26 May 2020

Thank you to Br. Richard Green for sharing this reflection with us. Brother Richard is a Carmelite friar, currently living in the CISA community, in Rome.

So when they had come together, they asked him, ‘Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?’ 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.’ When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going and they were gazing up towards heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up towards 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.’ (Acts 1. 6-11)

One of the things that seems strange about Jesus' ascension is the way that the Bible tells the story twice. There's nothing unusual about this in itself: there are four accounts of the crucifixion for example, but what's odd is that both of them were written by the same person. Luke tells us about the ascension in his gospel (Luke 24.50-53), and then tells he story again when he is wrting about the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 1.6-11). The story is quite different each time, as well, it's not just a simple repetition of the same words. Why does he do this? 

The two books, Luke and Acts were written by the same person, and were originally read by the same group of people. Surely they could have remembered the event of the Ascension, rather than needing it to be retold? 

But the big difference between the two books is what they are about. Luke's gospel is about Jesus. It is a book which tells people about Jesus, and about who Jesus was, and what he did. The book of Acts is different. In this book Luke is telling the story of the message about Jesus. He tells us how that message was first spread among the Jewish people, and then among the Gentiles, and how St Paul spread this message to different cities around the Mediterranean. Acts tells us how so many people saw their lives transformed by hearing news about Jesus's life and message. 

This is the difference between the two stories about the Ascension. The story in Luke concentrates on Jesus, while that in Acts has much more to say about how the Ascension affected the disciples. It is full of hope for the future, promising that they will receive the Holy Spirit, that they will tell people about Jesus across the whole earth, and finally, that Jesus will come again in the future.