TO JERUSALEM WITH JOY
Luke 24:50 And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them.
Susie: After commissioning His first followers as His witnesses or emissaries, Jesus led them to Bethany, the home of His good friends Mary, Martha, and Lazarus which was less than two miles from Jerusalem:
John 11:1 Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha.
John 11:18 Now Bethany was nigh unto Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs off:
There are 8 furlongs in a mile. Therefore, 15 furlongs is equal to 15/8 = 1.875 miles.
Susan: Jesus stood and raised His hands over the group of His followers—those He had led to Bethany and told to wait for the Spirit. He blessed them. A blessing was a pronouncement of all that was true and good for their lives and for their future. He, more aptly and efficiently than any earthly father could pronounce this blessing, because He was the only omniscient, ultimate “blesser.”
To bless an individual, the person laid his hands on him. To bless a group, hands were lifted and extended over them, as in the priestly blessing (Leviticus 9:22) and Jesus' blessing of the disciples at His ascension (Luke 24:50).
Leviticus 9:22 And Aaron lifted up his hand toward the people, and blessed them, and came down from offering of the sin offering, and the burnt offering, and peace offerings.
Luke 24:51 And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven.
Susie: As Jesus was lovingly pronouncing a blessing over His disciples, He was drawn up into the heavens. Acts 1:9 states that, “a cloud received him out of their sight.” You may be thinking, “Doesn’t Acts 1:12 say that the disciples came back from Mt. Olivet after the ascension? Here they are in Bethany!” This really is not incongruent as Bethany is on the eastern slope of Mt. Olivet.
Luke 24:52-53 And they worshipped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy: And were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen.
Susan: After being with Jesus in the flesh for three plus years to watching the horror of the crucifixion to numerous interactions with the risen Jesus in the flesh, His disciples were convinced that Jesus was the genuine article. He was the great “I Am,” both completely man and completely God, the God-Man.
Susie: Imagine the immense joy they had in realizing they had been in the physical presence of the Almighty. These disciples who had been hiding, fearing for their own lives, downcast and distraught are now making a joyful journey back to the city of Jerusalem to await the power Jesus had promised them.
Susan: These disciples were all experiencing that internal blaze of the Eternal that Cleopas and his companion had felt on the road to Emmaus. They were not idle as they waited for the promised Holy Spirit. They spent their days worshipping, exalting, and praising Emmanuel—God with us—in His temple.
Ponder this and Apply it: Jesus went back to Heaven, to the right hand of the throne of God. His disciples obeyed His command to wait in Jerusalem but had no idea exactly what form this power they were awaiting would take. We know from the second chapter of Acts this power was the Holy Spirit taking up residence inside them. We receive this same gift as soon as we receive Jesus’s free gift of salvation. We have the mighty power of God available to us, empowering us to understand and obey all the instructions in God’s word. We may not be in the temple in Jerusalem or even in our local place of worship every day, but we can choose to spend our days worshipping, exalting, and praising Emmanuel—God, who in the form of His Son Jesus, came down to make a relationship with Himself available to us!