A “God With God” Moment:
Then he (Jesus) led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. 51 While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple blessing God. (Luke 24:50-53)
What you just read are the closing words in Luke’s Gospel. Some might call them at best transitional verses; as you move from teaching and action Jesus in the Book of Luke (Volume 1) to the on-going teaching of Peter and Paul in the Acts of the Apostles (Volume 2). Interesting, isn’t it that the final act of Jesus on earth was to lift up his hands and to bless his followers. I wonder what the actual blessing consisted of. Was it done principally in words, like a priestly benedictory prayer? Or, I wonder, was Jesus’ final blessing more physical in nature, taking on the form of a first century “Holy Kiss.” This might translate into our culture as a warm and endearing hug. You know the kind I mean, not a mere hand-shake equivalent but it stays with you for a while. I have to imagine that the final “blessing” that Jesus gave to His disciples was perfect for each of them; and this blessing lingered in the air as a sweet-smelling fragrance, propelling them forward to worship Him and then to offer in the Temple their own blessing.
In actuality, let me try to demonstrate how this action of Jesus serves as God’s wondrous climax to the book of Luke as a whole. Think with me how the Gospel of Luke opens. You find yourself temporally located not in the days of Jesus but Luke describes the times as; “In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah” (Luke 1:5). Zechariah is entering the Temple to offer an incense offering; with all of Israel just outside; praying as they are waiting to hear that God has accepted Zechariah’s sacrifice on their behalf (Luke 1:10). But (and I should put “BUT” in all caps), as the angel Gabriel comes and delivers to Zechariah a message of hope (his wife’s shame will be removed by the birth of their son John the Baptist); Zechariah shows no faith to the words from God’s messenger (Luke 1:18). So, the result of Zechariah faithlessness is that he is struck speechless.
Let me relate the consequences of Zechariah’s faithlessness and how it impacts Israel. The role of the priest as he exits the Temple is to hold his hands up and pass on the Lord’s blessing to the people. The traditional words would be the priestly benediction which comes from Numbers 6:23-26;
This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them:
The LORD bless you and keep you;
The LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you;
The LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.
Can you now see how Jesus’ blessing at the end of Luke’s Gospel is nothing short of a divine answer to a human problem? What Zechariah could not do for Israel because of his lack of faith (bless them); Jesus performs after his demonstration of perfect faith in trusting God with his life on the cross. What the priests of Israel could not do, Jesus fully blesses His followers.
How does this relate to us here and now. Well, one example is cemented in my mind. Do you remember the final night of Summit? The call of Dave Ward to everyone to make an all out surrender to Jesus and trust fully in Him? Now, there was an unstated question in the air at that time, “How does one put closure on the series of meetings?” Should there be a dismissal prayer of some kind? The answer came; not with a “priestly benediction” by Dave Ward or by Dr. Lo. No, the entire student body stood quietly before the Lord until spontaneous clapping erupted. Then, singing praise songs continued for over an hour. The final blessing of Summit (just like Luke’s Gospel) came directly from the mouth of Jesus Himself, and we were the recipients.
Now, remember, the end of Luke is really the end of the beginning; for all of the Book of Acts follows. In the same way, the end of Summit is really the beginning of the Semester. Please sense Jesus’ blessing on your life.
This day, as we go about our regular daily tasks;
May we sense Your divine blessing.
May it be found in our classes, or in our hallway or dorm room conversations;
May Your blessing be heard in our service to others or in the reception of grace from a friend.
In all we do, may we sense your blessing.
Most of all Lord, if there is an absence of Your blessing;
May You call us back to Yourself, to the place where Your voice and touch is most clear.
Now, Go With God.