Reflections for the Week of May 8, 2016 Seventh of Easter

Scriptures: Acts 16.16-34; Psalm 97; Revelation 22.12-14,16-17, 20-21; John 17.20-26.

Acts 16 tells of Paul proclaiming the gospel in Philippi, of being beaten and incarcerated. Ps 97 says the LORD reigns. Rev 22 is the concluding vision of the Lord Jesus coming again in glory. Jn 17 is the Lord’s high priestly prayer of unity with believers in the glory that He has with the Father.

The Ascension

The forty days of Jesus’ being with His disciples after the resurrection have come to an end in the Liturgical Year. Jesus promises that the Holy Spirit will come on His believers according to the promise of the Father, fulfilling His (Jesus’) promise that He would never leave them nor forsake them, and while His disciples watched, He was taken up and a cloud received Him (Acts 1.9). He had said that He would be seen ‘coming in the clouds’ (Mk 14.62), and clouds had represented God in theophanies filling the Temple (2 Chr 5.13,14) and leading the Israelites to the Promised Land. We speak of ascension, but this does not imply that heaven is above us, for it is all around us but in a different dimension than the ones we know. The significance of the Ascension is that Jesus, the Messiah, returns to His fellowship with the Father to reign in glory until the Last Day. in His relation with the Father, we are told that He (Jesus) continually intercedes for us (Rm 8.34; Heb 12.2) as the Holy Spirit prays for us (Rm 8.26,27), and we believe that the three Persons of the Trinity dwell in believers (Jn 14.23). Much of Jesus’ teaching was about the kingdom of God (or heaven) and this may refer to the ‘true Self’ where God dwells in believers (Lk 17.21). With the Ascension the glory that the Son had with the Father before the Incarnation is restored, and in another sense human nature is glorified in a way that had not happened before. The seventh week after Easter (after the Hebrew Festival of First Fruits) was called the Feast of Weeks (Shavuot=Weeks, i.e., a ‘week’ (7) of weeks) and the next day is Pentecost (fifty days). The Jews were to bring two loaves of leavened bread to the festival, the leaven symbolizing the Holy Spirit (making the dough rise). The end of this season of the Liturgical Year has been about new life symbolizing the Resurrection and preparation for the next season when the Spirit is poured out and believers become new creations (2 Cor 5.17) having been born anew by the Spirit in love. The new life believers receive confers a new status on them; they are taken out from under the rule of sin and Satan and are placed under the rule of Christ, who loved them so much that while still sinners He died in order to have a loving relationship with them. And sitting at the right hand of the Father, He intercedes for them continually. I think the thing that is the most difficult to grasp is that the place where the father, Son, and Holy Spirit dwell is not some remote ‘heaven’, but is within believers. This is the covenant promise that God made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: that Adam’s fallen descendants would be reconciled to God and He would dwell with them as Immanuel (Isa 7.13-15). This is what the Son’s death on the cross has accomplished and now as He reigns over the universe He has the power to fulfill the promise.

Memory Verse: For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit (Rm 8.2-4).

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