Today we are joining with the Disciples at the end of Jesus’ ministry on earth. It is an episode that Luke records for us in Acts 1: 1-11.
Since the Resurrection, Jesus had appeared to the Disciples at different times. He had been preparing them to continue his work on earth after he had gone.
And here we read that as part of the final preparations the Disciples are told to stay in Jerusalem and wait for the gift that God had promised, the Holy Spirit. (1:4)
It was just after giving what were to be His last words and instructions, something happened which no one expected. (1:9), “He was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight”. As they watched, he disappeared from view and ascended to Heaven.
At that, what did those people do? Did they do as Jesus said and return to the City to wait for the gift of the Holy Spirit he had promised? Did they join together to pray, or try and encourage each other?
No, they just stood there; stunned and staring up into the sky. At that moment, in their shock and confusion at what they had witnessed, they did absolutely nothing.
Perhaps we have had occasions when events in life have left us stunned and confused; perhaps even left us reeling.
We know what we are supposed to do; to continue to hold onto faith. We know what God wants us to do; to continue to put our trust in Him and continue in our service; but at times, life grinds to a halt. Perhaps, that’s what many feel like now.
But as those disciples were standing, they were joined by two men who, by their description are inferred to be angels. They ask (1:11) "why do you stand here looking into the sky?". In other words, why look to heaven when your work is here, on earth.
It was only when confronted, perhaps they remembered that Jesus had promised they would be empowered to continue. Now it was time to take Him at His word and get going.
And that is what we are to do today. Like those disciples, we too are asked to take Jesus at His word. We too will be empowered to go on, in His name.
Here we find one of the great themes and truths of the New Testament: ‘God gives His gifts to enable His people to meet the challenges and tasks He gives them’.
And that is something we need to be reminded of over and over again, because we forget.
In the time between the Resurrection and Ascension, the Disciples, by the number and frequency of Jesus’ appearances among them, were beginning to understand that He was with them wherever they were and whatever they were doing.
It was an experience of his presence that continued after the Ascension. It is something that continues today with his people. Jesus may have ascended to heaven, but we still have a living Lord with us.
The Disciples were challenged, “why do you stand here looking into the sky”? So, let us not waste time standing and looking around because we too have a calling to fulfil. To be, as Jesus said, “my witnesses to the ends of the earth”. (1:8)
We are not to look heavenward and do nothing but to become involved in the reality of this earth to bring the Good News of Christ to all people. To work for, and with, Christ and to make a difference, each in our own different ways and as we are able.
It is work we are called to do individually, as brothers and sisters in Christ. And it is work we are called to do together, collectively, as the Church, the Body of Christ on earth.
Let us open ourselves to receive God’s gift. Then we can get going, to be, in Jesus’ words “my witnesses to the ends of the earth”.
Together, may we bring Jesus’ words to life.
Let us pray.
Almighty & Everlasting God, You are all powerful, and unchanging, ever faithful and constant in love. As we come to you in prayer, we open our hearts and minds to You, because You are our Creator and our souls are restless until they return home to You. In You we are made complete.
Loving Lord, remind us that through the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ’s living presence is with us always – that he is by our side and that he is the same today as he was yesterday, as he was 2000 years ago and as he will be tomorrow.
It is in His strength and power that we are enabled to be His “witnesses to the ends of the earth”.
As Christ ascended to be with his Father, so we pray, for all families who long to be reunited with their loved ones. Comfort those who are suffering the pain of separation and isolation.
God of heaven and earth, remind us all that there is nothing in all Creation that is able to separate us from your love.
Amen, and may God keep us safe in His Love.