A Great Question

In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with[a] water, but in a few days you will be baptized with[b] the Holy Spirit.”

Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” – Acts 1:1-11

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Cross atop Mount Helix in La Mesa, CA | Photo taken April 2017

I have been known in my day, and among my peers, as one who asks good questions. Even a college zoology professor said so when I spoke with him about my grade in his class. He actually said, “You ask good questions. You obviously  understand the concepts.” Sadly, however, that’s not all he said, and I ended up failing the course: I just couldn’t keep the details straight. You must keep the details straight in zoology!

The question in the first part of this encounter between Jesus and his disciples is not a particularly good question. The disciples wonder, now? Is this the time “you are going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” Jesus redirected them, telling them in effect it was above their pay grade to know the times and seasons of such grand sweeps of history and kingdom movements. They were to be part of a great movement of God’s kingdom into the hearts and lives of many people.

The best question in these few verses is from the angels. They ask the disciples – as they stand gazing into the sky upon Jesus’ ascension – a telling question, for often a question says as much about the questioner as the answer that is sought.

They ask, “Why do you stand looking up into the sky?” I love this question! And I have an answer: “Because I’ve never seen anything like this before in my life.” It was an amazing moment for the disciples. But for the angels it was the end of a 33 year time of amazement. They had seen the King of the Universe take on human flesh. They had witness the Lord of Life die. They had experienced a vacated heavenly throne for 33 years. That was amazing. That was unusual. The Bible says that there are “things into which angels long to look” (1 Peter 1:12). They had three decades of looking into the mystery of the incarnation. Now – as Jesus ascends into heaven – they see the throne room of the universe as it should be in their minds. This is not abnormal to them. This is as it should be.

Then they add, “This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” The throne room is right, but the world is not right. There is work to be done. And so it goes: Jesus had told them that they would receive power from the Holy Spirit, and would be his witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. We, today, are the recipients of the blessing of that truth having been played out over the centuries since. We, today, are also recipients of that promise and commission: Jesus’ message is to be declared from our homes, neighborhoods, communities, states, nations, and to the ends of the earth.

Jesus rules and reigns over all things. It is our responsibility to help people to see that truth, repent of their willful rebellion against his rule and reign, and rejoice in his  goodness and the salvation he has brought to us in the forgiveness of sins, and join us in living under him in his kingdom and serving him in eternal righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, until he comes again on the Great Last Day.

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