Scripture: And he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God. Luke 24:50-53 ESV
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Observation: Recapping Yesterday’s Daily Focus, while Cleopas and his friend share their encounter with Christ with the Eleven, he suddenly appears to all of them and pronounces a shalom blessing to calm their fears. Jesus then verifies that his resurrected body is not merely of spirit form by showing them his wounds, inviting them to touch him, and, lastly, by digesting food. Then, having calmed their fears, Jesus reminds them of his earlier teachings on how the messianic references of Scripture point to him and his mission. Lastly, Jesus reminds them of the big picture of their mission: to proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins in his name to all nations—beginning in Jerusalem. But first, they must stay in the city and wait for the promised gift of the Holy Spirit, who will clothe them with power from on high.
Today’s devotion concludes our study of Luke. The text provides a segue to his sequel writing of the birth and expansion of the church (the book of Acts). Luke tells us he led his disciples away from Jerusalem near Bethany and offered a benediction, raising his hands and speaking a final blessing. At this climactic moment, he ascended into heaven. Spontaneously, his disciples worshipped him for the first time without him physically present and then joyfully returned to Jerusalem, where they continued to bless God in temple worship.
Takeaway: When we explore the book of Acts after the Gospel of John, we will delve into the full extent of Jesus’ ascension. With this devotion, we focus on one gift of our faith: blessings. Luke again bookends his Gospel with stories that, this time, underscore how faith undergirds blessings. With the angel muting Zechariah for his unbelief, disabling him from offering a priestly blessing on those who awaited his exit from the inner sanctum of the temple (1:18-22), here, Christ, the faithful Son of God and the last temple of God, pronounces a blessing on the Father’s chosen apostles before returning to his heavenly temple. Indeed, the Greek word Luke uses for “blessing” or “praise” (eulogeō) appears only seven times in his Gospel:
- Elizabeth blesses Mary (1:42)
- Zechariah blesses God at John’s birth (1:64)
- Zechariah praises God with his song (1:68)
- Simeon blesses God (2:28)
- Simeon blesses Jesus’ parents (2:34)
- Jesus breaks bread with Cleopas and his friend and blesses it before God (24:30)
- Jesus blesses his disciples before his ascension (above).
The number and arrangement are no coincidence. Seven is a sign of completion and points to the fulfillment of our blessings in Christ with his ascension, for the Father and Son have blessed those who have received their good graces by faith embodied in Christ’s birth, death, resurrection, and ascension. But we can rest assured that the blessings continue from his priestly office (heavenly temple). The author of Hebrews tells us that Christ welcomes us to draw near to him in prayer and receive his grace and mercy (4:14-16). And we can do so confidently, knowing he makes intercessions for us (7:25). Paul echoes this sentiment in reminding us that Christ prays for us (Romans 8:34) and that he rules from his heavenly office over all creation, particularly the church, which finds its fulfillment in his body (Ephesians 1:20-23).
Our takeaway? Like Zechariah, Simeon, and Jesus’ disciples, bless our Lord, for he is worthy of all our praises. And celebrate with others who have come under God’s favor with our blessings over them, which we direct to God. In doing so, we speak a benediction (of Latin origin meaning “good word”), for a rightly-declared blessing asks for God’s favor on those who will receive it. And we, too, receive their prayers of God’s favor with thanksgiving to our Father. So when our pastors conclude our time of worship with a benediction, join them with uplifted arms in praise to the One who rules from his heavenly throne as our Great High Priest and then carry his blessing to the least, the last, and the lost.
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for your Son who not only blessed his disciples but all future generations who, by grace through faith, carry on with your “good work” of growing your kingdom (Ephesians 2:8-10). As such, would you please help us to receive and pronounce your “good word” to those who desperately need to hear it so that we might grow your kingdom and glorify your name? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling