Advent 2018: Ascension
And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. (Acts 1:9)
We were breathless by the time we reached the peak of Mount Olivet. Jesus scanned the landscape unfold- ing before us, a curious look of nostalgia crossing his face. Seeing him stand there was still surreal to me. We watched with wonder as he ate and walked and gestured as he talked, nothing betraying the past horrors except the ugly scars on his wrists. At times, the bloody nails and rasping breaths would return to me in a painful flashback. But I would brush it off, draw- ing near to him again and reaching out for a reassuring touch.
Over a month had passed since he first appeared among us as a ghost. At first, we were shocked, then joyful, then curious. Now we felt restless. “What’s next?” None of us dared rush him, but we couldn’t help but wonder if Israel would at last be freed from its oppressors. Surely Rome would fall in the presence of God’s son, the defeater of death.
We looked at him now, expectantly. Why had he brought us here? He examined each of our faces in his peculiar way, making us feel totally exposed yet completely safe. The bravest of us asked the question itching in our minds. If we weren’t sure before, his answer convinced us then that he truly was our Jesus. We never could predict that man.
Caesar would have surrendered in a moment. All would have been set right with a single word, just as he had calmed the stormy sea all those months ago. But instead he abandoned us on the earth, with nothing but a promise. He rose before our eyes, I blinked, and all that remained was clouds against the stark blue sky. I couldn’t tell you how long I stood standing there, staring up, feeling empty as air.
“He’s coming back, you know.” My neck popped as I lowered my gaze to the two angels observing us with quizzical expressions, no doubt perplexed by our human small-mindedness. The frank statement made me wonder for a desperate moment if I had dreamt it all and was finally coming to my senses. But I looked around at my companions and they were all as bewildered as I was.
In that moment, we had a choice to make. Either steel ourselves to fight our own battles, losing our friend for the second time. Or to hope in Jesus, our mysterious Messiah, and wait for the Holy Spirit he promised.
We were quiet on the walk back to Jerusalem. Over and over in my mind, I reviewed the wonderful things this Jesus of Nazareth had said and done. As we passed through the thick city gates, we made our decision: to wait and hope and pray in preparation of his promise.