have all things be brought to Christ and come to serve Him. Everything in the Old Testament is talking about and points the way forward to Jesus Christ. Your old Sunday school teacher was right: the answer to the question is “Jesus Christ.”
Jesus, who has been connecting Old Testament prophecy with Himself all along, also reminds the disciples that everything He had been teaching them for the last three years and especially the last several weeks were the very things that were coming to pass in their midst. The Christ had to suffer and rise the third day, and now He had done it. Repentance and remission of sins had to be preached in all nations, beginning at Jerusalem, and that was now about to begin. Of course, you have to listen to St. Luke’s other great Symphony, The Acts of the Apostles, to hear about this part of Jesus’ ministry. But St. Luke makes it clear in Acts that the Church, the Body of Christ, is to continue and complete all that Jesus began both to do and to teach, and so on the day of Pentecost, St. Peter preaches that men should repent and should be baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38).
Jesus connects His earthly ministry with His heavenly ministry, by promising the Holy Spirit, who will inhabit the Body of Christ so they can become His ministers and perform His ministry.
And then, after connecting the past of the Old Testament with the present Resurrection and the future coming of the Spirit and the spreading of the Gospel, Jesus ascends to the right hand of the Father where He now sits and reigns over the new heavens and new earth.
St. Luke’s Symphony has come to a magnificent and glorious conclusion!
But there is one small finale, and it occurs in verses 52 and 53.
So many emotions and thoughts must have passed through the disciples’ souls; it’s hard to imagine what they must have been feeling. Sorrow had been turned to joy, and this joy was so enormous that even faith, for a time, was crowded out. They marveled and saw and listened, and I can imagine a crescendoing harmony of voices and emotions and thoughts all being coordinated, all coming together, each playing its part, until the climax comes and Jesus is lifted up into glory at the right hand of the Father.
What more could there possibly be?
Only this: their faithful response. “And they worshiped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple praising and blessing God. Amen.”
The great crescendo cannot simply end but gives way to great joy and worship. In my head I imagine the end of the Beatles’ “A Day in the Life,” which ends with a terrible, mad, skyrocketing crescendo of instruments that gives way in the end to one sustained piano chord that connects that frenzied crescendo with all of life that must follow the end of the music.
Our response today should be the same as theirs: amazement and joy and worship. While we have not experienced the intensity of the presence of Jesus as they had, this same Jesus who has ascended into heaven has shed forth His Spirit upon us.
Our response, then, should be to behold Him once again. It should be joy – and exceedingly great joy that cannot be contained and that trumps the sorrow of this life and the fog of the ordinary. Our response should be exuberant, praise and worship both night and day for our Lord Jesus Christ and what He has done.
Prayer: Father, I thank for loving me enough to send Your Son. Jesus, I praise You because You perfectly obeyed the will of the Father and died and rose and ascended for my sake. Spirit, I rejoice in Your ministry in the life of Your Church that continues the ministry of the Son. Fill my heart this day with joy, and make my mouth to overflow with Your praise. Accept my worship of You today, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
Points for Further Meditations:
- Meditate on the ascended Jesus Christ, and especially how He blessed His disciples.
- How can I make room and make time for joy today?
- Conduct an extended meditation throughout the course of the day on the entire earthly ministry of Jesus from His birth to His Ascension.
Resolution: I resolve today to take some time to meditate on Jesus’ ministry, both in His earthly ministry and in His heavenly ministry in my life. I resolve to rejoice and to worship Him today.
© 2016 Fr. Charles Erlandson