In Acts 1, Jesus told His disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. He reminded them of their mission (verse 8) and then the disciples saw something indescribable: Jesus ascending to heaven.
He had already been crucified and resurrected and lived on the earth another 40 days to speak about the kingdom of God (Acts 1:3). But the ascension of Jesus to heaven was more glorious than any bride’s first appearance before walking down an aisle.
The disciples just stand there gazing into heaven. I’m convinced that they were experiencing the glorious presence of God in a paralyzing way. “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, ESV)
God’s presence has been symbolized by a cloud before—
“And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people.” (Exodus 13:21–22, ESV)
“And when the priests came out of the Holy Place, a cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord.” (1 Kings 8:10–11, ESV)
“Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.” (1 Thessalonians 4:17, ESV)
We probably would have been staring too.
Then in verse 11, two men in white clothes suddenly appear to the disciples and say “. . .why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” In other words, Jesus will return the same way you see Him going now. Don’t worry about Him coming back. Instead, be occupied with what He told you to do.
As they are marveling at Jesus and His glory, these two angels had to redirect their mission. They were gazing at the King, all while forgetting that they were to be building up the kingdom.
Some Christians spend all their time gazing into heaven while the world around them is going to hell.
Don’t misunderstand—it’s a good thing to gaze into heaven. “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” (Colossians 3:2, ESV) It’s a good thing to be occupied with the glory of God and give Him praise for who He is.
But God’s glory should motivate us to God’s mission.
Abraham understood this. Just by hearing the glory in God’s voice alone give him instruction, he left every comfort to follow God.
Moses understood this. The glory found in the burning bush moved him past his insufficiencies.
Nehemiah understood this. Seeing the wall of his city torn down and desiring to see the glory of God to be seen in his city again, He went through the pain of organizing the people and rebuilding the wall.
Isaiah understood this. When he saw the glory of God fill the temple, He said “Here I Am” without knowing any details.
Jesus understood this. He humbled Himself to come to this earth to take the sin of the world on himself and reconcile sinners to God for God’s glory to continually be revealed on this earth.
The temptation for many Christians is to stand and gaze into heaven and forget our mission in this world.
We can be great at gazing into heaven: attending worship services, reading our Bibles, singing praises, praying for people, reading Christian books. But God’s glory should motivate us to God’s mission.
Yes, gaze upon his beauty and glory, and go be his witness. How can you gaze and go this week?