“One Last Time”

Updated: Nov 18, 2021

A few weeks ago, the route was different. The disciples brought Jesus a borrowed donkey and he descended from the Mount of Olives into the Holy City. The prophet Zechariah had laid out the path for the expected Messiah’s arrival and he followed it.


Now, instead of entering Jerusalem, they’re leaving it. Now, instead of descending from the Mount of Olives, they climb it. They retrace their steps. And now, instead of the Messiah arriving, the Messiah will — could this be right? — withdraw and depart.

The disciples examine the fresh wounds on Jesus's body after the resurrection

​Luke 24:44-53

May 16, 2021

Dr. Todd R. Wright


A few weeks ago, the route was different. The disciples brought Jesus a borrowed donkey and he descended from the Mount of Olives into the Holy City. The prophet Zechariah had laid out the path for the expected Messiah’s arrival and he followed it.


Now, instead of entering Jerusalem, they’re leaving it. Now, instead of descending from the Mount of Olives, they climb it. They retrace their steps. And now, instead of the Messiah arriving, the Messiah will — could this be right? — withdraw and depart.[i]


The disciples are not ready. They want him to stay. For three horrible days they thought they had lost him and now they never want to let him go!

 

“Many founders of movements, or companies, or political parties stay around as long as they can (often too long!), and [since Easter has proven that] Jesus [can shrug off death, he] could have remained indefinitely.”[ii]


It calls to mind the scene in the hit musical where Washington breaks the news to Hamilton that he is going to step down. Hamilton objects: “As far as the people are concerned, you have to serve, you could continue to serve.” The first president says, “No! One last time. The people will hear from me, one last time. And if we get this right, we’re gonna teach ‘em how to say, goodbye. You and I.” Hamilton pleads, “Why do you have to say goodbye?” and Washington replies, “If I say goodbye, the nation learns to move on. It outlives me when I’m gone.”[iii]


It must have been tempting for Washington to stay – to enjoy his power, to guide the nation he fought to bring into existence, to be loved – but he refused.


Isaac Villegas wonders whether Jesus was tempted to remain, too. He wonders if that’s why Jesus kept appearing in the weeks after Easter. [As if] “each time he shared meals of bread and fish [it was] a last chance to linger in the kingdom of God and postpone his final ascension.” In fact, he wonders “if Jesus’ departure is one more trial for him, another misery of his long ordeal”[iv] that began with the prayer in the garden and continued through the crucifixion and lingers even to this day near Bethany.

 

As the song reminds us, Washington understood that no matter how much he (or others) wanted to extend his stay, it was time to go. He had to go, because if he didn’t, the country couldn’t reap the blessings that would come with his leaving. So he spoke to them one last time.


In the same way, Jesus spoke to his disciples one last time. He taught them from the scriptures. He helped them understand. He commissioned them to proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins. And he sent them out into the world. He promised power from on high and blessed them one last time.


They could have built a shrine right on the spot. Or moped about. Or given up.


Instead, Luke tells us, they went forward, rejoicing. They embraced what he had taught them and did as he told them. And they actively anticipated what God would do next.

 

This is an interesting text for us to be reading at this point in our history:


I am no messiah, but there are parallels. I am leaving and you will be on your own.


The temptation is to postpone my departure until a better time, maybe post-COVID.


The temptation is to wait until you feel more ready.


The temptation is to stay.


But that wouldn’t be good for me … or for you.


Without me here, you will …


get to hear other preacher’s voices and take on a greater role in leading worship;


move forward with projects like replacing the flooring in the parlor and kitchen;


put your own spin on events like Coffee and Conversation and Worship in the Park;


and care for each other, and confront challenges, and flex your skills.


Do not fear. Joy will fill you and power from on high will flow through you.


Just as it has before.


So be blessed! Amen


[i] from Salt’s lectionary commentary for Ascension Sunday. See https://www.saltproject.org/progressive-christian-blog/2020/5/17/ascension-salts-lectionary-commentary-for-ascension-sunday
[ii] Ibid
[iii] from Lin Manuel Miranda’s lyrics to “One Last Time”
[iv] from his commentary on the text for the Christian Century magazine, 4/10/18
4 views

Recent Posts

See All

"New!"