The story is told of a mother who would take her son to nursery school, kiss him goodbye and daily say to him “Darling, I’m leaving you in good hands, OK?” She would do this every day she took her son to school.
The son grew up and his mother was quite old now and experiencing dementia, the son took his dear mother to a care home. As he said goodbye, he remembered the words of his mother when he was quite young; he then kissed her and said, “Mom I’m leaving you in good hands.” His mother, who could hardly remember things anymore because of dementia, held on to her son’s hands and tears started streaming down her eyes; she remembered her own very words years ago.
Those words meant something to His mother and they no doubt gave her great comfort in hearing them, “I’m leaving you in good hands.” Not only did this message reassure her of the staff who would help her through her remaining days, but they also prepared her for the awesome day she would fall into the arms of her loving Savior.
As Christ ascended into heaven after His death and resurrection, these same words must have been on His mind. He was not leaving His disciples unprepared. He had equipped them with the power of the Word and of the Holy Spirit. Just before He ascended He gave them comfort saying, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
His ascension would take Him from this plain to the next but in His words he reassured Him that, though they would see Him ascend into heaven, He was still with them. Their work would now enter a different faze, guided by His Holy Spirit and powered by His teachings. He was leaving them in good hands.
In John 6:62 Jesus asked His disciples, “Then what if you see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before?” In other words, “what will you do when I am no longer with you?” “How will you carry on the work I have begun?” It’s a fair question at the beginning of His ministry here on earth. He ‘s essentially telling them that upon His ascension, their work would begin in earnest. They would no longer be students, now they would be the teachers. Christ’s ascension was their graduation day. Would they be prepared?
Christ’s ascension was the final proof of His divinity. Throughout His life He had prepared His students for this day, the day he would be the one “who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him” (1 Peter 3:22). This was one more proof that all authority rests with Him and that anything they were to do in His name would be blessed.
Long before He had prepared His disciples to receive this message. In John 3:13, Jesus reminded His disciples that, “No one has ascended into heaven except He who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.” No doubt they remembered these words as they saw their Savior rise into the cloud. They would have found strength in remembering this promise and strength to carry on in their callings.
That same strength can be ours as we work toward that day when we shall all ascend into heaven. That same assurance can be realized in faith, Christ has set the example of what we can all expect when our work on earth has finished.
But that work continues. By Word and Sacrament, Christ has prepared us, much like He did His disciples. In His Words are the lessons, the guidance, and the promises. In His Spirit the willing receive direction and insight to boldly go about the Lord’s business. And by His example we receive confidence and power.
From generation to generation the torch has been passed on since the day of our Lord’s ascension. Every day after, the work has continued to bring the lost to safety, the searching toward truth and the sinner nearer to repentance. And that tradition started the day He promised all believers to prepare for the power of the Holy Spirit to guide them in taking the message of salvation to the ends of the earth.
Are you prepared to continue the work of those first disciples? The tools for success are still with us in Spirit and Word. The same goal is present and the same God who instilled His power within the willing remains ready to use you in great and mighty ways. Together we can continue what Christ ordained at His Ascension, to prepare the way for the Lord. Please pray with me:
Heavenly Father, thank you for trusting in us enough to do what must be done to win souls through Your power. Encourage us by Your Word and prepare us by Your Spirit to make a kingdom difference here on earth. Amen.