The Ascended Ministry
“So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and proclaimed the good news everywhere, while the Lord worked with them…” (NRSV, Mark 16:19,20)
On the face of it Our Lord’s ministry in Palestine seemed to collapse in utter failure, in spite of the fact that it possessed all the qualifications needed for success. His miracles caused the same sensation then as they would do now. We can imagine the stir and astonishment there would be if someone was going around our towns and villages curing so many people that the hospital wards stood empty because no one needed them. No wonder the people of Capernaum were all amazed and glorified God, saying. “We have never seen anything like this!” (NRSV, Mark 2:12).
In addition to his power as a healer, he had the gift of being able to hold vast crowds spellbound by his words for as long as he liked and wherever he liked. The general opinion was aptly summed up by the Temple guards, “Never has anyone spoken like this!” (NRSV, John 7:46). As a result, he was never at a loss for an audience. Wherever he might be, people flocked to him from every quarter so that it seemed in the words of his enemies, “…the world has gone after him!” (NRSV, John 12:19).
And yet, what happened? The hearts of the people in the Lakeside towns, where most of his miracles had been done, remained untouched and his acquaintances in Nazareth actually thought of killing him. And the same reception met him in Jerusalem. The religious leaders, so far from supporting his campaign to convert and cleanse the nation, were moved by envy to plot his death. And on Good Friday the city mob put pressure on Pilate to have him crucified. So the seeming failure of his mission was completed by the desertion of his picked followers and by his own execution attended as it was by public ignominy and shame.