Acts 1: 6-11 So when the apostles were with Jesus, they kept asking him, “Lord, has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?”
7 He replied, “The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
9 After saying this, he was taken up into a cloud while they were watching, and they could no longer see him. 10 As they strained to see him rising into heaven, two white-robed men suddenly stood among them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!”
In his crucifixion, Jesus conquered death; in his resurrection, he proved his authority over life; and in his ascension, he is placed at the right-hand side of God. Ascension Day is a celebration of Christ’s ultimate victory. And it serves as a message from Christ to us.
It reminds us that Jesus never abandons us
When Christ was crucified, the disciples scattered. Jesus was dead and from their perspective, he was no longer around to lead them, teach them and protect them. Although he had told them about his death and resurrection many times, they had not understood and so they were directionless; followers abandoned by their leader.
But after they saw Jesus ascend into heaven, they reacted differently. They chose to gather in prayer and wait for the Holy Spirit that Jesus promised. They didn’t scatter, they didn’t fear or despair, they didn’t act like abandoned sheep. Because the disciples now understood who Jesus was; that he was truly the Son of God. They knew that if Jesus didn’t abandon them in death, he wouldn’t abandon them in life.
Often, in times when things go wrong, fear can grip us and we can feel abandoned by God. But if we can focus on understanding who Jesus is, look at his track record in our lives and, in prayer, fix our thoughts towards heaven, we will be reminded that we serve a God who never abandons us.
It asks us to wait on Jesus
The disciples waited for days between the time Jesus ascended into heaven and the day the Holy Spirit – the helper Jesus promised to send – descended at Pentecost.
Often, we show impatience with God. We live in a time when we expect what we want when we want it. It has made us an impatient and demanding society. And we can show this impatience towards God’s timing for delivering on his promises to us.
But as we read in Acts 2, we see that God’s timing for sending his promised Holy Spirit was perfect: waiting allowed more people than just Jesus’ gathered disciples and followers, to be witnesses to the Holy Spirit and, as a result, many more came to know the good news of Christ. In waiting, the miracle of Pentecost was far greater than anyone expected.
I acknowledge that it is immensely difficult to wait on God. But we need to constantly remind ourselves that God’s timing is always perfect. We need to trust him to do what needs to be done, when it needs to be done. Not a moment too soon or too late.
It gives us God’s direction.
As the disciples were looking up towards heaven, where Jesus had ascended, two angels join them and let them know that “someday he [Jesus] will return from heaven.” Here, God reveals his plan of Jesus’ return. But Jesus also told the disciples it is not for them, or us, to know the specific details of this plan. But what they did need to do was, “be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere.”
Often, in our need to control, we want to know the big picture of God’s plan for our lives. And we can get so focused on this, that we fail to listen to the instructions he has already given us.
In our obedience to God, in trusting in his goodness, he will send us in the right direction. The work he has given us to do right here, right now, is all working towards his plan.
So, as we celebrate this Ascension Day, let’s focus on who Christ is and what he asks of us and then be bold in our obedience to his direction.