Imagine with me, for a moment, the group of disciples walking through the lush green vegetation of Galilee, climbing the gentle slopes of the mountain where Jesus has asked them to meet him. There’s a spirit of anticipation propelling the group forward. Since the crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus has periodically joined the group of disciples, but always at a time when they didn’t expect him. He appeared and disappeared without opening doors. It is quite a mystery. Now Jesus has given them a specific location where to meet him and they are excited.
The hot afternoon sun beats down on them from a cloudless, blue Galilean sky. A gentle breeze makes the heat bearable as it sways the brushes and grass along the path. They reach the top of the mountain and wait. Clustered together, they voice their questions to each other.
Will Jesus at this time establish his kingdom? That he is the Messiah they have no doubt – didn’t the prophets of old prophecy that his kingdom would have no end? Their excited chatter hushes. They feel a holy presence settle over them as Jesus suddenly appears. Jesus greets them with a gentle smile – the special people who have faithfully followed him these past three years. How he loves them!
“All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” His voice rings with power, authority, and love. No one moves. The disciples hang onto every word. Even the wind has calmed so not one word will be lost. “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” Matthew 28:18-20. “For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.” Acts 1:5
The disciples’ hearts burn within them as Jesus opens their understanding. Scripture has been fulfilled! The Messiah has come indeed! They are ready to assist Jesus in establishing his kingdom.
The disciples can’t contain their excitement any longer. “Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” they ask. Acts 1:6
Jesus says to them, “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” Acts 1:7-8
Wait! Did Jesus say Jerusalem and Judea? Why those are the people who killed Jesus! Those are the people they’ve been hiding from. Witness to them?
“And, behold," Jesus continues, "I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.”
Jesus lifts up his hands, and blesses them. As he blesses them, Jesus lifts off the ground. The disciples watch in amazement as Jesus rises higher and higher. A cloud appears out of nowhere and gently engulfs Jesus, and takes him out of their sight. Astonished, they shade their eyes with their hands as they watch the cloud get smaller and smaller. Finally, it disappears completely. (Paraphrase of Luke 24:50-51 and Acts1:9).
“Ye men of Galilee.” Startled, the disciples turn to see two men standing near, both dressed in white. “Why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.” Acts 1:10-11
Speechless, the disciples look at each other. Does Peter know what these men are talking about? Or John? Jesus is coming back? When? They turn back to the men in white, but they’re gone. The disciples look around, but the two strangers are nowhere to be found.
“What do we do now?” one of the disciples asks.
“Jesus said that we should stay in Jerusalem until we’re given power, so we should go to Jerusalem,” says another, stroking his beard thoughtfully.
A few of them nod in agreement. That makes sense. If Jesus wants to give them something in Jerusalem then that’s where they should go. Amid a buzz of conversation they start to descend the mountain. Maybe Jesus will return to them in Jerusalem.
Can you imagine being there with the disciples that day? The burning in your heart as the Lord lifts his hands and blesses you? The mysterious way Jesus lifts up and then a cloud gathers him up and takes him away?
This same Jesus, is coming back in the same way he went to heaven. "And, behold, I [Jesus] come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be." Revelation 22:12
Are you excited for that day? Are you ready? Do you believe? "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death, unto life."John 5:24
Until next time.