Almighty God, whose only-begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ ascended into heaven: May our hearts and minds also there ascend, and with him continually dwell; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
FIRST READING: Acts 1:1-11 : The Promise of the Holy Spirit
1 In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach,2 until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3 He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.
4 And while staying[a] with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with[b] the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
1 The Lord said unto my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, *
until I make your enemies your footstool.”
2 The Lord shall send the scepter of your power out of Zion: *
“Rule in the midst of your enemies.”
3 In the day of your power the people, in holy raiment, shall offer you freewill offerings; *
from the womb of the morning, the dew of your youth belongs to you.
4 The Lord has sworn and will not recant: *
“You are a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.”
5 The Lord at your right hand *
shall smite kings in the day of his wrath.
SECOND READING: Ephesians 1:15-23: Thanksgiving and Prayer
15 For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love[a]toward all the saints, 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church,23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
THE GOSPEL: Luke 24:44-53
44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance for[a] the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”
50 And he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them.51 While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple blessing God.
NOTES from the Orthodox Study Bible:
ACTS 1:1 The former account is the Gospel of Luke (see Lk 1:3). The Gospel covers over 30 years of Christ's earthly life; Acts covers over 30 years of early Church life. Theophilus:
Luke was not a disciple from the beginning, yet he has perfect understanding of the gospel because his sources were the apostles themselves, the eyewitnesses of Christ. Luke wrote his Gospel to Theophilus, a prominent Gentile who had received Christian instruction. St. Ambrose notes that Theophilus can simply mean any “lover of God,” and therefore he writes, “If you love God, it was written to you.”
1:2 During the Last Supper, Jesus promised to teach His disciples through the Holy Spirit (Jn 16:13). After His Resurrection, His promise is fulfilled.
1:6 That the disciples are still fixated on the establishment of an earthly kingdom shows that the Holy Spirit has not yet been given, for only after Pentecost do the disciples receive the full understanding of the Kingdom of God. Here, the disciples are asking the wrong question, for Christ will not restore the kingdom to Israel, but will rather restore Israel and the world to the Kingdom.
1:9-11 Christ's Ascension is His enthronement in the fullness of divine authority and glory. Icons of the Ascension represent Christ in such a way that one cannot tell whether He is going to heaven or coming again to earth. This captures the profound truth that we are already living under His reign while awaiting His return. Thus, the icon shows Christ being taken up (v. 11), coming again in like manner (v. 11), and yet continually present (Mt 28:20). Believers are not to stand idly gazing up into heaven, but rather are called to virtuous faith and action in this world until Christ's return.
PSALM 110 is a prophecy concerning the Melchizedek Priesthood of the Lord Jesus Christ, which explains the true meaning of the Nativity. In Gn 14:18–20, Melchizedek is called the king of Salem and priest of the Most High God (see also Heb 7:1). His priesthood was not based on genealogy (Heb 7:3). It was based on himself alone, for no one preceded him in priesthood, nor succeeded him (Heb 7:8). On this basis he was a type of Christ, whose priesthood is based in His endless life, for He rose again from the dead (Heb 7:16).
The Lord [the Father] said to my Lord [Christ], “Sit at My right hand” (v. 1). For Christ is not only Man, but also the Lord God, coequal and one in nature with the Father. For He is begotten from the Father before all time (before the morning star, v. 3), and is therefore His eternal Son (v. 3; see also Creed). He is the Son of David according to the flesh (Mt 1:1), but He is also the Lord of David according to His divinity (see also Mt 22:41–45).
EPHESIANS 1:15-23 This is an intercessory prayer that Paul prayed often and repetitiously (v. 16). He asks that his hearers might understand the redemption he outlined in vv. 3–14. Like vv. 3–14, this section is also one long sentence in Greek.
1:15 This is a way of restating the two great commandments: love God and love man.
LUKE 24:51 The Ascension of Christ is celebrated forty days after the Resurrection (Acts 1:3). This event fulfills the type given when Elijah ascended in a fiery chariot (4Kg 2:11) and marks the completion of Christ's glorification and lordship over all creation. At the Incarnation, Christ brought His divine nature to human nature. In the mystery of the Ascension, Christ brings human nature to the divine Kingdom. He reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit in His glorified body, revealing His glorified human nature—indeed, human flesh—to be worshiped by the whole angelic realm. At Vespers of Ascension we sing, “The angels were amazed seeing a Man so exalted.” In some icons of the Ascension, Christ's white robes are tinted red to indicate the shedding of His blood for the redemption of the world and the ascent of that life-giving blood into heaven (Is 63:1–3; see also Ps 23:7–10).
Vision: Leaders Communicate Vision to Empower and Direct
The Book of Acts begins with a bang. Jesus speaks His final words to His men before ascending to heaven. Even though they are now leaders, not merely followers, they ask Jesus when His kingdom would come (Acts 1:6). Jesus doesn’t tell them, but instead communicates a vision about reaching the world (1:8). His men thought defense; Jesus wanted them to think offense.
Christ instructed them to stay in Jerusalem until they received the power they needed, then they were to go out, expanding little by little. They were to start with Jerusalem, then move to the rest of Judea, then expand to Samaria, and ultimately to the ends of the earth. This was no man-made vision, but a God-given vision. Note the differences:
1. Created based on human gifts and skills
2. Fulfilled by staying ahead of others
3. Sees similar organizations as competitors
4. Aims to grow the organization and generate revenue
5. Stress may emerge both inwardly and outwardly
6. May be dropped for something better
1. Received as a revelation
2. Fulfilled through obedience
3. Sees similar organizations as complementary
4. Aims to serve people and advance God’s rule
5. Accompanied by inward peace and outward opposition
6. Compelling and captivating until fulfilled
The Law of Empowerment: Influence Flows from Identity
Paul prays that God will reveal to his readers the riches of their inheritance (hope, calling, glory, and power). Then he reminds them they are Christ’s body. Power, influence, and confidence all come from a strong sense of identity. Are you secure in your identity? Does your influence reflect this strength.
The Law of Empowerment: Jesus Turns His Work Over to His Trainees
Last words should always get our attention. Luke 24 records some of Jesus’ last words to His disciples. He had trained them for more than three years. Now they were ready to go out as leaders and trainers themselves.
Jesus’ work would have failed unless His followers had taken what He gave them and reproduced it in the lives of others. After His earthly ministry, Jesus trusted the future of His organization, the church, to former fishermen and tax collectors. Jesus employed at least
twelve factors in empowering His followers:
2. Trust (Matt. 10:8)
4. Launch (Matt. 28:18–20)
6. Responsibility (Mark 6:7)
9. Evaluation (Luke 10:17–24)
10. Example (John 13:15)
11. Friendship (John 15:15)
The Law of Victory: Jesus’ Resurrection Brings Victory to the Hopeless
What a difference in the behavior of Jesus’ disciples before the resurrection and after it! Just before, all they had was an executed Leader. They ran from everyone, hoping to save their own necks. Afterward, they became invincible. Leaders find a way for the team to win—something reflected in the team’s morale.