The Ascension of Jesus and the Commissioning (Mk 16:14-20)
It is striking to know that even after the Resurrection, the disciples had asked Jesus an amusing question: “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” The disciples had seen the passion, death, and burial of Jesus. They seemed not to have understood anything at all about the person of Jesus and his mission. They visualised a Kingdom where Jesus would be reigning as King and them as ministers in it. During Jesus’ public ministry they had dreamt of such a ministry and had argued among themselves as to who was the greatest among them? Or who would occupy the highest office? Jesus had told them that such a question should not arise among them. They are to be servants to the rest. Jesus, at the same time, gives an answer to their query and his reply ends on a serious note: “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority”. He meant to say that the moment of establishing God’s Kingdom is not for them to brood over; but rather, it is within the domains of the heavenly Father. On the other hand, they have a mission to accomplish till the time the Kingdom is established. They will be strengthened by the Holy Spirit to be Jesus’ “witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth”. Yes. Their mission was to work towards the establishment of God’s Kingdom, not to rule over the Kingdom.
After commissioning them to be his witnesses, Jesus is taken up to heaven. His mission on earth was accomplished and he now has returned to the place from where he came down. As he was lifted up, and taken out of their sight, they were told that “this Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven”. In all the four gospels and in the Acts of the Apostles, we see Jesus authorizing the apostles to preach the gospel. In Mark, they were asked to “go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation”. It means, the proclamation is not only to human beings, but rather, to the entire creation, to every living being. St. Paul writes to the Church in Colossus: “all things have been created through him and for Him” (Col 1:16). He had come down with a purpose, i.e., to save humanity. All who believe the preaching of the apostles will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned. To be saved, there is a requirement: believe in Jesus. In short, Faith can decide the destiny of humanity. Faith is at the same time God’s gift to all those who open their hearts to hear his word and live by it. It is by hearing that faith is generated. Preaching the Gospel is must to generate faith in the listeners. If so, preaching can decide the destiny of humanity.
Jesus also tells them that he will continue to be with all those who preach the Gospel. “And these signs will accompany those who believe: ‘by using my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover’”. Establishment of God’s kingdom will take place when people continue to experience the powerful presence of Jesus as seen during his public ministry. Jesus has left the world with his Spirit to empower their ministry which should reach the whole creation. The world would not come to an end, until the whole creation listens to the redemptive message of Christ.
Every believer is now entrusted with the same commissioning which the apostles had received. Jesus has returned to the Father and desires us to be where He is. Until our last breath on earth, we are also called to work towards the establishment of a Kingdom of justice, love, and peace; not to rule over others, but rather, to serve them. As we are preparing for the feast of Pentecost, let us pray for a mighty anointing of the Spirit from above to become his courageous witnesses. May God’s Spirit prepare the hearts of everyone to welcome the salvific message brought to us by God’s only Son that they too may dwell in eternity with Him in His Kingdom. Amen!