“After Jesus said these things, as they were watching, he was lifted up and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going away and as they were staring toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood next to them. They said, ‘Galileans, why are you standing here, looking toward heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way that you saw him go into heaven.’” (Acts 1:9-11 CEB)
Right. Jesus floated up into heaven and disappeared into a cloud. It is a story I have heard since I was a child. I guess I just accepted it as it was until recently. Maybe I just didn’t spend a lot of time theologizing about it because the vehicle for Jesus to go to heaven didn’t really matter to me.
Maybe it really is what he told the disciples BEFORE he went into heaven, in Acts 1:8 – “. . . you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (CEB) I wonder if we really read that commission as part of our charge to carry on Jesus’ work in the world, or if we miss it because we are so enamored with the way Jesus left.
I was reading some commentaries this week, and the phrase that came to mind was, “Beam me up, Scotty.” Do you remember that? The Star Trek television show was science fiction, but maybe it was inspired by Jesus departure from this earth? After all, earlier in the story, Jesus had walked through locked doors and yet had a physical body. The disciples could touch him, and he ate with them. There was some strange molecular transformation that was apparently going on.
In the Star Trek episodes, Captain Kirk would be on some planet and need to return to the space ship where Scotty was in control of the instrument panel. All he had to do was move a lever, and the captain would re-molecularize in the “beaming tube.” Voila! There he was.
Okay, so that’s a little far fetched! Ultimately, the point of this story is that the disciples – including us – have been given our mission and ministry – to carry on Jesus’ work in the world. He had to leave so we could become his church on this earth. The way he departed isn’t really as important as the instructions he gave us.
At the end of Matthew, he said, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything that I’ve commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20a CEB) The call is to bring the love of God in Christ Jesus to the world. It is to trust that the Holy Spirit guides and leads us as we remember and live out Jesus’ teachings.
In the midst of nasty remarks, vicious rhetoric, and political divisions, our country has a lot of thinking to do about where Jesus calls us to be and how Jesus calls us to live. In our churches, we have a lot of work to do to spread the good news of God’s love to others, and sometimes we need to start within the congregation itself.
Regardless, Jesus isn’t physically here, but he has sent the Spirit to inspire us, nudge us, help us to figure things out, and remember what we are called to be and who we are called to be as God’s children. May we live faithfully following Jesus to the best of our abilities.
How have you “heard” the Spirit’s voice in your life?
Where does God call you to be in ministry – in your job, school, home, neighborhood?
In what ways can you bring God’s love to others?