Two days ago, I mentioned that my brain is usually moving too quickly at the opening of our Lukan pericope for Proper 8C, and I often miss the fact that Jesus sent messengers (angelion/angels) on ahead to prepare the way. Apparently, my brain is moving so fast that, for years, I’ve just skipped right over the first eleven words. Perhaps it is better said that I assume I know what the opening phrase of Luke 9:51 says.
Apparently, I don’t.
It seems as though I’m seeing this particular phrase for the first time: “When the days drew near for Jesus to be taken up…” Taken up? My first reaction was to double check what Gospel I was reading. It is certainly Luke 9, not John and his identifying the cross with Christ’s glory. My second move was to open BibleWorks as surely this is one more example of the NRSV not getting it quite right. And while it is true that the translation isn’t exactly ideal, it is rather that they couch the language of the Greek too softly rather than forcing a theological agenda the other way. The Greek version includes a verb that means “to fulfill” and a specific type of phrase that I can’t remember the name of, but is says “the day the ascension” which means “the day of the ascension.”
So, at least literally, if not idiomatically, Luke has Jesus set his face for Jerusalem in order to “fulfill the day of the ascension,” which, you’ll recall happens after the Triumphal Entry, the Last Supper, the trial, the Crucifixion, the Sabbath, the Resurrection, and forty days of post-resurrection appearances! Jesus only fulfills the day of ascension after he fulfills a whole lot of other stuff in the process.
I’m blogging at 7am for the first time in a long time, and my brain is fuzzy from 2.5 weeks of two DMin seminar classes (one of which is less seminary and more liturgical scholar fire hose training), so you’ll have to forgive me as I struggle to figure out Luke’s chronology. Why the focus on the ascension? What is he saying theologically? Perhaps the most important question for the preacher is, Why does any of this matter?