“When the days drew near for him to be taken up…” misses completely the rather mysterious Greek of this verse which is more something like “And it happened when the days of his ascension were fulfilled…”.
The verb translated in the NRSV with “drew near” is sumpleroo which is a combination of sun (with) and pleroo (fulfil) with the meaning to fill or complete entirely.
It is used in the New Testament only by Luke and only three times: here, in the becoming full of the boat in 8:23, and when the day of Pentecost is “fulfilled” in Acts 2:1. The word for ascension comes only once in the whole New Testament – here.
I think this is about “the fullness of days before his ascension”. But I do not understand why here is a reference to ‘being taken up’ rather than to the cross which might be seen as ‘being taken down’. I wonder whether the reference is to Jesus’ resurrection rather than to his ascension even if this specific Greek word (both, the noun: analempsis and the related verb: analambano) never relates to resurrection.
I am sure that the ascension mentioned here influences the meaning of the following stories. It focusses our mind beyond what is immediately happening: whether that be the fact that some do not accept Jesus or Jesus’ discomfort and alienation here as his true home is elsewhere. People of the resurrection and the ascension have their attention on the future rather than on the past.
26 June 2016
Luke 9: 51-end
This weekly blog on one of the lectionary readings is by Anne Claar Thomasson-Rosingh, Programme Leader for Lifelong Learning at Sarum College.