Today is the Feast of the Ascension. If your church celebrates this day it likely will be on Sunday. Today, however, is 40 days after Easter, so, officially, this is the day that Jesus left the earth.
Luke describes how Jesus ascended and was taken out of the gathered disciples’ sight at the end of his Gospel and in the beginning of the book of Acts. Matthew ends with the great commission instructing the disciples to go into all the world. Mark ends so abruptly, with the women disciples terrified at the resurrection, that a later editor added an ending that includes an ascension. John ends with Jesus walking along the lake with Peter.
Luke alone seems to think there needs to be an explanation about how the physical presence of Jesus came to an end. Without the ascension story we could be left to believe that the risen Jesus was still wandering the earth. Actually, that is not such a bad way to live. Jesus said that what we do to the least we do to him. What if he meant that literally?
What if that street person really was the risen Jesus still hanging around, testing us to see if we mean the faith we profess every Sunday? Perhaps that difficult person at work is the form Jesus assumes in your life. Could that person who challenges you be the reincarnation of Jesus?
Maybe we need Luke’s version of how Jesus left to keep us safe. What a tragedy it would be to treat the person we have sung about and praised our entire lives the way we actually treat those we consider the “least” in our lives. Maybe it is a good thing that today is Ascension Day. Otherwise we might have Jesus still hanging around watching how we really live.