This past week had Ascension Day. The day when the church celebrates the ascension of the risen Jesus to the “right hand of the Father.” A few churches still formerly recognize the day with a dedicated worship service. However, it has largely been passed over due to busy middle of the week schedules. The unfortunate result is that the church is passing by the calling that Jesus gave it. Yes, we know that the church is to spread the Gospel but what exactly does this mean for us and others?
Jesus had finished explaining to the disciples that his death and resurrection were the fulfillment of the Scriptures. Also, our being empowered by the Holy Spirit was part of the fulfillment too. Just before he blessed them and ascended, Jesus gave these instructions,
repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.Luke 24:47
The nation of Israel had been defeated a long time ago. No, Jesus wasn’t going to “make Israel great again” as so many had dreamed. (You can substitute any other nation, state, company, person, etc). His death and resurrection was for the salvation of the world and not to play winners/losers as part of our political power games. The early church was under a ruling power whose leaders were not reluctant to claim divinity or put down dissent with crucifixion. Again, Jesus’ death and resurrection were not to simply switch sides over who got to use abuse and personal glory to maintain power.
“Repentance and forgiveness” is all about freedom. Freedom in Jesus’ name is to go in a different direction. Jesus’ mission was about release and liberation (Luke 4:18-19). So when he told them to proclaim repentance and forgiveness, Jesus was telling us to give others the freedom to go in a different way. A way that was different from making Israel great again. A way that abandoned worship for rulers. A way that did not include using violence and killing to keep power.
As long as a few have the wealth and power while everybody else is put in their place to keep the status quo, then the church has a mission. As long as laws are written to the advantage of some and disadvantage to others, then the church has a mission. As long as some feel they have the right to abuse others of a different race or sex, then the church has a mission.
Jesus stated that his work was liberation and freedom. This is the mission he gave us to do. We have a lot of work ahead of us.