Connections 04.14.2024: Should I Stay, or Should I Go?

Luke 24:36b-53

At the end of Matthew’s Gospel, the resurrected Jesus appears to his disciples and tells them to “go therefore and make disciples of all nations…” (Mt 28:19). In what is known as the “long ending” of Mark, the resurrected Jesus appears to his disciples and tells them to “go into all the world and proclaim the good news” (Mk 16:15).

The end of Luke’s Gospel doesn’t feel much like The End at all, probably because it is not really an “end” but a shift that takes the disciples (and us, as Luke’s readers) from Luke 24 into Acts 1. The author of Luke and Acts is telling a single story, and just as Jesus’s death was not The End, neither is his resurrection. So maybe it makes sense that although at the ends of Matthew and Mark, the resurrected Christ tells his followers to “go,” in Luke, Jesus commands his disciples to “stay.” Or at least to stay, for now.

Luke 24 echoes many of the same aspects of Jesus’s resurrection appearances that the other Gospels focus on. Jesus brings “peace” to the disciples, shows his wounds, eats with them, teaches them about the Scriptures, and tells them that they will go “to all nations” proclaiming his story and God’s forgiveness. But in Luke, something important has to happen before they can go. In Luke 24:49, Jesus reminds them that there is still one more promise that must be fulfilled; until that promise is kept and they are “clothed with power from on high,” they have to stay.

First they stay by his side out to Bethany, where they receive his blessing and witness his ascension to heaven. Then they stay worshiping him, before they go back to Jerusalem where they stay in the temple “continually… blessing God” (vv. 50-53).

This is a teaser for the continuation of this story in the Book of Acts: before they can go out, they have to stay put for now, until they receive the Holy Spirit. However excited they are, however anxious they are to get going and spread the good news of resurrection, however prepared they think they are to make disciples and teach and baptize—they are not yet ready. They need to stay together. They need to stay in prayer. And they need to stay alert as they wait for their next chapter.

Discussion

  • What do you think about the way Luke’s Gospel ends, compared to Matthew and Mark? These three “synoptic” gospels share many things in common, but Luke extends Jesus’s resurrected life to include the early church in Acts. How does Luke 24 set the disciples up for this ongoing story?
  • Why do you think the fulfillment of God’s promise of the Holy Spirit is so important before the disciples are ready to “go”? How do we experience the Spirit’s promise and power?
  • How much does your church or denominational tradition focus on Jesus’s command to “go” and teach, proclaim, make disciples, and baptize believers? How does your tradition practice “staying” first, to be fully ready to “go”?
  • How might we be tempted to “go” when we should “stay” in Jesus’s presence, in prayer, and seeking God’s power? How might we be tempted to “stay” because we don’t feel prepared to “go”?
  • How do we discern when to stay, and when to go?

Nikki Finkelstein-Blair is the lead editor of Connections. She is a graduate of Samford University and Central Baptist Theological Seminary. She and her husband Scott and sons Sam and Levi live in St Louis, Missouri. In recent years, Nikki has written Smyth & Helwys curricula as well as devotionals for d365.org and Baptist Women in Ministry. She weaves clergy stoles, knits almost anything, and dreams of making her dreadful novel drafts into readable books. She blogs about faith and making things at amovingyarn.com.

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