Skip to main content

Reflection For Ascension Sunday

By 21st May 2023Reflections

Bible Readings:  Acts 1:1-11 John 17:6-19

As we all know only too well, life is full of ups and downs. One minute we’re on a high and feeling on top of the world, the next we have been brought back down to earth with a bang. So imagine then how the disciples of Jesus must have been feeling after all they had gone through and experienced themselves in the past seven weeks.

In that time they had witnessed the glorious scenes of Jesus entering Jerusalem on that Palm Sunday and enjoyed a very special meal with him on Passover. Only to go through a nightmare of a time on Good Friday with the anguish they felt for Jesus, their fear for themselves, and the guilt over what they had done.

Then of course we had the joy of the Resurrection, followed by weeks of a degree of uncertainty. But finally back to a sense of normality, with Jesus back among them, talking and teaching and making them feel at the centre of God’s world once again – as he always did.

Given all the emotions that these disciples had gone through in such a short time. It must have been so peaceful and so comforting to have their master back by their side. But it wasn’t to last. Even as they begin to talk about the future glory and restoration of the kingdom of Israel, indeed almost in mid discussion…‘he was taken up before their very eyes…and a cloud hid him from their sight…’

One minute they are the inner circle, so to speak, waiting patiently to hear of the plans for their kingdom of Israel and the part they might play in these plans. And the next moment they are a leaderless, purposeless group of people…

Of course Jesus refused to tell them in any great detail just what is going on, but does expect them to carry on without him – and he does give them a mission and a very daunting one at that. They are to be his witnesses all over the world…And even with the promise of the Holy Spirit, it’s difficult not to imagine a group of deflated and heavy hearted disciples as they begin to make their way back to Jerusalem. However, even as these emotionally drained disciples head back to the city, perhaps they are at least able to reflect upon an important lesson that they have learned over these past weeks.

That being that they have learned to stick together and do things together as a group. And key to this was to keep on praying together as a group.

That said, it shouldn’t have come as a complete surprise to the disciples that they would choose to come together in this way. Because our Gospel passage today, which takes place shortly before the events of easter, also lays emphasis on the ideas of unity in prayer. However, no matter how often we have read this passage, there is perhaps something that we have overlooked.

Jesus prays for us….Now just stop and think about that for a moment – our Lord and Saviour is praying for us.

Jesus knows that the world we live in can be such a terrifying  and dangerous place to live in and bear witness to his name. He knows all about the trials and temptations his Disciples and all of us will face as we seek to continue in His Ministry. So he prays that in the midst of all this, we might remain faithful – but there is even more to it than this…

When Jesus is praying for his disciples, that they might be protected, He is not simply just asking for their protection from persecution and fear. He is praying for their protection so that they may be as one – even as He and God are one And for us today. This is not meant to be some kind of sentimental unity or some kind of superficial lack of dissension within the Church so that we can be free from conflict. The real issue here is the unified witness to the Gospel Message.

Moreover, Jesus did not pray that his disciples be taken from the world, away from all the hostility that they might face. Instead, Jesus wants his disciples to go out into the world and as they do so to take out the word of truth that he has given them. But still he knows that as they do so the evil one will be there to try and prevent them from doing so. Doing all he can to stifle the Gospel of truth. Still he knows that they themselves may face fearful and difficult times of opposition and persecution. But if they are united in prayer, the evil one will not be able to prevent them in their mission.

And this is perhaps something that we should remember today…

Jesus wants each and every one of us, as his disciples here and now, to involve ourselves in all the many issues of life. He wants us to immerse ourselves in this world, to be involved in all that is going on, working to try and make a difference – working for change for the better. But sometimes we get to a place where we want to be taken out of these issues of life, where we want to quit because we see no difference in the world we live in. And the harsh reality is that yes, perhaps in real terms there is no apparent difference in the way in which our society exists today. But still Jesus wants us in there doing all we can to help make things better, to help alleviate so much of the suffering and pain that we see today.

He wants us to be the voice of those who cannot or who are unable to speak for themselves.

He wants us to be the voice that cries out in pain and anguish saying, this is wrong, this should not be happening.

And he wants us to be the voice of conscience, to acknowledge our own part in the failure and breakdown of this world.

When Jesus ascended to heaven to be by his Father’s side, he made it clear that he wanted his Disciples to continue where he had left off.  Today that task falls to us. But like them, if we are to do so as Jesus would want us to, we need to be united in praying together. Just imagine if Jesus words here in this Gospel passage and the way his Disciples came to live here became the way in which we live among those we are called to serve.

What might the church look like today if we spent as much time lifting the Church up before God, asking for God to protect and sanctify the church, as we do complaining about what is wrong. What if as disciples of Jesus Christ here and now we all devoted as much time and energy to praying for one another, seeking God’s love and support, as we do gossiping, back-biting and complaining.

What if we all took more time to pray as Jesus did here.

Just pause again to reflect on this wonderful news. Jesus prays for us. Our Lord and Saviour, even now, is at the right hand of God praying for us. Who then are we not to do likewise – for our church, our community, our neighbours, our families  – this broken world that we live in.

Let’s just pray…