We join Jesus and ALL His followers as He is saying His final farewell. They don’t realize this is His last time with them but He does. I wonder how different the conversation would have been if they had known too.
Luke tells us that “when they had come together” they brought with them their expectations again of Jesus setting up His Kingdom here on earth. “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom of Israel?” (verse 6). They still didn’t understand all of Jesus’ plans. They didn’t have the Holy Spirit living in them to open their eyes yet. They had been waiting, watching and working (as best they could) to see Jesus take the throne of Israel. They knew the promises but didn’t understand their implications. They couldn’t see the “big picture” yet.
Their question reminds me so much of children on a long trip. The parents understand the concept of time, distance and speed. They can calculate how long it will be before reaching their destination. But to the child, the only thing they know is they want the end to be here NOW! “Is it time yet?” They don’t watch the road signs and calculate how much longer. They rely on the parents to let them know when, but not without a few reminders that they are waiting being thrown in. “Are we there yet? How much longer?”
Jesus answers their question with finality. “Only God knows. He knows the times and seasons. He sets the timing and He did it by HIS own authority. You will know when it happens. Don’t worry, you won’t miss it. But in the meantime you have a job to do for me.”
I can just see the disciples perk up at this prospect. They love Jesus and are itching to help Him in any way. Whatever it takes to help Him finish His transition to the throne! “What can we do to help?”
“Hold up a minute. There is something that has to happen first. First, you are going to receive the promise I made to you regarding the Holy Spirit. HE will come upon you and give you the power to carry out my directives. Once He makes His home in you then you will be my witnesses. You will be my witnesses everywhere! Not just in Judea and Jerusalem but also in Samaria and to the end of the earth. The boarder of Israel is NOT the limit of your scope. The Holy Spirit will work that out with you too.”
Jesus then rises into Heaven right before their eyes. They had seen SO many wondrous things while walking with Jesus. Was this simply another of His miracles? They waited expectantly to see what He would do next. They didn’t realize He wasn’t coming back in a minute. They stood waiting and watching.
Not until the “two men…in whites robes” (verse 10) prompted them to quit looking up did they realize that Jesus was truly gone from their presence. “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into Heaven? This Jesus, who has taken up from you into Heaven, will come in the same way as you saw Him go into Heaven” (verse 11). Well, that settles it. Jesus wasn’t coming right back. He was now in Heaven. But He would be coming back.
If these men were anything like me, they probably came up with a thousand questions they wished they had asked before He left. “If I had only known this would be the last time I would see Him face to face I would have asked Him about ______.” I bet they would have wanted to say a better farewell too. Maybe have a proper send off. Instead, they all came together expecting to go on as before only to have that plan fall flat. I wonder what I would have asked.
At least they knew there was more to come. There was Jesus’ promise to establish His Kingdom, the men in white’s promise that He would return, Jesus’ promise of the Holy Spirit and Jesus’ personal instructions to be His witnesses. These things would have to hold them in His absence. Actually, in our reading tomorrow we see one of the most important lessons they learned from His parting this way.
Thank You Jesus for not simply disappearing from the disciples lives without a word. Thank You for leaving for “Home” right before their eyes. This gave them a proof that would carry them through the beginning of the establishment of Your church. They could point specifically to time and place for Your exodus. Something to hold them over until You come back.
I am still holding onto that same promise today. I know Your disciples expected Your return to be in their lifetime but You didn’t. I wonder if You will return in mine. I want to live each day as if You will be here any moment but also go about Your work as if You won’t be back for a long time. I pray You find me working when You come.
I’m torn too Jesus. On one hand I want You to come right away! I want an end to our suffering. I’m tired of seeing all this evil in our world. But on the other hand, I want You to wait until at least my family I safe. I don’t want any of them left behind. Problem with that is that I don’t know their hearts like You do and what it will take for them to finally turn their lives back over to You. Maybe it will take me being gone first. Again, only God knows. Thank You though that I can trust You with their future.