Updated: Apr 7, 2020
With all the issues facing our country in light of the Coronavirus panic, I found myself reading Luke's Gospel and seeking comfort. In Luke chapter 4, Jesus cast out a demon and the crowds expressed astonishment saying,
"What's all this? He's got power! He's got authority! He tells the unclean spirits what to do, and they come out!" (Luke 4:36).
My heart says, "Yes! That is the kind of leadership I want! That is the kind of power I wish to see exhibited!" So, what happened? Where is Jesus now? What happened to the revolution he began and the Kingdom He claimed to set up? Can Jesus help us now in the moment of our country's crisis?
The Kingdom of God is not somewhere beyond the blue. The Kingdom of God is here and now and the Gospel is for planet earth. It is not a message about a pathway to a better after-life. Jesus announced the arrival of God's Kingdom coming on the earth, and Jesus Himself claimed to be making that rule a reality.
So how did it all end? The Gospels leave us with a story that climaxes but doesn't fully resolve. Yes, Jesus faces the great power of darkness when the combined forces of the world crucified Him. But He defeated that power when God raised Him from the dead. But now what? The world is still a broken place and we are two thousand years removed from the cross. Can anything of Jesus' accomplishment apply to today? What did the Gospel writers, the evangelists, think should happen next?
The Gospel writers all end their stories (accept Mark as we have it) with the ascension of Jesus. For most of us, the ascension means that Jesus exited the world in favor of Heaven and that one day we will join Him there. Not so for the evangelists (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). For the evangelists, Jesus' ascension is about His taking up His throne and bringing His wise order to bear on the world. Far from the notion of Jesus leaving, the evangelists want us to know that Jesus is now in charge. So, if they are right, Jesus can help us now.
Luke provides us with a sequel to his Gospel. In this sequel, we call the book of Acts; Luke says that these are things Jesus is continuing to do in the world through His people.
"I'm telling you the solemn truth," Jesus continued, "Anyone who trusts in me will also do the works that I'm doing. In fact, they will do greater works than these because I'm going to the father! And whatever you ask in my name, I will do it..." John 14:12-14.
The continuing acts of Jesus, then, are primarily carried out through Jesus' followers. But that does not mean that Jesus' followers are always doing what Jesus wants. It only means that when Jesus acts through healing, forgiveness, bringing hope to the poor, etc. He usually does it through the lives and deeds of His followers. What a noble and high calling He has given to his followers! And what duty and responsibility we share!
So, as I read Luke's Gospel and find myself invigorated by the authority and power exhibited by Jesus, and as I wonder where I can see Jesus today doing His healing, Kingdom, work, the question comes back to me. Where am I? What am I doing? At His ascension, Jesus commissioned His followers, saying,
"As the father sent me into the world, so I send you." With that, he breathed on them. "Receive the Holy Spirit." John 20:21-22.