“And he led them out as far as Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them. And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven. And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy: And were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen.” (Luke 24:50-53, NIV)
Today, in the U. S., we observe Memorial Day. It is a day on which we remember those who died fighting our nation’s wars. A couple of weeks ago, on May 13, we observed the 40th day of Easter, which is Ascension Day. On it, we mark the return of Jesus to heaven. It is the place He left to come to earth in human flesh and form to redeem humanity through His death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead.
Though we may still grieve the dead on Memorial Day (and the deaths of others we have known who have died through disease, violence, neglect, and other causes); it is the Ascension of Jesus that tempers all grief with hope.
For the disciples of Jesus, Jerusalem had been the site of many tragic events over the previous days. In fact, with the death of Jesus, it seemed that all of their dreams had been dashed; and that all of their plans had been trashed.
In the light of the Resurrection, however, they “returned to Jerusalem with great joy.” We can only imagine what the outsiders must have thought about the disciples of Jesus as they saw them in the temple; joyful and praising and blessing God in the months following the Resurrection. Perhaps they thought: “Aren’t these the disciples of the man who was crucified? Why is it that they are now so bright and optimistic?”
The answer, then as now, is this: He lives!
The Resurrection of our Lord trumps every sorrow and redeems every failure. The Resurrection enables us to return to the scene of our greatest humiliation with great joy and confidence. To live in the light of the Resurrection is to truly live! – Luther