May 14, 2015

Ascension Day!

As they watched, He (Jesus) was taken up and disappeared in a cloud. They stood there, staring into the empty sky. Suddenly two men appeared—in white robes! They said, “You Galileans!—why do you just stand here looking up at an empty sky? This very Jesus who was taken up from among you to heaven will come as certainly—and mysteriously—as he left. Acts 1:9-11 (MSG)

Being an angel must have its perks! So, often in the Gospels, angels were messengers of good news! They revealed to Mary that she would give birth to the Messiah. They assured Joseph that the child his fiancé was about to deliver was the Christ and to call His name Jesus, for He would save His people from their sins. They surprised a group of shepherds one night with the good news of great joy that a Savior had been born and invited them to come and see the Christ child! They announced the resurrection to the women at the tomb, broke Peter out of jail, gave messages to Paul on his missionary journeys, and revealed mysteries to John that he recorded in the book of Revelation. In fact, the writer of Hebrews tells us, All the angels are spirits who serve God and are sent to help those who will receive salvation. Hebrews 1:14 (NCV) I wonder if they are as baffled by us as we are by them? They see a perspective that we cannot and, yet, look with wonder at the grace of God that transforms a sinner into a saint when a person is born again!

On this occasion in Acts chapter one, we find two men, more likely a description of two angels (and most of us always thought of angels as women) that suddenly appeared before the disciples while they were gazing up into Heaven at Jesus’ ascension. I can’t help but chuckle at the humor they must have felt waiting for the disciples to notice them. Luke describes the scene like this:

“As they watched, Jesus was taken up and disappeared in a cloud. They stood there, staring into the empty sky. Suddenly two men appeared – in white robes! They said, ‘You Galileans! – why do you just stand here looking up at an empty sky?”

Good question. The angels knew what Jesus had told the disciples. They were to return to Jerusalem and wait for the promise of the Holy Spirit to come. They couldn’t do that gazing in the sky! You can almost hear the exasperation in their voice. “Why are you standing around here staring in the sky? Get with it! You’re wasting time!” Then, they gave the disciples the wonderful assurance that this same Jesus would return just as mysteriously as He left! Yet, it wouldn’t be today! So, quit looking into the empty sky; get back to Jerusalem and do what He told you!

The Ascension must have been baffling to the disciples! Without warning! What a mystery! It’s really no less a mystery to us than the Christian life. How often has God left you wondering? That’s part of the adventure of faith! Still, there is practical work to be done! We can’t stand around, staring in the sky, waiting for Christ to return any more than we can spend all our time in church worship. We gather to worship and we scatter to work! God has work for each of us to do. Don’t make an angel have to surprise you to get this work done! Do it with confidence, realizing that you’re not alone. One day, Jesus will return just as mysteriously as He left!