April 17, 2017

#05-031: Ascension and Pentecost

white-robed man with arms raised--apparently Jesus Christ--rises in the air above a crowd of awestruck people in old-fashioned clothes
Christ's Ascension

Note: Forty days after Easter comes the Feast of the Ascension, commemorating Jesus's ascent into heaven; ten days after that is Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit founded the church.

Get Ready: Can you think of any expressions or events that depend on the significance of the number 40?

Forty days after Easter (see Lesson #05-019), Western Christians celebrate the "Feast of the Ascension," the day they believe that Jesus, after rising from the tomb on Easter, "ascended into heaven." This happened in full view of his disciples: "while they watched," the Bible says, "He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight."

Because this was 40 days after Easter, which is a Sunday, Ascension is always on a Thursday. And since Easter is between March 22 and April 25, the Ascension is almost always in May (technically, between April 30 and June 3).

Note that number 40 again? Ash Wednesday (see Lesson #05-008), the start of Lent, is 40 days before Easter. What's up with 40? According to the Bible, Noah's flood lasted "40 days and 40 nights." Moses was on the mountain to receive the Ten Commandments for the same amount of time. Jesus was in the desert for 40 days and nights being tempted by the devil. There are also several stories centering on 40 years.

As it turns out, the number may have no special significance. It could just mean "an indeterminately large number," like the Chinese use "10,000." However, many of the Bible's 159 uses of the number (by one reckoning) have to do with testing or trials. But most Biblical scholars reject any "hidden meaning" for the number.

Interestingly, the Feast of the Ascension has several side-celebrations. It's Father's Day in Germany. That part of Italy which was formerly the Republic of Venice commemorated two historical events on that day. In parts of Africa it's a "Global Day of Prayer," and it's "Sheep Festival" in the African country of Cameroon, when the sheep are brought down from their grazing grounds in the mountains.

Ten days after Ascension many Christians celebrate the Feast of the Pentecost (a name meaning "fiftieth," as it's fifty days after Easter). Since Jesus left them, Christians believe, God sent them the Holy Spirit as a "comforter," to be God's presence with them. Like Ascension, it is not as well-known as Christmas and Easter, but some consider it the "Birthday of the Church." The following Monday is a public holiday in several European countries, marking the beginning of outdoor activities: summer has arrived.


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Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. ascended
  2. Biblical scholars
  3. disciples
  4. grazing grounds
  5. indeterminately
  6. reckoning
  7. reject
  8. tempted
  9. the devil
  10. tomb

  1. the place where animals eat grass
  2. refuse to accept
  3. Satan
  4. figuring; a way of counting
  5. students; followers
  6. went up; rose
  7. influenced to do wrong
  8. a grave; a burial chamber
  9. people who study the Bible seriously
  10. without a specific value

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for April 17, 2017

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. f; 2. i; 3. e; 4. a; 5. j; 6. d; 7. b; 8. g; 9. c; 10. h