WHILE HE BLESSED THEM
By Given O. Blakely
“And it came to pass, while He blessed them, He was parted from them, and carried up into heaven” (Luke 24:51).
The occasion of our Lord’s ascension back to heaven is a memorable one. Even before He died, Jesus began preparing His disciples for this occasion. “I go away . . . I go unto My Father . . . It is expedient for you that I go away . . . but if I depart, I will send Him (the Spirit) unto you . . . I go to my Father, and ye see Me no more” (John 14:28; 16:7,10). How He must have anticipated returning to the Father! He would endure the cross in expectation of the “joy set before Him” (Heb 12:2), and that joy began with His return to heaven and enthronement at the Father’s right hand.
After Jesus’ death, no one from the world ever saw Him again. As He declared, “Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more” (John 14:19). Following His resurrection, He only appeared to His disciples – to those who loved and followed Him, “witnesses chosen before of God” (Acts 10:41). He “appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he cast seven demons” (Mk 16:9). He spent forty days with His disciples (Acts 1:3). He appeared to the Apostles (John 20:19-27). Jesus also appeared to Cleopas and one who was with him (Lk 24:15-31). Paul says the risen Christ was seen by Cephas (Peter), the twelve, above five hundred brethren at once, James, all of the Apostles, and, last of all, by himself (1 Cor 15:5-8). But the world, or those unrelated to Him, NEVER saw the risen Christ!
The book of Acts tells us that Jesus, “through the Holy Spirit” gave commandments to his Apostles “whom He had chosen.” They were those “to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:2-3). How blessed those days must have been! During the final day of His time with His disciples He told them they would be “baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now” (Acts 1:5). They were to wait expectantly for this grand occasion, not departing from Jerusalem. He told them, “Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high” (Lk 24:49).
Who can measure the blessedness of our Lord’s final meeting with His Apostles! Luke tells us the occasion took place while Cleopas and his companion told “the eleven” of their confrontation of Jesus on the road to Emmaus. During that occasion Jesus “opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures,” declaring the necessity of His suffering and resurrection. He told them “repentance and the remission of sins” would be preached “in His name in all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”
After admonishing them to stay in Jerusalem until they were endued with power, “He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them” (Lk 24:363-50). This Bethany was the spot of ground where He began to ride triumphantly into Jerusalem, and was near to the Mount of Olives, often visited by the Lord and His disciples (Lk 19:37; Mk 11:1; Matt 24:3; 26:30). The distance to Bethany from where He had spoken to His disciples was probably about a mile. There His disciples would be able to clearly see His departure from them.
Before leaving His disciples, it says of Jesus, “He lifted up His hands, and blessed them.” It was a High Priestly blessing reminiscent of the Aaronic blessing (Lev 9:22). Aaron instructed his sons to bless the people in this manner: “The LORD bless thee, and keep thee: The LORD make His face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The LORD lift up His countenance upon thee, and give thee peace” (Num 6:24-26). How this must have been brought to new and refreshing heights that memorable day in Bethany! Jesus lifted His hands toward His disciples as though directing heavenly benefits toward them, sanctifying them, and setting them apart as His own ambassadors.
We do not know everything associated with that final blessing by the visible Jesus, but it doubtless compensated for all of the fears and disappointments they had experienced a few days earlier. They must have received larger measures of grace, more spiritual light and understanding, and greater portions of peace and joy.
A significant thing is said about the ascension of our Lord. “Now it came to pass, WHILE HE BLESSED THEM, that He was parted from them and carried up into heaven.” It appears as though just as Jesus was finishing His words to them, He began to rise into the heavenlies. Eventually, the book of Acts states, “while they beheld, He was taken up; and a cloud received Him out of their sight” (Acts 1:9). No wonder Jesus blessed them! How could they have endured such a sight without a blessing from Him! The blessing enabled them to respond properly – not with broken hearts, but with worshipful and rejoicing ones. “And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem WITH GREAT JOY: and were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen” (Lk 24:52-53).
PRAYER POINT: Father, in the name of Jesus, grant me grace to place the highest priority on the blessing of Your Son.