(Bible quotations are from the NIV unless otherwise stated)
Why do you stand here looking into the sky?
17th May 2007
Following on from last week, we'll look today at Acts 1v9-12.
After giving the disciples their final instructions, Jesus was carried up on a cloud until He disappeared from view, and went back to heaven. This is what Christians call The Ascension. Jesus was going back to be with His Father, to sit at His right hand in glory and with all authority.
What were the disciples doing “looking intently up into the sky as he was going”?
We're told the answer by:
They were worshipping the Son of God, the King of Kings, their Saviour. They saw the last great miracle He performed while He was with them in the body; He rose on the clouds and departed. And they worshipped Him. Of course they did!
But then “two men”, who were surely angels, appeared beside them and asked “why do you stand here looking into the sky?” This was a rhetorical question – the angels were not expecting an answer. But it’s worth thinking about. Why did they continue to stare into the sky after Jesus had disappeared? I’m sure it was because they felt a huge sense of loss now that He’d gone.
Have you ever taken a loved one to a railway station and waved them off on a train? We might wave until they’re out of sight, but sometimes - if the person is very loved, and if they’re going for what feels like a long time – we stare after the rear of the train, and then continue to stare down the empty railway track, perhaps for some minutes. We’re realizing how much we love them, and how much we’re going to miss them. And we wonder if we’ll see them again, and how long they’ll be away.
The disciples had spent three and a half years with Jesus. They’d walked the roads together, slept together – sometimes under open skies – they’d eaten, laughed, cried, prayed and performed miracles together. They’d heard Him preach many times. They remembered when, just a few weeks ago, Jesus appeared for the first time after His resurrection, and showed them the nail marks in His hands and feet.
They loved Him. He was their best friend. He’d loved Matthew (for example) when no-one else did. He’d taken a bunch of largely uneducated working men and shared His life and His kingdom with them. And they’d discovered what a wonderful person He is.
I wonder how many of us 21st Century Christians love Jesus for Himself, and not just for what He does for us? It is truly wonderful that He still forgives, saves, heals, protects and provides for us. It is amazing how He never gives up on us, no matter how often we fail Him. But do we just love what he does? Or do we love Him – Himself – for who He is?
They loved Him. And He’d gone.
They’d heard Him say:
But how could it be good? How could anything be better than walking, talking and working every day with Jesus Christ?
But Jesus meant what He said. It is even better to spend your day filled with the Holy Spirit than it was to spend a day with Jesus when He was on Earth. I wonder if you can accept this? Have you experienced the incredible power and love of God the Holy Spirit?
It was hard for the disciples to believe it at that moment, when Jesus had just left and the Holy Spirit had not yet come. But the angels had these words of comfort for them: “This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven."
But they didn’t say when He’d come back. Jesus had already explained to them (Acts 1v7) that they wouldn’t know the date of His would return, until it happened. At that time, He also told them (Acts 1v4-5) "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about... in a few days you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit" and (Acts 1v8) “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."
They returned to Jerusalem, to wait for the Holy Spirit to come. And 10 days later, he came!
The world would never be the same again.
One last thought. Sometimes God takes away what we think is the most precious thing we have; a loved one, a career, our health, our financial well-being, the admiration of our friends, our ministry, our church, our home, or something else. At that time, we may feel like giving up. Some people, in the extremity of their grief, have even taken their own lives. Many have considered doing so. But – hard as it is to accept – God can give us something even better than what He takes away. It was actually good for the disciples that Jesus went away, because then the Holy Spirit would come. Your future may look bleak. But God can make it wonderful, if we wait for what He wants to send.