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"Sir, we wish to see Jesus" John 12:21
Ascension   ASCENSION

On the fortieth day after his resurrection, Jesus again appeared to his disciples and led them up the Mount of Olives to the east of Jerusalem toward Bethany. The disciples questioned him about the restoration of the kingdom of Israel? But he replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set 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, in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.” While the disciples were watching he was lifted up and a cloud took him out of their sight. Two men in white robes stood beside them and said to them, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” With that they returned to Jerusalem to await the baptism with the Holy Spirit.

Jesus had already spoken to his disciples about his ascension and return to the Father in parable form. In these parables Jesus speaks of a householder or a king who travels to a distant country leaving his servants in charge of his household or his kingdom. Upon his departure he gives them sums of money to trade with so that upon his return his wealth would have increased. The gifts of money and the increase of wealth represent the ministry gifts given to the disciples and their mission of enlarging and tending the household or the kingdom.

The ministry gifts Jesus imparted to his disciples are of three kinds. Some have to do with offices so that there would be a division of labor, some with character so that the labor would be carried out in keeping with the person of Jesus, and some with skills for the tasks of ministry. Paul, who writes extensively in his letters about the ministry gifts and the mission says, for example, that when Jesus ascended he gave the gifts that some should be apostles, some prophets, some, evangelists, some pastors, and some teachers. These are offices within the household. But those who hold the offices need to display the character of Jesus and so Paul speaks of gifts of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. And to do the work certain skills are needed as well and Paul speaks of these as wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, working of miracles, prophecy, discernment of spirits, tongues, and the interpretation of tongues. All of these gifts are given to equip the disciples so that they can carry out the mission of witnessing to Jesus to the ends of the earth.

In other parables Jesus compared the work of mission to laborers in a field. The laborers go out into the field to sow the seed of the Gospel. These laborers find uneven results depending upon whether the seed falls on good soil or not. The good soil represents those who are receptive to the Gospel. Not all are but more are than not and so the seed takes root and produces in time a great harvest. Considering the field in view is the whole world and that the laborers sow year by year through the generations until the return of the householder or king, the harvest is indeed large.

Yet these gifts for ministry would not be given and the mission not begun until, as Jesus had said, the disciples received power when the Holy Spirit has come upon them. That would not happen until ten days after his ascension on the feast of Pentecost.

(Painted by Garofalo)

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