Today’s Reading: 2 Samuel 20:14-21:22, Acts 1:1-26, Psalm 121:1-8, Proverbs 16:18
Jesus’ ascension as described in Acts chapter 1 left the disciples hanging. They thought is was time for Jesus to set up His Kingdom on earth, but Jesus had other plans. He left them with instructions to remain in Jerusalem until they had received the Holy Spirit and then, with the power they received from the Holy Spirit, to be His witnesses everywhere.
4 Once when he was eating with them, he commanded them, “Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you the gift he promised, as I told you before. 5 John baptized with water, but in just a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Then He ascended in a cloud before their very eyes. What did that feel like? Think about their last forty days:
- Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. UP
- Peter’s betrayal of Jesus (by the way, all the other disciples abandoned Him as well). DOWN
- Jesus’ trial, crucifixion and death. DOWN
- Jesus’ resurrection. UP
- Jesus’ appearances to individuals and groups after His resurrection. UP. UP. UP.
- Jesus’ ascension into heaven. UP/DOWN
What an emotional roller coaster. One of the answers for the disciples was go do what they knew to do – to follow Jesus’s instructions to tarry for the Holy Spirit (a phrase from the King James Version that is very familiar from my youth) and to become witnesses. The other answer came from the two white-robed men (could they have been anything other than angels?) who spoke to them after Jesus’ ascension.
9 After saying this, he was taken up into a cloud while they were watching, and they could no longer see him. 10 As they strained to see him rising into heaven, two white-robed men suddenly stood among them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!”
The promise they made (but someday He will return) has been embraced by Christians through the ages, particularly at times of persecution or when all hope was lost. That is still the promise for us today, especially when we have been on an emotional roller coaster – trying to do what we truly believe Jesus wants us to do, yet just staring at the sky or the ceiling because our prayers seem to be in vain and our hopes have been dashed. Maybe that is the most important time to remember that He will return someday.
I’ll finish with a personal story. I was working for a small company about twenty five years ago and our president was using hyperbole when someone asked him if we could count on some turn in the market for our products. He responded, “You might as well believe in the second coming of Christ.” We were all a bit surprised by his statement and the conversation stopped for a second. Then I spoke up and said, “Some of us do believe.” You could have heard a pin drop. He was a gracious man and immediately apologized, but I think it gave him cause to think. I did not plan my response because I could not have anticipated his statement, but I believe that it was power of the Holy Spirit in me that caused me to speak. And it was because I still believe what the two angels said, “but someday He will return.”