My husband and I are revisiting our wills and final wishes for that time when we leave the earth. I’m having trouble keeping it brief. Even when I have to part from my adult children after a visit, I can’t seem to express enough. I pack as much as possible in my final words, feeling almost desperate. Jesus wasn’t desperate but loving and strategic so we’d clearly understood his love, support, direction, and priorities. The account of Jesus’ ascension and his last words are recorded in three of the four gospels. In his famous last words (the second set of last words) he gave his disciples (and us) encouragement, direction, provision, strength, and blessings.
37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”Matthew 22:37-40*
The four gospels are accounts of Jesus’ life on earth written through the hearts and minds of four very different handpicked disciples. One was a tax collector, one a fisherman, one a doctor, and the other was “fill in the blank” or unknown. Each account expresses a different side of Jesus. When there’s a crime, the police take statements from several witnesses. Each individual remembers and interprets events differently. The police put these accounts together to build a complete picture. The disciples also had different personalities, professions, training, and hearts. God strategically picked them to be witnesses to write the gospels.
15 And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” 19 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.Mark 16:15-19*
Blessing and Protection
God’s first directive in Mark 16:15 was infused with the heart of the gospel. Jesus instructed to bring the gospel to a hostile world, offering forgiveness and reconciliation with God. Then to make disciples that will do the same. The final statement was a special reminder of protection in Mark 16, but also of who they were and what we can do in his power. When I’m parting with my kids, I try to leave them with the encouragement of who they are and what they are capable of. I always want them to remember these things. My kids are done with this long before I’m done. I’ll back it up later with texts, videos, and memes. Jesus wanted them and us to remember that we have a calling, the ability to do it, and the protection from danger.
18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[a] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”Matthew 28:18-20*
Blessing and Details
Matthew, the tax collector’s account of the event, was more literal but filled with small details of their calling. It’s just like we’d expect from a numbers guy. He consolated it to we have authority, go make disciples, baptize them, and in more detail in the same of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Teach them to follow the commands. Then he blessed them with the most comforting reminder that he is always with them through the rest of their lives.
49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”50 And he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. 51 While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven.Luke 24:49-52*
Blessing and Direction
Jesus didn’t want to leave, but he knew that was what was best way for us. Luke wrote the Jesus led than as far as Bethany (this means the House of God). Then Luke recounted specific directions as if written by the doctor that he was.What was the procedure? Stay in the city until I send the Holy Spirit and power. I love Luke’s account here in verse 51, “while” he blessed them, he departed and was carried up to heaven. Jesus tells us through look to wait for God’s power before we start doing his work.
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son[a] from the Father, full of grace and truth.John 1:14*
Jesus is God’s word in the flesh. The word is God’s message filled with his desire for us, and cure for sin, sickness, and separation from God. The multifacated accounts of his love for and power are never ending and still giving in the Bible. If you think about it, Jesus’ first last words were on the cross, “forgive them” is second last words were in the varied accounts of the gospel, but everlasting words are in the Bible, living and available for us all.