Last Thursday was Ascension Thursday, and today’s reading presents an account of the Ascension of Jesus the Christ.
Even though Acts of the Apostles was written around 85 to 90 CE by the same person who wrote the Gospel According to Luke, the Gospel locates the Ascension on the Day of Easter (Luke 24:51). Acts, however, says Jesus was with his disciples for 40 days (1:3) – and this has become the traditional period between Easter and the day for observing the Ascension.
The opening verse of today’s reading shows that the disciples still did not “get it” that Kingdom of God did not mean restoring the temporal Kingdom of Israel. Jesus, the resurrected Christ, gently disabuses them of their limited approach, and promises the Holy Spirit will come upon them.
Jesus then ascends from Mount Olivet, which is described as “a sabbath day’s journey” away from Jerusalem. In the First Century, this was about half a mile – the maximum distance a devout Jew was permitted to walk on the Sabbath (an interpretation of Exodus 16.29).
In Luke and Acts, unlike the other Gospels in which the disciples go to Galilee, they remain in Jerusalem to await the promised coming of the Holy Spirit. According to Acts, the coming of the Spirit occurs on Pentecost, a celebratory day that was also known as the Feast of Weeks in First Century Judaism.
1 Peter 4:12-14, 5:6-11
In the First Century, it was not uncommon to write something in another person’s name so that the writing would have extra “authority” – particularly when the writer believed he knew what the “authority” (in this case, Peter) would have said.
The First Letter of Peter was written in the last decade of the First Century, long after Peter’s death. It was written in sophisticated Greek and resembles the form of Paul’s letters. Its focus is not on the earthly life of Jesus of Nazareth, but on the Resurrection and the affirmation that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah.
Today’s reading emphasizes that suffering is witnesses to the truth of the faith of the Christian community. (This letter is one of the three places in the Christian Scriptures that refers to Jesus Followers as “Christians.” Acts 11:26 notes that the first use was in Antioch, and the term is used again in Acts 26:28.)
The reading concludes with a final exhortation to trust in the power of God.