Acts 1:1-11 - In the Cloud
Ascension Day usually doesn't get the fanfare of Christmas or Easter, but it should!
Read / Listen
Read Acts 1:1-11
In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. 3 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. 4 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. 5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
6 Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 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.”
9 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.”
Listen to passage & devotional:
Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 46
Q. What do you mean by saying,
“He ascended to heaven”?
A. That Christ,
while his disciples watched,
was lifted up from the earth to heaven
and will be there for our good
until he comes again
to judge the living and the dead
The book of Acts is really a continuation of Luke's gospel, which is an investigative report Luke wrote for Theophilus. Since that Greek name literally means 'One who loves God,' it's hard to know if Theophilus was a real man or if Luke uses a pen name to reference all who love God and want to learn about the gospel of Jesus Christ.
In any event, whereas Luke's first account covered Jesus' life, death and resurrection, this second report, inspired by the Holy Spirit, picks up at one of the most triumphant moments in history. Jesus is alive and reunited with His disciples (Luke notes in v3 that he gave 'many convincing proofs that he was alive'), and the disciples are likely eager to see Jesus establish the Kingdom of God.
Sure enough, Jesus gathers them around and gives them instructions, but they're not what the disciples were expecting. Stay and wait, Jesus told them.
Wait for how long, the disciples cried out. When, Jesus? When will you restore the kingdom to Israel?
If ever Jesus displayed patience, it was here. After everything He had taught them, especially the last week of His life; after everything He demonstrated in His death, with the darkness for three hours in the afternoon and the torn curtain in the temple; after astounding all who saw Him alive after He was most certainly dead; after all that and more the disciples still think Jesus had done all of that just to make things the way they used to be in the good 'ol days when King David was on the throne.
Don't worry about what, when and where, Jesus told them. You just witness to what you've seen and heard.
And with that, almost anticlimactically, He was taken up and gone; hidden by a cloud.
But Luke's new book is about the beginning of the Church, not the end of the gospel. Just as they did when Jesus was born, albeit it a bit less gloriously, angels come down to fill in the details. Stop staring into the sky, they told the stunned disciples. Just as you Jesus just was lifted up into heaven, He's going to come back.
As Reformed Christians, we don't pay as much attention to the Christian calendar the way our Anglican and Lutheran brothers and sisters do, although we gladly participate in Christmas festivities, as well as having a somber holy week service leading up to a joyous Resurrection Day celebration.
But most Christians aren't even aware of a third observance that is nearly just as theologically important as what Jesus' birth and resurrection were: Ascension Day.
As we continue our year long tour of the reasons for our only comfort, we'll spend this week understanding how amazing it is that at this very moment, there's a human body sitting at God's right hand, working out all things for God's covenant people.
Ascension Day is coming on May 18. If your own congregation isn't able to have a special worship service to celebrate that, be sure to join up for the night with one that does!
ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: Our Father, who welcomed His triumphant Son, the God-Man, back into heaven to sit at His right hand;
ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Ask God to empower you with the Holy Spirit to witness to all you've seen and heard regarding Jesus Christ.
ASK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED:
Read the New Testament in a year, a chapter a day - Matthew 18