When Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene, he told her not to cling to him (John 20:17). A few weeks later when he ascended into heaven, the disciples were asked why they were standing about gawking. There was work to be done. A charge was given in both instances to go and tell, not to stagnate in the past but to push forward with the message they had been commanded to share.
There is Work to be Done
and [they] said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
mount of olives
The place where Jesus ascended into heaven and gave the charge to those he left behind was the Mount of Olives. Located on the eastern side of Kidron Valley, it is the hill that faces the old city of Jerusalem. It earned its name for the olive trees that once covered it and is an important location throughout the Bible.
King David ran from his son Absalom during the rebellion across the Mount of Olives (2 Samuel 15:30). It is the hill on which King Solomon built high places for the gods his wives worshiped (1 Kings 11:7–8). Ezekiel had a vision that “the glory of the Lord” was present on the Mount of Olives (Ezekiel 11:23), while Zechariah prophesied that God would stand in this spot and it would split in two (Zechariah 14:3–4).
Every time Jesus traveled from the temple to Bethany, the route would take him over the Mount of Olives. His triumphal entry to Jerusalem was from this location (Luke 19:29). It was here he wept, knowing the city would one day be destroyed (Luke 19:41–44). Jesus answered questions and shared many parables under the shade of those olive trees. An audience seeking God was waiting for him always on the Mount of Olives. It was where those who traveled to the temple would sleep and would continue to do so up until the destruction in AD 70.
In the years that followed Jesus’s ascension, what were the conversations beneath those trees? Perhaps hushed whispers filled the air of a Messiah who had already come, risen from the grave, and ascended into heaven in the very spot where they now slept. Did they speak of the men and women who witnessed the event? Were there rumors of where they had gone and what they were doing?
go into all the world
The location was significant as the starting place for what was to come. It was the beginning of a new movement, a new commandment to love as Jesus had done.
Those who had watched Jesus ascend stood in awe, possibly trying to process all that had happened over the last three years. They had expected liberation from Roman rule led by a Jewish warrior king. Instead, they were given a manger-born Messiah who loved them unconditionally and challenged them to go out into the world, loving the unlovely and unloveable with the same boldness. His death had been a crushing blow. But then, a resurrected Christ! He breathed new, spirit-filled life into the future. Their faith had been strengthened and the power of God was undeniable.
The men in white robes who appeared asked them why they waited. This wasn’t where Jesus told them to stay. He told them to go. There was urgency in the command because he would come back again but at a time no one could predict. Perhaps it was in this moment that some of the parables Jesus had shared began to become clear in their minds. Jesus had a way of telling stories that slowly unwrap for us as life makes us more aware. The the ten virgins who weren’t prepared for the long wait. Perhaps in this moment the reason for all they had seen and witnessed suddenly made sense.
Watch Session Six
What has God been placing on your heart lately to go and do?
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