Thursday is the feast of the Ascension. Its not that Jesus has left this world, but rather that He is everywhere and especially in all other human beings whom we meet! But now to Sunday’s readings —-
The first reading is just after the introduction to the Acts of the Apostles. Jesus’ last words to his disciples before His departure into heaven, are “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you;” then as an outline for Luke’s story of the spread of early Christianity, He says, “and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1: 8); this expansion of Christianity is the story Luke tells in Acts. Our reading today comes after the account of the Ascension, when we are given the impression that the disciples’ world seems to have been turned upside down: they are devastated; first of all Jesus died before establishing the Kingdom, and although He showed Himself to be alive after that, now He has gone and left them to get on with it and they feel abandoned. So what are we told they did? They prayed; and in this short account there is an important lesson for us! We don’t know what they prayed, but I think when one is at a really low ebb in life, one should pray to God about whatever one feels: let down, pointlessness, need for guidance etc. and maybe take a look at the second reading.
In the second reading it is Christians who are likely to be persecuted who are being addressed. We hear some sayings very hard to take about suffering and the recommended attitude towards it, as well as the hope of glory – but that’s in the future. We know that this approach was lived out in Christ’s life on earth. We learn from His prayer in Gethsemane in the Gospels that Jesus found it quite hard towards the end of His life, for He prayed “Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” And perhaps this incident and prayer is recorded there to help us when we suffer, and it is definitely suitable for the early, persecuted, Christians as well as for us today.
In the gospel, we have the final section of the long passages after the Last Supper in John’s Gospel. It uses the literary form of a Farewell speech. At first He speaks for the last time about glory; it has been a recurring theme in this Gospel – He showed it in so many recounted incidents in His life; He prays also about eternal life – the timeless life of the Godhead which He also shares in. References to the ‘hour’ have also been made in lots of the stories in John’s Gospel where it was something awaited, but now it has finally come. In addition Jesus prays about the disciples, indeed He prays for them! They will continue Jesus’ task of revealing the glory of God in the world; but for now He is bidding them farewell; leaving them in the world. The world is the place where God is not yet revealed properly, so He prays for the disciples, because they have this task to do, in and for the world. This passage is sometimes called the priestly prayer, because it comes from one who calls down blessing, who supports belief, and does this for others who will do the actual work of revealing God’s glory in the (secular) world. It is you and I now who are those people tasked with this role, about whom this prayer is made; and Jesus is within the Godhead, and yet all that is His, is with us and working through us in this enormous but so important task.
see Jeffs Jottings – Gospel truth ?