Foundations of Our Faith Day 12: Jesus Ascends into Heaven
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:8-11, ESV)
The disciples had come to know the Messiah in a way few did. They had sat with Him and shared meals. They had talked about the coming Kingdom. They had loved and served alongside Him. They took care of His mother. They shared their fears and their hearts. He was not only their Savior, but their Friend. But as much as they enjoyed their time with Him, His work here on earth was done. He had another work to do: to go and prepare heaven for them (and us).
Forty days had passed since Jesus had risen from the dead. In that period of time, He appeared to many, as we discussed in previous days. As His time here was coming to an end, He prepared His disciples for this time of separation. And so He led His disciples through Bethany to the Mount of Olives, speaking to them along the way. These were words the disciples would hold with them for the rest of their lives; I’m sure they listened earnestly, not willing to miss the significance of these last moments with the Lord.
Usually, good-byes are sad. Seeing our loved ones leave us can bring about many different emotions, but usually not joy. The disciples did not mourn for Jesus as He left them, though, because they were given the Great Commission—a ministry of taking the gospel to the whole world. Jesus wasn’t leaving the earth because He had been defeated or had grown tired of the scene down here. He left because He had completed His earthly ministry; nothing was left for Him to accomplish here, just as He stated from the cross—“It is finished!”
The scene that unfolded on that mountain must’ve been awesome. A cloud came down to receive Jesus and took Him out of their sight. The disciples were staring up into the heavens when two men in white robes appeared, asking them why they were still looking up into the sky. They told them that in the same manner in which they had seen Jesus leave, He would return one day. This is a day we are waiting for with great anticipation. But until that day, we too have a part in the Great Commission.
As the body of Christ, one of our main objectives should include sharing the gospel message with the lost around us. The disciples received that instruction from Jesus, and over 2,000 years later the gospel message has exploded around the entire world, adding millions upon millions to the body of Christ down through the ages. How amazing that, beginning with the eleven disciples and other followers at the time of His life and death, we too share in the good of this message. It isn’t exclusive of any gender, race, class, or any other group of persons; this message is for any who will come. Praise God that included me!
If only the disciples, as they looked up into the heavens when He was taken from sight, could have seen the bigger picture of all that was ahead. Some would die for the message they were commissioned to share. They would suffer persecution and ridicule. Family members would turn from them. But as Jesus left them physically, He encouraged them that something greater was coming: His Spirit would come and dwell within their hearts so that they would never be separated from Him again. This parting of His physical body would have been reason enough for tears and sadness had He not exchanged the presence of His body for His Spirit within them. They had the assurance that they would see Him again in heaven.
And so we wait for His return. We know He left in body, but we are so grateful for His Spirit that indwells us, giving us all we need to face the various trials of life. We have the best news to tell the world, and we don’t want to keep the message of the gospel from those who need to hear it. May we take the Great Commission to heart, knowing that, yes, it was for His disciples, but it’s for us, too! Until He returns, may He find us faithfully sharing His good news with a lost and broken world. It is our privilege to honor Him in this way.