Summary: A law of gravity is this: What comes up must come down! We see that this is true in our faith life as we look at the Acts reading of the Ascension of Jesus.
Do you know who this person is? This person has the world record for the most valuable and expensive tooth. In 2002, the person’s tooth was valued at $35,700. Albert Einstein kept a picture of this person on the wall in his study alongside of other famous scientists that he looked up to. At the turn of the millennium, a poll was conducted that ranked this person as the 2nd best physicist behind Albert Einstein. Other polls had him in the number one spot. Who is this person? It is Sir Isaac Newton, the famous mathematician, astronomer, and physicist. One of his claims to fame though is his work and study on gravity that produced this famous saying: “What goes up, must come down.” As we look at the Acts reading today, we see that this observation and saying is true.
The book of Acts is the sequel to the Gospel of Luke. Luke continues the story of Jesus and the Church with the Ascension. Before Jesus ascended back into Heaven, He appeared to His disciples and others over a period of 40 days speaking about the Kingdom of God. Jesus appeared to the women at the tomb. He appeared to two disciples on their way to Emmaus. He manifested Himself to the Apostles in a locked room, and then again a week later. Paul tells us that at one time that Jesus appeared to 500 believers at once. The disciples and other believers were witnesses of Christ’s ministry, death, resurrection, and these appearances. They had heard and seen the Risen Lord!
At the end of these 40 days, Jesus and His disciples were gathered on the Mount of Olives. As they are together, the disciples asked Him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” Poor Jesus. This is like a Basketball player asking at the last game of the season in the last half at the last play, “How do I play this game? What is offsides? What is traveling?” The disciples should have known better. They are still having a difficult time shaking off the notion that the Messiah would come to establish a spiritual kingdom rather than an earthly one. The Kingdom of God is not an earthly kingdom but it is where Christ rules and reigns in the heart of a believer. It is a spiritual kingdom.
So Jesus answers their question with some vagueness and a redirecting push. He says, “It is not for you to know times or season that the Father has fixed by His own authority.” Jesus tells them it is none of their business to know when He will return. They are not to busy and occupy themselves with this, especially since they cannot know it! In college, I saw a great example of this. When I was going back to school, I saw a billboard on I-94 that told the date of the end of the world with the Pastor who predicted it’s name and church on it. The man was convinced that he knew the date and wanted to tell the world. I think it is pretty obvious how accurate his prediction was. He should have focused on something else, on something that he did know.
Jesus does this with the disciples. He tells them, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Jesus has the disciples focus on the task at hand. He says that they are to be His witnesses. Witnesses tell what they have seen and what they have heard. They have the seen the life and ministry of the Lord. They have seen His sacrificial death and glorious resurrection. They are to go and tell the world about this.
The disciples are to tell this message in Jerusalem, the Jewish capital. Then they are to go to Judea, which is in Southern Palestine and outside of Jerusalem. Then they are to move up north to the Semi-Jewish Samaria, and then to the unbelieving world! You see a nice progression of geography and ethnicity, as they move from place to place. It is like throwing a rock in Lake Como on a calm day. When the rock hits the water, the impact ripples all throughout the lake and spreads. This is like the Gospel message going out into the world.
After Jesus finishes speaking to His disciples, He is taken from them and their sight. He is going up. Jesus enters a cloud, which is a symbol of God’s presence in the Old Testament, and He is officially gone from their sight. Jesus has gone to take His place at the Father’s right hand, which is a position of power. Paul explains the significance of this and the ascension in Ephesians 1:18-22. We will jump half way through this section, which is the second longest sentence in the New Testament. He writes, “having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which He has called you, what are the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His great might that he worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And He put all things under His feet and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.