In my earlier work, Theophilus, I dealt with everything Jesus had done and taught from the beginning until the day he gave his instructions to the apostles he had chosen through the Holy Spirit, and was taken up to heaven. He had shown himself alive to them after his Passion by many demonstrations: for forty days he had continued to appear to them and tell them about the kingdom of God. When he had been at table with them, he had told them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for what the Father had promised. ‘It is’ he had said ‘what you have heard me speak about: John baptised with water but you, not many days from now, will be baptised with the Holy Spirit.’
Now having met together, they asked him, ‘Lord, has the time come? Are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He replied, ‘It is not for you to know times or dates that the Father has decided by his own authority, but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and then you will be my witnesses not only in Jerusalem but throughout Judaea and Samaria, and indeed to the ends of the earth.’
As he said this he was lifted up while they looked on, and a cloud took him from their sight. They were still staring into the sky when suddenly two men in white were standing near them and they said, ‘Why are you men from Galilee standing here looking into the sky? Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven, this same Jesus will come back in the same way as you have seen him go there.’
Tomorrow, the feast of the Ascension, we hear the account of Jesus’ ascending to the Father from the Acts of the Apostles. It is a scene of wonder and awe. This is not the sort of thing that happens every day!
And yet as the apostles stand there, gob-smacked, the two men in white appear and call them from peering into the heavens, and re-direct their attention to the things of earth. We might think of the two men in white as angels, but like God – Father, Son and Spirit – the things of the world matter greatly to them.
God who came to earth from heaven and returned there until he will come again, came to help us to live and love well here.
- How do you respond to this gift?
Prayer at the Mosque of the Ascension, Jerusalem. (c) 2017, Allen Morris