A disappearance is powerfully bewildering. Every magician knows this. Disappearance mystifies us. We doubt what we just saw. Was it really there? Was it what we thought it was? Where is it now? What just happened? A disappearance unsecures what was secure, makes us rethink what is real. Calls remembrance into question. Creates suspicion of others. Whether David Copperfield is vanishing the Statue of Liberty or we are missing our car keys, a disappearance raises questions and fuels emotions – frustration, uncertainty and anger.
But if this is true of things that disappear, how much more is it true when people disappear. People disappear from our lives in many ways. Some are taken from us and some choose to leave. Some leave expectedly and some suddenly. Some may return or be found, but others may be gone forever. Some circumstances make it easier to accept, but the disappearance of people from our lives is never easy. Questions become more urgent and unanswerable. And the emotions — grief, loneliness, and fear — become more consuming. The empty chair casts a long shadow.
The Lord Jesus knew his “leaving day” was coming. His departure would be hard for the disciples to understand and even harder to accept. As he celebrated a last Passover with them, he explained the nature and necessity of his return to the Father. They were grief stricken and filled with questions. In John 14-16 we read how Jesus comforted them and answered their questions. Then after he rose from the dead, he remained with them 40 days to prepare them for their part in the story of redemption. After those 40 days, he ascended and returned to the Father with the disciples looking on. Can you imagine their emotion in that moment? Luke records the moment In Acts 1.
…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
We might have expected the disciples to be dismayed at Jesus disappearance. During the 40 days following his resurrection, Jesus had appeared and disappeared. But this was different. Jesus was gone for good this time. But Jesus had taught them what his Ascension meant. He would send them the Holy Spirit. Far from being alone, now, in the person of the Spirit, Jesus would be more with them than ever. At last he ascended to the throne and begun to rule, as they had long desired. Luke tells us that they returned to Jerusalem with great joy. The enemies who sought their lives were still enemies. The dangers they would face remained. The bodily presence of Jesus that they had followed and loved for three years was gone, never to return in their lifetimes. Yet they have great joy.
The disciples now understood what Jesus’ Ascension meant and what it promised. Do you? Every week millions of Christians profess their faith together in the Apostles’ Creed. Among its central doctrines is a profession that Jesus “ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.” Yet many have never considered why this is such an important doctrine. Join us on Facebook Live at 10:30 am this Lord’s Day, May 3, as we examine Luke 24:50-53 and consider the hope and comfort we receive from the Ascension.