Frank Retief was pastor at St James Church Cape Town for 31 years, having planted the church in 1968 with his wife Beulah. He became the Presiding Bishop of the Church of England in South Africa until he retired in 2010. Frank remains active in ministry through preaching, teaching, pastoral work & writing, and has authored a number of books.
Luke 24 v 51. “While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven.”
Jesus led his disciples to the eastern slope of Mount Olive. The last stage of the King’s journey is now complete, and he must now proceed to the goal that was always in view from the time his journey began. The King must now enter into his glory. On this day he must go alone and leave his servants to preach the gospel and spread his Kingdom here on earth. One day he will return and introduce them into his glory.
Jesus blessed them and in the very act of blessing them he is taken into Heaven. This is worth a thought. Jesus did not come to condemn us or judge us. He came to save us, invite us, welcome us, bless us. There will for sure be a day when he will come back as judge, but at this point his entire purpose was to bless. How fitting then that his last act on earth before he returned to Heaven was to bless his disciples.
This blessing was real, not just a token. His peace, power and assurance was given to them, hence they returned to Jerusalem with great joy.
Why this great joy? We would have thought they would rather mourn the loss of their great Friend. But rather they had gained much more. They had had Jesus with them for a while, but now in the Spirit, He would be with them forever. Moreover he told them he was one day coming to take them to be with him. So while the immediate future may have been a little uncertain, they knew they had a job to do and they would do it gladly and fearlessly.
Jesus now returned to Heaven, as our King and our high Priest. He would rule all the universe. Even though it would not seem to be so at times, His Church, His people and His message would be cared for and it would prosper. So it did. There are now millions of Christians all over the globe and have been for centuries. Hundreds of thousands have loved Him even to the death of martyrdom.
For the moment there is nothing new to be said. We will continue in due course with Luke’s other book – the book of Acts – to pick up the story and see how his great promises unfold.
Let us remember that this same Jesus is our King and our High Priest, that is, He is the one who represents us before God’s throne in Heaven. He intercedes for us. We are not alone. We can join the multitude of the redeemed in their joy, and in their worship of the King.