May 10, 2022 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Luke 24:49-53 (NRSV)
“And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” Then [Jesus] led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God.
The Gospel of Luke ends with a kind of “post-credits scene,” a teaser that hooks you for the next of Luke’s productions, the Acts of the Apostles. In this teaser we see the Jewish disciples of Jesus worshiping him. How shocking that those who worshiped only the one true God would worship Jesus as if he were in a very real sense God.
Today’s devotion is part of the series Following Jesus Today.
It was during the summer of 1986 when I took my fairly new wife to a delightful movie: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Without any idea what we were about to see on screen, Linda and I laughed often over the clever antics and ironic wisecracks of Ferris Bueller (played by Matthew Broderick).
Back in those days, before the Internet and IMDB, I always stayed through the ending credits of a movie. I wanted to see who played whom, who directed, and so forth. After watching Ferris Bueller, I was particularly interested in who did the catchy “Oh, Yeah” music. (It was the Swiss electronic music band Yello, by the way.)
As the credits came to an end, I was surprised to see Matthew Broderick (AKA Ferris Bueller) show up again on the screen. With a sleepy look, as if he had been awakened unexpectedly, he gazed into the camera, looking straight at me. “You’re still here?” he said with a puzzled tone. “It’s over. Go home!” Then, walking back toward his bedroom, he shook his arm at us, adding, “Go home!”
I had never seen anything like that before, what people in the know call a “post-credits scene.” Of course, today such scenes have been popularized by Marvel, whose superhero movies almost always contain post-credit scenes, often teasers for upcoming films.
You might think of Luke 24:49-53, the last few verses of Luke’s gospel, as a post-credits scene, except for the fact that Luke doesn’t have credits at the end. But that short five-verse conclusion isn’t only the end of the gospel. It is also a teaser of sorts for Luke’s second book, the Acts of the Apostles. In that book, Luke will provide more detail about the final moments of Jesus’s post-resurrection life on earth, including his promise concerning the Holy Spirit and his ascension into heaven (see Acts 1:1-14). Then he’ll tell the story of how Jesus continued to do his ministry, now through his Spirit-inspired disciples.
Why did Luke include in chapter 24 a very brief account of Jesus’s final words, ascension, and the disciples’ subsequent return to Jerusalem? Well, most obviously, because it wraps up the story of Jesus’s life and mission on earth. Luke began his gospel with the account of Jesus’s birth. He ends the gospel with Jesus leaving earth and being carried up into heaven.
I think Luke added his “post-credits scene,” not only to wrap up his story of Jesus, but also to serve as a kind of teaser for what’s coming next. If you’ve seen any of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films, you know how this works. In the 2008 film Iron Man, for example, after the credits Tony Stark (AKA Iron Man, AKA Robert Downey Jr.) comes home from his adventures to find a surprise visitor, a person named Nick Fury. Fury says to Stark, “I’m here to talk to you about the Avengers Initiative.” That is our first cinematic introduction to Fury and the Avengers. If you saw that scene for the first time at the end of Iron Man, you were hooked.
The last few verses of Luke hook us in a similar way. We hear Jesus promising to clothe his disciples with “power from on high.” Then he ascends and his disciples return to Jerusalem, worshiping and waiting. “What about the power from on high?” we wonder. What about the disciples becoming witnesses to all nations? Ah, that’s the point of the post-credits teaser scene. It makes us eager for more. And that more will come in the Acts of the Apostles.
Now, given what I’ve just written, you might think my Life for Leaders writing should move on to the book of Acts. That would make sense, in a way. I fully expect I’ll get to Acts down the road a bit, Lord willing. But, at this time, I want to shift our focus to a New Testament book that is more theological than descriptive. We will be studying what is perhaps the very earliest writing of the New Testament. I’ll have more to say about this soon. (Look! This is my own post-credits teaser, sans credits.)
One of the great things about a post-credits teaser is that it shows us something crucial about what’s coming up without giving away the whole show. This is certainly true of Luke 24:49-53. I’m thinking especially about the brief phrase, “And they worshiped him” (24:52). Now, we Christians are used to worshiping Jesus, so we may take this line for granted. But remember the context! The first followers of Jesus were Jews. Perhaps the most distinctive thing about Jews in the first century was the fact that they worshiped only one God, rather than many gods as was so common throughout the Greco-Roman world. Jews were willing to die in defense of their monotheism, and they often did. But in Luke 24:52, in only four words, we read something that in its historical setting would have been absolutely shocking: “And they worshiped him.” The disciples didn’t think of Jesus simply as a prophet or a teacher or even as the Messiah. Rather, he was worthy of worship. This meant they thought of him as God in the flesh. What would happen to Jews who worshiped a human being as God? How would the good news about this God-man be received?
For answers to these questions, we need the rest of the New Testament to fill in the blanks. To one of these writings, we’ll turn next week.
If you had been one of the disciples who watched Jesus ascend into heaven, how might you have felt? What would you have been thinking?
When you worship, does your worship focus more on God the Father? Jesus, who is God the Son? The Holy Spirit? Or do you tend to think of the triune God when you worship?
Set aside some time to worship Jesus.
Lord Jesus, thank you for blessing your disciples as the last thing you did for them while on earth. In that act of blessing, we see how you treat us. So, we thank you also for blessing us, bestowing good things upon us, flooding us with your grace and mercy.
Thank you also, Lord, for the gift of your Spirit. Thanks for the “power from on high” that enables us to serve you, not in our own strength, but in your strength.
Jesus, when we honor you as Lord, we don’t mean just “one lord” or even “my lord.” Rather, we worship you as the Lord, as the one who is King of kings and Lord of lords, as the one before whom every knee will one day bow and every tongue confess that you are Lord—yes, the LORD of heaven and earth, one with the Father and the Spirit.
All praise be to you, Lord Jesus! Amen.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Introduction to Acts
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Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.