And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. While He was blessing them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven. And they, after worshiping Him, returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple praising God. (Luke 24:50-53 NASB)
Luke’s book, the Acts of the Apostles, throws me off. I keep thinking that stuff about the resurrection is in a Gospel, but then I can’t find it in Matthew, Mark, or John. It’s frustrating. For instance, I thought that it was odd that Matthew and Mark have instructions from Jesus (or angels) for the disciples to go to Galilee and Luke doesn’t. John doesn’t have instructions, he simply has them in Galilee fishing. But then I realize that neither Matthew, Mark, nor John have an account of Jesus’ ascension (John mentions it in passing).
So, even though I thought there were two Gospels describing the ascension of Jesus, there’s one, and Acts, both of which are Luke’s writing. Then the 40 days Jesus hung around with the disciples is missing from every Gospel. Turns out it’s in Acts. So, the return of Jesus into heaven is described only by Luke. That’s weird to me. I would think John would describe it, at least. But in Acts I think I find the reason the others don’t describe it.
In Acts, after Jesus ascends, two angels appear to get the disciples moving off the hill top. But they say something interesting, “This same Jesus you saw taken up will come back in the same way” (Acts 1:11). That’s obviously not in the other Gospels as well. Here’s why I think they left it out: What if Jesus visits before the “cloud appearance”?
In Matthew and John, Jesus just appears wherever and whenever He likes. This happens in Luke as well. Mark simply ends with the angels giving instructions to the women, like “reader-response literature” or something. And Matthew and John really say little about any sort of return to the Father, at least not post-resurrection (except for Jesus to Mary Magdalene in the Garden).
I think this is because they know, or suspect, that Jesus comes and goes to the Father at will. And that they believe He can, and will, continue to do so. Think about this, there is no mention of a Second Coming of Jesus in Scripture, only the Appearing. So, He’s coming in the clouds one day, that is clear. But I believe that Matthew and John also believe that He can, and probably does, visit from time-to-time.
Now, I get that such a possibility sends dispensationalists into apoplectic shock, but I consider that a bonus. On the other hand, considering the numerous “Angel of the Lord” appearances all through the Hebrew Scriptures, it shouldn’t shock anyone. The God of the entire universe in human form would be Jesus, wouldn’t it? Who do we think visited Abraham just before God destroys Sodom and Gomorrah? Whoever it was enjoyed a meal with Abraham while they talked about Isaac’s eventual birth.
So, be cautious about criticizing those movies and books about God Almighty, or an impressive carpenter who goes to the Vatican. It seems we find it so easy to believe in seeing angels, but not Jesus. It’s very possible that we make an error there, possibly a very embarrassing one. Why not just be gracious because we simply don’t know? Would it kill us to be hospitable to someone randomly showing up with a message from God for us, especially if it actually were God?
No one ever seems to believe it at first. Not even in Jesus’ days of ministry did they believe it, not at first. So, it’s necessary and natural to be somewhat skeptical. But let’s be hospitable as we listen.
What do you think? What’s your view through your knothole this morning?