The other day I found myself looking up.
I was riding my bike through the empty streets of Detroit and heard a thunderous noise.
As I took my headphones off and looked around I noticed people on there balconies and coming out of their houses to look up as military planes flew in formation over the city in solidarity with aid workers, and doctors and nurses; the heroes of our time. I found myself welling up with pride that something as glorious as these planes ascending was happening in our city.
People started to look around at each other with hope, like we felt seen after so many long days of uncertainty and loneliness.
Those planes gave us hope while letting us know we were seen but also who was still in charge in a way.
And thats fine and beautiful.
I started to think about the story at the end of Luke and beginning of acts of Christ ascending into heaven.
As they met and ate meals together, he told them that they were on no account to leave Jerusalem but “must wait for what the Father promised: the promise you heard from me. John baptized in water; you will be baptized in the Holy Spirit. And soon.”
When they were together for the last time they asked, “Master, are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel now? Is this the time?”
He told them, “You don’t get to know the time. Timing is the Father’s business. What you’ll get is the Holy Spirit. And when the Holy Spirit comes on you, you will be able to be my witnesses in Jerusalem, all over Judea and Samaria, even to the ends of the world.”
These were his last words. As they watched, he 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 The Message
In the passage we find a disciple asking Jesus before he ascends if now was the time Jesus would bring his revolution to Jerusalem and overthrow those in charge?
Jesus answered that they should wait and soon they would be empowered by the Holy Spirit and it would be even better than a bloody revolution.
It seems Jesus was always having to subvert their expectations about what His purpose was even until the end.
Why did the disciples not get it even at this point?
They had lived there whole lives under Roman occupation of an emperor who was touted as a God.
Actually, in 44 bc there was an astrological event referred to as Caesar’s Comet. For 7 days it was visible and everyone believed it was Caesar ascending to the heavens and becoming a God.
We know this because the comet and his face were a common image that was even printed on the money.
A kingdom who’s king is truly a God would have no end.
Before Christ ascends He gives them their mission, to be his witnesses to the ends of the earth and before their eyes he goes up into his glory.
I understand not wanting to look back down.
When I saw those planes the other day and it gave me hope, I understood that when I looked down, I’d be back in the same world we’re living in now and that hope of a better time would be far away.
When Jesus ascended he didn’t take the hope with him.
When Jesus ascended to the throne at the right hand of the father, He became closer than ever before. This is a movement I see through scripture. We keep realizing God is closer and closer until we get to the ascension. He’s not just a person walking around on earth but a person seated on the thrown ruling and reigning in and through everything who is now closer to us than the air we breathe.
Not only the that but the book of Hebrews in the New Testament says:
“We do not have a high priest King who cannot empathize with us in our pain.”
He knows what you’ve been through, what you’re going through and how it feels. He’s been lied to, betrayed, talked about behind his back, plotted against and now he is closer to us than he’s ever been and will be with us always.
When we find ourselves looking up, what are we looking for?
What we are looking up for reveals what our hope is in.
What some of the disciples were looking for revealed they still wanted a military coup.
What I was looking for revealed I wanted to know I was seen and better days were ahead.
Some of us are still waiting for Jesus to come back to reign, but he is not absent.
In fact there is no where he is not.
He has filled all things with himself.
But isn’t this a human? Yes.
then how can,
It’s a mystery,
Jesus Reigns above all and there is a human seated at the right hand of God who can empathize with all of our weakness, fills everything, and who’s kingdom has no end.
As they waited in Jerusalem the disciples were about to see how close this God was willing to get.
Let us set our eyes on things above where we will see the cross was just the beginning.