Jesus Is Taken Up into Heaven
6 The apostles were all together. They asked Jesus, “Lord, are you at this time going to give the kingdom back to Israel?”
7 Jesus said to them, “The Father is the only One who has the authority to decide dates and times. These things are not for you to know. 8 But the Holy Spirit will come to you. Then you will receive power. You will be my witnesses—in Jerusalem, in all of Judea, in Samaria, and in every part of the world.”
9 After he said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up. A cloud hid him from their sight. 10 As he was going, they were looking into the sky. Suddenly, two men wearing white clothes stood beside them. 11 They said, “Men of Galilee, why are you standing here looking into the sky? You saw Jesus taken away from you into heaven. He will come back in the same way you saw him go.”
A New Apostle Is Chosen
12 Then they went back to Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. (This mountain is about half a mile from Jerusalem.) 13 When they entered the city, they went to the upstairs room where they were staying. Peter, John, James, Andrew, Philip, Thomas, Bartholomew, Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, Simon (known as the Zealot), and Judas son of James were there. 14 They all continued praying together. Some women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, and Jesus’ brothers were also there with the apostles.
1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11
Suffering As a Christian12 My friends, do not be surprised at the painful things you are now suffering. These things are testing your faith. So do not think that something strange is happening to you. 13 But you should be happy that you are sharing in Christ’s sufferings. You will be happy and full of joy when Christ comes again in glory. 14 When people insult you because you follow Christ, then you are blessed. You are blessed because the glorious Spirit, the Spirit of God, is with you.
6 So be humble under God’s powerful hand. Then he will lift you up when the right time comes. 7 Give all your worries to him, because he cares for you.
8 Control yourselves and be careful! The devil is your enemy. And he goes around like a roaring lion looking for someone to eat. 9 Refuse to give in to the devil. Stand strong in your faith. You know that your Christian brothers and sisters all over the world are having the same sufferings you have.
10 Yes, you will suffer for a short time. But after that, God will make everything right. He will make you strong. He will support you and keep you from falling. He is the God who gives all grace. He called you to share in his glory in Christ. That glory will continue forever. 11 All power is his forever and ever. Amen.
Jesus Prays for His Followers17 After Jesus said these things he looked toward heaven. Jesus prayed, “Father, the time has come. Give glory to your Son so that the Son can give glory to you. 2 You gave the Son power over all people so that the Son could give eternal life to all those people you have given to him. 3 And this is eternal life: that men can know you, the only true God, and that men can know Jesus Christ, the One you sent. 4 I finished the work you gave me to do. I brought you glory on earth. 5 And now, Father, give me glory with you. Give me the glory I had with you before the world was made.
6 “You gave me some men from the world. I have shown them what you are like. Those men belonged to you, and you gave them to me. They have obeyed your teaching. 7 Now they know that everything you gave me comes from you. 8 I gave these men the teachings that you gave me. They accepted those teachings. They know that I truly came from you. 9 I pray for them now. I am not praying for the people in the world. But I am praying for those men you gave me, because they are yours. 10 All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And my glory is shown through these men. 11 Now I am coming to you. I will not stay in the world now. But these men are still in the world. Holy Father, keep them safe. Keep them safe by the power of your name (the name you gave me), so that they will be one, the same as you and I are one.
So today we hear stories of Jesus’ Ascension into Heaven, but what does that mean? What is an “ascension”? It is a fancy word for going up. We ascend the stairs to come up to Children’s Chapel, or we ascend in the elevator. But it can also mean something different. IF you just finished pre-school, you are ascending to First grade, or if you were a senior in high school you might be ascending to college. You are going up, in a different kind of way. I think it is important to think about the different kinds of up there could be here. Can you think of any? (take suggestions)
Those are all good examples, but today we are talking about one specific ascension, the Ascension of Jesus Christ. This is clearly one of the most important and miraculous occurrences in the whole of the Bible, but it is also, maybe, one of the hardest to understand what happened. In Acts we are told that, “as they were watching, he was lifted up. A cloud hid him from their sight. 10 As he was going, they were looking into the sky.” This could mean that Jesus was lifted up, in the direction, and flew away into the clouds, as is shown on the Byrd window downstairs. After all, Jesus is hid by a cloud and clouds are in the sky. But what if “up” means something else, what if “up” is not a direction but a location. What if the Apostles were looking at the sky because it was too hard/bright to look at the cloud and Jesus as he disappeared? I don’t know, and no one alive does, but that just means we can be as confused as the Apostles were. They spent years living with Jesus, listening to him teach, witnessing and performing miracles and at the end they still did not understand what was really going on. “Lord, are you at this time going to give the kingdom back to Israel?” they asked. They were still focused on the earthly kingdoms and what was going to happen here. Jesus doesn’t even really give them an answer, but tells the Apostles to not worry about it, it wasn’t for them to know, but “You will be my witnesses—in Jerusalem, in all of Judea, in Samaria, and in every part of the world.”
Jesus knew that the Apostles still had more to learn to understand, and he prayed about it. “I pray for them now. I am not praying for the people in the world. But I am praying for those men you gave me, because they are yours. But these men are still in the world. Holy Father, keep them safe. Keep them safe by the power of your name (the name you gave me), so that they will be one, the same as you and I are one.“ Jesus knew that the Apostles were “still in the world” both in body and mind. They were asking about the kingdom of Israel as Jesus was returning to the Father, instead of focusing on the true Kingdom, eternal life in God. While we can think that means a physical life on earth that never ends, it is not quite what Jesus describes. “And this is eternal life: that men can know you, the only true God, and that men can know Jesus Christ, the One you sent.” We are left to think about these mysteries and wonder about the clues. Does “up” mean “up” (pointing up) or does it mean “up” (gesture hands all around)? Is eternal life simply immortality of our bodies, or is it a greater life in God? We are in the world, just as the Apostles were, but we can understand that and focus not on the things that happen to us here, both good and bad, but “be humble under God’s powerful hand. Then he will lift you up when the right time comes.”