The scripture that I just read from Luke 24 is one of the passages about the ascension. Another is from the first chapter of Acts. I would like to read it to you because it is worded differently than the passage from Luke but still tells the same story:
So let us put together this story of the ascension of Jesus.
We know that it had been quite a time for the disciples of Jesus starting with the triumphant procession into Jerusalem, followed by the persecution of Jesus, and His death on the cross. Then He was taken to the tomb where 3 days later He was gone from the tomb. Mary Magdalene was the first to know that He had risen from the tomb but soon the disciples were visited by Jesus many times so that they also knew He had risen but was still with them. Jesus promised them that the Holy Spirit would be with them when He went to heaven to be with God. Once again, Jesus was with the disciples and He told them to not leave Jerusalem but to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit. The disciples asked Jesus when this was to happen as they knew that it meant Jesus was going to Heaven to be with God. Jesus said “It is not for you to know the time or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
In Acts it says: “When He had said this, as they were watching, He was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.” In Luke it says that “He led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up to heaven.” In both scriptures, he spoke to them and then he was gone. Personally I like the passage of Luke where Jesus blesses the disciples and then he was carried away. Being blessed as He ascended would be like the frosting on a cake. But either way, wouldn’t that have been a sight to see? For us though, we need to use our imagination to picture Jesus being lifted into heaven by a cloud. I can picture it being like a helium balloon that has gotten away from the person holding it. It doesn’t just suddenly disappear but if you watch it, it slowly moves heavenward until it is gone from your sight. In my mind, I can’t imagine that Jesus ascending into heaven was like the snap of your fingers and poof! He was gone.
How wonderful though, it must have been for the disciples to have that time with Jesus after His death and resurrection. It could have been that after He died on the cross, was laid in the tomb, and then rose, that Jesus didn’t come back to help the disciples move forward to become His witnesses to the ends of the earth. Then it would have just been up to their faith to know that they must continue on to do the will of God. Jesus knew; I am sure that this extra time with His disciples was needed for them to be able to continue His work.
So the disciples were now on their own, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to do as Jesus asked them to do, be His witnesses to the ends of the earth. The same is true for us. We have the help of the Holy Spirit, and we have our faith that tells us that Jesus and God are together and are always watching over us. We need to continue the work of Jesus and of His disciples. We need to be witnesses to the ends of the earth. What does it mean for us to be witnesses to the ends of the earth? I found a message from Dr. Claude Kayler, of the Main Street UMC in Kernersville, NC. He talks about our mission and our vision. He says that our mission was given to us by Jesus and our vision is how we complete our mission in the world and in our own backyard. He says; “You take your two hands. With one hand you get a firm grip on who you are, your gifts, talents, strengths, abilities, everything that makes you, you. With your other hand, you get a firm grip on the needs of your world, especially in your own backyard. What’s going on out there? What are the needs that tug at your heart and keep you awake at night? So with one hand you get a grip on who you are. With the other hand you get a grip on the needs of the world. Then you bring your hands together in prayer and you ask God to show you the intersections between the needs of the world and what you have to offer. And your vision or better said, God’s vision for you- will emerge.”
I like how Dr. Claude Kayler approaches what we are supposed to do as Jesus asks us to be His witnesses. We all have certain talents giving us the ability to be a part of what needs to be done. What better way for us to show others that we all are loved by God by what we are doing to make our world a better place. I really believe that anybody can talk the talk, but it takes someone special to be able to walk the walk.
As we slowly move forward from the challenges of the year past, let us put our hands together to find out what we can do to help our world get back on its feet again by using the talents that we have and getting a grip on what the world needs. Let us walk the walk not just talk the talk because I think it is our mission and we need to make it our vision. We have God and Jesus and each other to accomplish just that.
To close, please hear these words, “Lord help us to be all that you want us to be. Amen.”