One of the great evidences of the Christian faith is the empty tomb. Jesus died, but did not stay there very long. He arose defeating death and thus gave us hope that we would one day do the same.
But, he didn’t stick around for long. In forty short days he revealed himself to a small group of his followers, encouraging them to gather their strength and prepare for what was to come. Then one day, he said goodbye and rose into the clouds going back home to be with his Father.
While the empty tomb points to a man who never died, the fact that Jesus didn’t stick around for long tends to be a sticking point for those who doubt. How are we supposed to follow a leader we have never met? What does it look like to live as Jesus lived after he rose back to heaven?
I’m sure the early followers of Jesus were asking themselves the same questions. After three short years their lives had been turned upside-down and they had left everything to follow him. Now, he was gone and they had to live in light of that reality.
We live under the same circumstances today. Jesus is not walking among us. No one has laid eyes on him for over 2000 years.
We have talked a lot about how we live in light of the resurrection. But, the question for this week is this: how do we live in light of the ascension? Jesus rose back to heaven. But, we are still here.
Join us as we talk through these questions this week.
After saying all these things, Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son so he can give glory back to you. For you have given him authority over everyone. He gives eternal life to each one you have given him. And this is the way to have eternal life—to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth. I brought glory to you here on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. Now, Father, bring me into the glory we shared before the world began.
“I have revealed you to the ones you gave me from this world. They were always yours. You gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything I have is a gift from you, for I have passed on to them the message you gave me. They accepted it and know that I came from you, and they believe you sent me.
“My prayer is not for the world, but for those you have given me, because they belong to you. All who are mine belong to you, and you have given them to me, so they bring me glory. Now I am departing from the world; they are staying in this world, but I am coming to you. Holy Father, you have given me your name; now protect them by the power of your name so that they will be united just as we are.
So when the apostles were with Jesus, they kept asking him, “Lord, has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?”
He replied, “The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
After saying this, he was taken up into a cloud while they were watching, and they could no longer see him. As they strained to see him rising into heaven, two white-robed men suddenly stood among them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!”
Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, a distance of half a mile. When they arrived, they went to the upstairs room of the house where they were staying.
Here are the names of those who were present: Peter, John, James, Andrew, Philip, Thomas, Bartholomew, Matthew, James (son of Alphaeus), Simon (the Zealot), and Judas (son of James). They all met together and were constantly united in prayer, along with Mary the mother of Jesus, several other women, and the brothers of Jesus.
Rise up, O God, and scatter your enemies.
Let those who hate God run for their lives.
Blow them away like smoke.
Melt them like wax in a fire.
Let the wicked perish in the presence of God.
But let the godly rejoice.
Let them be glad in God’s presence.
Let them be filled with joy.
Sing praises to God and to his name!
Sing loud praises to him who rides the clouds.
His name is the Lord—
rejoice in his presence!
Father to the fatherless, defender of widows—
this is God, whose dwelling is holy.
God places the lonely in families;
he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy.
But he makes the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.
O God, when you led your people out from Egypt,
when you marched through the dry wasteland, Interlude
the earth trembled, and the heavens poured down rain
before you, the God of Sinai,
before God, the God of Israel.
You sent abundant rain, O God,
to refresh the weary land.
There your people finally settled,
and with a bountiful harvest, O God,
you provided for your needy people.
Sing to God, you kingdoms of the earth.
Sing praises to the Lord.
Sing to the one who rides across the ancient heavens,
his mighty voice thundering from the sky.
Tell everyone about God’s power.
His majesty shines down on Israel;
his strength is mighty in the heavens.
God is awesome in his sanctuary.
The God of Israel gives power and strength to his people.
Praise be to God!
1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11
Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world.
So be happy when you are insulted for being a Christian, for then the glorious Spirit of God rests upon you.
So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.
Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your Christian brothers and sisters all over the world are going through the same kind of suffering you are.
In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation. All power to him forever! Amen.
Holy Father, join with us this week as we walk through what it means to walk the earth without the physical presence of your Son. We believe, trust, and love you and know you had a reason to bring him back home. Our faith wains and our feelings betray us, but today let us remember that you are a God who never leaves. We love you.