“After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.” (Acts 1:9)
Today in the Church calendar, we become purposefully aware of the moment Jesus is taken to be fully with the Father. He is trying to prepare them for the season they will soon enter – as He goes away. They will receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Just before He is taken away, they begin to grasp at knowing how they will benefit from what is about to happen. Luke paints a picture of His followers asking, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?”
I imagine those were difficult moments for His followers. They had watched their loving friend willingly lay down His life. The one on whom all their hopes for a very particular revealing of redemption had rested – had been crucified as a criminal, as an enemy of the empire. After an incredibly difficult time of mourning and confusion, he had returned – conquering any systemic or cosmic power that would ever seem to threaten His Kingdom.
Now he was talking of something important about to happen – something that required them to stay in Jerusalem for now. Surely this was what they’d been waiting for!? Surely now was the time the Kingdom of God would be established and revealed fully over all other worldly powers – both foreign and domestic.
How stunned might they have been, then, as this friend they had received back from the clutches of death – this savior who seemed to hold all of their communal hopes for redemption…was taken from them once again. As Jesus disappeared from their sight, no one seemed to have the words to say. No one knew how to respond. The sadness and confusion threatened to crash back down from the dams His resurrected presence had constructed. But before it could arrive, the grace of God arrived to assure them – Jesus was not gone for good. He would surely return, just as He was taken.
So their attention turns to the task at hand – to continue living in proclamation of the resurrected Jesus together.
Here there is a quiet echo that many of us will have experienced. When Jesus stirs something, we instantly get excited about what it can mean for us. We bring our expectations and our desires to Him, and He offers us the grace of listening. He smiles, knowing what is in store will surpass anything we could construct or orchestrate on our own. The heart of God is not uncaring, not desiring that we should be left staring into the void. His heart revealed here wants to assure us – Jesus will continue what He has begun. When God does something, it is always in the direction of bringing further redemption and Good. We are to be encouraged. We are to be attentive the arrival and moving of His Spirit (who is with us each even now).
Many of us are surrounded by a world still staring, stunned and wide-eyed, into the mysterious absence where they expected God to be. Many of our neighbors are attempting to reconcile the God who is, with the God they’d wanted, expected, or had been taught. Perhaps that person staring in the direction of where you thought God would be is you.
Whether it’s for your own sake, or for the sake of your neighbors today, hear the Words of Gods’ messengers here: “Why do you keep staring where you expected Jesus to be? Be encouraged, He is coming – but you don’t need to keep standing around trying to find Him.” We are sent and freed to continue the work of proclaiming His resurrection Life and Love that has conquered all other powers. We are to go, & follow the instruction and life He has already given us – living in Faith that the Kingdom continues to arrive as we join His Spirit.
What does this mean for our lives this week? Do you see the fruit of the Spirit that comes as an affirmation that you are abiding in Him? Will you draw near to Him, set free to receive the Kingdom as His child?