While Jesus was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God. – Luke 24:51-53 (NRSV)
When Jesus left: did he turn away from the place he lived?
Jesus could’ve been born anywhere. But God chose the Holy Land. Why did Jesus – a Palestinian Jew – walk an occupied land? Why did Jesus go to a space of incredible, historic conflict? Why not go someplace a bit less controversial?
What about now?
Jesus didn’t just disappear. He wasn’t just sucked into the clouds. No. He had a plan. He had a people. He had an intervener – the Holy Spirit. He had teachings his followers would remember.
Jesus wouldn’t just disappear.
He would count on us.
Jesus came to give life, and life abundantly.
And I have to believe that as Jesus looks to us now, to the very ground on which he trod, he would continue to weep, as he did when he looked on Jerusalem in his own days. Jesus knew – and this is even clear in his response to the violence he met in his own life – that the solution to the problems he encountered was never going to be military.
The way out of this is forward. But it’s not with rockets. Or shows of might. Or empty phrases. Or the discarding or suffering of bodies.
Jesus rose with a blessing, not a curse on the land where he was murdered.
And that blessing was more than a good feeling. It was a mandate. A pattern by which the rest of us must live.
We must look to the Holy Land. And protect all of God’s people.
God lift us out of the ways of death and lead us all in light everlasting. Amen.
Kaji Douša is the Senior Pastor of The Park Avenue Christian Church, a congregation of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ, in New York City.