The company of the prophets from Jericho, who were watching, said, “The spirit of Elijah is resting on Elisha.” — 2 Kings 2:15
In our journey to understand Ascension Day, we need to stop and overhear this exchange between the prophet Elijah and his successor, Elisha. Three times Elijah notes that he is on a journey.
The first stop is Bethel, where Jacob had his dream of a ladder connecting heaven and earth and angels ascending and descending on it (Genesis 28:10-22). The second stop is Jericho, remembered as the first place of battle when the people of God entered the promised land (Joshua 5:13-6:27). The third stop is the Jordan River, which the people crossed on dry ground to enter the promised land (Joshua 3:1-17); this was also where John the Baptist would baptize people, including Jesus (Mathew 3:13-17).
At each stop Elijah says, “Stay here; the LORD has sent me.” And Elisha responds, “As surely as the LORD lives and as you live, I will not leave you.”
The journey ends, though, when chariots and horses of fire separate Elisha from his master and Elijah goes up to heaven in a whirlwind. Elisha not only sees this happen, but he also takes up the cloak of Elijah, which God allows him to use in parting the waters of the Jordan River again on his way back to Jericho. Just as Joshua was appointed to follow Moses, it’s clear that Elisha was appointed to follow Elijah. The mission of God continues.