After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
The One who holds the stars in space and watches over fish in the deep does nothing without a purpose.
Sometimes, we wonder why he does some of the things in certain ways. Sometimes, we don’t even notice what he is doing.
Questions come to our mind about the appearances of Jesus after Easter. We might wonder why he did not suddenly appear before the Jewish leaders who had denounced him.
Would it not have been a shock for Pilate to see Jesus appear before him to say, “Why didn’t you listen to your wife?” We wonder how the policies of the Roman government might have changed if their own governor reported that Jesus of Nazareth was able to overcome death?
We do learn that Jesus did appear to many following his resurrection. But he did so only to those who had already believed he had come from God as the Messiah.
We wonder why.
We learn that he had not come to earth merely to impress humans, surely not to entertain them. He was careful where and how he worked his miracles. There was a purpose behind his every action.
The apostle John tells us, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
“We have seen his glory…”
The apostle Peter makes the same claim. “We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty” (2 Peter 1:16).
“We were eyewitnesses…”
The very early followers of Jesus did not have the New Testament to refer to. The news of life in Jesus spread by word of mouth.
But some mouths carried false rumors. Purposely misleading stories began when the soldiers were bribed to say that someone had stolen the body of Jesus. He did not rise from the dead.
If Jesus was not there to correct them, enemies could lie about what Jesus said and did.
Eyewitnesses, however, changed things.
These were people who had heard the angels and seen the empty grave. Two others had talked and walked with him on the way to Emmaus. His disciples had watched him eat and drink. They observed Thomas placing his finger into holes in the hands and side of the resurrected Jesus.
They were eyewitnesses of his victory over death.
Then, they watched him as he ascended.
To the question, “Whatever happened to Jesus of Nazareth?” they could answer: “We saw him leave for heaven.”
Jesus did not need to spend time to travel over the distance from the earth to heaven. In a flash, he would be back home.
But he didn’t leave the earth in a blink of an eye. He slowly lifted off from this planet so that everyone present could see him do that with their own eyes. Had a satellite been circling the earth at that time, it could have recorded his ascension until the moment when he shifted into something far greater than warp drive.
He had told them, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
They promptly began to spread the word. Some of them were inspired by Holy Spirit to write down what they saw. Even now, we can read their words in the book we call the Bible.
Eyewitnesses saw the life, death, resurrection, and the ascension of Jesus.
By the work of the Holy Spirit, we can now see what they saw then.
We do so in great wonder.
Prayer: Ascended Savior, through the inspired words of the disciples Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Saint John, we can see you show forth your glory upon the earth. The sight of your ascension lifts our eyes and our thoughts beyond the edge of this universe. Keep us in your sight until we can see you with our own eyes. Amen.
Written by Rev. Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Belle Plaine, Minnesota.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. Note: Scripture reading footnotes are clickable only in the web version.