FEAST OF THE ASCENSION: MARK 16: 15-20
Jesus showed himself to the Eleven and said to them, “Go out to t he whole world, proclaim the Good News to all creation, He who believes and is baptised will be saved, he who does not believe will be condemned. These are the signs that will be associated with believers; in my name they will cast out devils; they will have the gift of tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and be unharmed should they drink poison; they will lay their hands on the sick, who will recover.” And so the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven; there at the right hand of God he took his place, while they going out, preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word by the signs that accompanied it.
HISTORICAL SITUATION FOR THE FEAST OF THE ASCENSION
MARK 16: 14A 15-20
The Feast of the Ascension, 40 days after Easter, celebrates the end of the Resurrection appearances of the risen Jesus to his disciples. Now the disciples are ready to let him go and he returns to the Father. There are two ways to approach the celebration of this feast: we can merely reiterate the teaching of the feast and read the scripture passage as a proof of the teaching, or we can journey with the scripture passages through the method of Lectio Divina and in this way discover for ourselves the meaning and depth of the feast in a way that brings the teaching alive.
Where did this happen?
This passage comes at the very end of Mark’s gospel. According to Mark this encounter between Jesus and his disciples took place in the upper room when they were at table.
Who was there?
The community has been depleted – Judas is no longer with them “Jesus showed himself to the eleven”.
When did this happen?
In Mark’s gospel this passage follows his recording of the appearances to Mary of Magdala and to the disciples on the road to Emmaus. Mark only makes reference to those appearances; his gospel gives no account of them. This final encounter happens in the context of Jesus having reproached the disciples for their unbelief and doubt (V14b).
Jesus commissioned his disciples in spite of his concerns about their doubts and unbelief. He believes in them enough to entrust the work of ushering in the Reign of God and bringing the Gospel to the whole of creation.
He recognised that the moment had come to hand over. He is ready to stand back and leave it in their hands and by so doing he expresses his belief in them and their potential. He is confident that once he has returned to the father they will come into their own and discover their gifts and talents.
He knew when and how to withdraw…doing so in such a way that the disciples do not feel abandoned but rather emboldened because he is now “seated at right hand of father.”
In this passage Jesus expresses his conviction that those who believe in his risen life can never be destroyed – there is a power within them now, a power that was in Jesus, the power of truth, goodness and love. This power of God will be victorious as witnessed in the life and death and resurrection of Jesus. Nothing can harm them definitively (they will pick up snakes in their hands and be unharmed should they drink poison). They may be obstructed but ultimately, they will triumph. Failure, rejection, not even death itself can destroy them. Jesus is confident that they will experience a capacity to give life and they will know it is beyond their own efforts, it is beyond them – it is from God.
Failure to believe and trust, ultimately condemns us to despair, darkness, emptiness – to a life without meaning.
Jesus withdrew and now in a secure position at God’s right hand he is able to assist and support the disciples as they continue on their mission, confident that God is working with the
FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF JESUS:
Can you remember a time when you recognised that the time had come for you to step back and let others come to the fore, giving them the support they needed to express their gifts and talents? Parents or leaders in the community who knew the time was right to step aside and allow others to assume responsibility and in so doing helped them to discover gifts and abilities that they never knew they had. “Go out to the whole world and proclaim the good news to all creation..”
Can you remember an experience of withdrawing and doing so in a way that those who were left behind did not feel abandoned? An occasion where you gave others your blessing and stood back but reassured them that you were always there for them. “The Lord working with them and confirming the word by the signs..”
Remember experiences that brought home to you the truth: in spite of frustrations and disappointments, setbacks and failures along the way, that love and goodness would ultimately prevail…and it has strengthened you to keep on going and never to give up.
Or remember a time when you lost hope and were condemned to despair, to an overwhelming feeling of emptiness in your life.
Can you identify people in whom you recognise that deep conviction that nothing can ultimately destroy them? People living through illness, tragedy, failure, rejection or humiliation and yet In spite of their situation their spirits are indefatigable. Have you seen in people a power, energy, spirit that nothing can destroy, they shall pick up snakes in their hands and be unharmed should they drink deadly poison”?
FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF THE DISCIPLES:
Remember a time when you were entrusted with new responsibilities and challenges but you were encouraged and reassured of the other person’s support?
Remember a time when someone close to you or your family left home- emigration, bereavement, relocation. Recall the feeling of emptiness you experienced at the time and yet, with hindsight, you can recognise that the leaving had to happen. It opened the way for new opportunities.