Resurrection and New Life Day 9 – The Ascension of the Lord
“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 1:9-11, ESV)
Can you imagine standing with someone and literally seeing them rise into the clouds above until they were out of sight? While we know that when a Christian passes away, their soul separates from their body and makes that journey into heaven, we don’t actually see it happen; by faith we believe that it happens. But Jesus’ disciples watched their beloved Savior ascend into heaven, out of their sight. Just prior to this they had received the Great Commission.
The ascension of Jesus signaled an end to His earthly ministry here. Now it would be taken up by His followers as they were commissioned to take His message of salvation to the whole world. Yes, He was leaving to return to His Father, but He had given them something better—the Holy Spirit. Maybe you wonder how that could be better than being with Him in bodily form. I’ve longed for His physical touch and a conversation between the two of us down here. Yet when He was in His body, He was limited in being able to be present with everyone at the same time. But with the giving of His Spirit, we all have the privilege of having the Lord’s presence with us at all times.
The disciples could have spent the next few months or years mourning the fact that He had departed for heaven, but they didn’t; instead, they got busy. Having received direct orders from the Lord, they obediently and faithfully began the work He left for them, and through their obedience the gospel message began making its way around the world. It swept through regions like a wildfire, sparking new life after new life. Nothing could stop it! Sure, the opposers of this Good News have tried to stamp it out and eliminate the spread of the gospel, but His Word prevails. It continues to stand in the face of oppression. And it seems the more people try to extinguish it, the brighter it burns.
As the disciples stared heavenward in the place where Jesus had departed from them, the angels encouraged them with a blessed promise. Just as they saw Him ascend, He would return in the same way. He will appear in the clouds to call His people home. At that time, there will never be another parting, for we shall forever remain with our Lord and reign with Him. And so we, too, look toward the heavens with anticipation. We await His second coming and the deliverance from this broken world of sin.
But while we wait, the same Great Commission is our own: Go into all the world and preach the gospel. Our “world” includes the people on our street, the people we work with, and those we meet through school functions and events. It’s the faces we see on the streets, the waitress that serves us, the coach our kid plays under, and the trainer at the gym. It’s the people who walk in the doors of our house of worship, and those who want nothing to do with our God. It’s simply everyone we meet. This convicts and humbles me as I recall how often I’ve rubbed shoulders with people who never heard about Jesus from me.
Maybe today our own faith will be ignited. Brothers and sisters before us have courageously and boldly declared His message at great cost, a cost that included being martyred for their faith. May this embolden each of us to stand up and speak out, for there is evidence all around us that He is coming soon. As was promised, He will come back in the same way He left. The world desperately needs Jesus—will you tell them? May we be men and women of courage, knowing His gospel message is the only one that gives hope and new life!