The disciples returned--full of joy and praise and love for God.
Now that's an ending worthy of the Gospel!


Then Jesus said to them [his eleven disciples and the others
with 
them], "These are the words which I spoke to you while
I was still 
with you, that all things must be fulfilled which
were written in the 
Law of Moses and the Prophets and
the Psalms concerning Me. 
He opened their understanding,
that they might comprehend 
the Scriptures.

He said, "It was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to
rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and
remission of sins should be preached in His name to all
nations,
beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of
these things.
Behold, I send the Promise of My Father
upon you; but tarry
in the city of Jerusalem until you
are endued with power from
on high."

He led them out as far as Bethany, and lifted up His hands
and
blessed them. While He blessed them, He was parted
from them
and carried up into heaven. They worshiped
Him, and returned
to Jerusalem with great joy, and were
continually in the temple
praising and blessing God.  
Amen.

                                                      Luke 24:44-53 NKJV, condensed


                                      Singing Hallelujahs 

This time when Jesus parted from his disciples, there was a
finality about it. Yet they were filled with joy! Full of praise to
God! Continuous praise! What had happened to them? How
did these men and women advance from being fearful disciples
hiding in some upper room, to being overjoyed in full public
view in the temple courtyards!

The text says Jesus opened their understanding. What in the
world did he explain to them that would bring on this hallelujah
chorus! For one thing, Jesus showed them it wasn't their fault
that he was crucified. There was nothing they could have done
to stop the grave injustice because, as Jesus said, it was
necessary for him to suffer and be resurrected.

Jesus' words freed them from all guilt for not defending and
protecting him. Since it was God's plan that Jesus died, a great
weight fell off their shoulders. That issue was closed and they
could move on to the surprises Jesus had in store for them.

While they listened intently, Jesus turned to the ancient
writings of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms. It was a
comprehensive lesson on how God works, mostly behind the
scenes and out of sight. Jesus might have highlighted the
unique history of their forefathers and mothers who, made
in the image of God, learned to distinguish God's voice from
all other voices. These were the men and women who longed
for a Messiah to save them from oppressive superpowers
and establish God's justice and righteousness on earth.

Jesus showed his disciples that suffering, even his death on a
cross, has a purpose. He assured them the victory of God's
salvation would belong, not with the powerful and the strong,
but to the humble souls who seek God's face above all others.

Next, Jesus restored them to a place of honor. They would
be his primary witnesses. Having already spent three years
with Jesus, they had seen and heard a lot, firsthand. They
knew the individual stories of those who resisted Jesus and
others whose lives were transformed by a simple touch
from Jesus' hand.

But mainly, Jesus was concerned that his message of
repentance and forgiveness not be lost. Jesus began his
ministry with the word, "Repent!" And it was still on his lips
as he passed the mantle to his beloved disciples. It's a word
we must not ignore in our generation, either. How often we
are on the wrong road, heading in the wrong direction, with
our back toward God. When we repent we turn around and
move toward our loving heavenly Father--while he runs to
meet us! It's a scene that evokes happy tears, sometimes
uncontainable joy, in heaven and on earth.

Jesus doesn't want any of his people to be living under a
burden of sin. His voice rings out, "Repent!" If and when we
are wise, we will turn away from sin and ask Jesus to forgive.
Repentance sets us free. Free to sing hallelujahs like the
disciples in this text. Next came a promise with a capital P.

From other scriptures, we know this to be the third person
of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, the Power from on high. Always
and forever, God would make his followers able to do what
he asks them to do. The strength, the wisdom, the courage
will be there when they need it. But first they must wait in
faith and expectation.

Did the disciples deserve to receive all this--the trust, the
responsibility and blessing? Worthiness didn't matter. God
loved them, unconditionally. Worthy or not. Ready or not.
Adequate or not. The Spirit will come and work in and through
all who are willing.

Then they took a walk, as far as Bethany, a village two miles
from Jerusalem. There Jesus performed his final earthly act.
He blessed his followers who now were becoming leaders.
While he blessed them, they saw him ascend into the heavens.
With emotions overflowing, they dropped to their knees in
worship. They rose from this sacred ground as new men and
women who were full of joy, praise and love for God. Expectant,
yet not really knowing what to expect, they returned to
Jerusalem to wait for the Promise.

[Luke continues the Gospel story in his sequel, Acts.]

 

Use the following questions for small groups, journaling, further
study or reflection.

 

Icebreaker:  When, where, or why do you feel like singing a
                        hallelujah chorus?

 

Think of a time when someone explained something to you in
a way that finally made sense.
            How do such insights usually happen for you?
Has anyone ever awakened your interest in some verse or part
of the Bible?
            If so, describe that experience.

 

Jesus had some explaining to do about how his life, death and
resurrection fulfilled holy scriptures.  Read an Old Testament
scripture such as Isaiah 53, Isaiah 9:6-9, or Psalm 22.
            Look for specific words or phrases which remind you of Jesus.
How could it happen that these words, written hundreds of
years before Jesus' birth, describe the experience of Jesus?

 

One basis for the Lamb of God concept is Exodus 12:1-14.
Notice the images of bondage, the lamb without blemish, bitter
herbs, haste, judgment, sacrificial blood, deliverance and the
start of a new journey.
            How do these images fit with your church's doctrine of salvation?

 

Jesus believed his sufferings served the purposes of God.
            Could you say the same thing about your own sufferings?  
                    Why or why not?.

 

One of the surprises for Jesus' disciples was that they were to
preach, not only to fellow Jews, but to people in all nations.
            How would this directive change the way they thought
                    about themselves?
            How they thought about Gentiles?  
                    And how they thought about God?

 

People always received from Jesus according to their faith.
            Would the same be true for receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit?
Both Matthew and Luke allude to the ever-abiding presence
of Jesus for those who carry forward the ministry of Jesus.
            In what ways do you participate in the ministry of Jesus?
            Is Jesus with you at all times, or just when you are doing his work?

 

Discuss how this final text from Luke is like a graduation season
of endings and beginnings.
            Is there anything ending or beginning in your life?
                        Or maybe in your spiritual life?
How do you account for the joy of the disciples despite the fact
that Jesus ascended and left them here on earth to continue
his work?

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