I can’t imagine what it must have been like for the apostles in Acts 1:9. Jesus had been killed and it seemed their lives were over. But on the third day, He returned from the grave. Now, forty days later, He leaves again. Certainly, it is a more glorious departure. But it is a departure nonetheless. Despite Jesus having told them He was going, I can’t help but think the apostles felt a little bit lost, thinking Jesus surely had meant something else. But now He’s gone.
For some time, they simply stood there looking into heaven. It is almost as if they expected Jesus to come right back down. They stood long enough God sent two messengers to get them moving. In Acts 1:11, they said, “Men of Galilee, 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” (ESV).
I can’t help but see a point from this that fits with this time of year. The sense I get from this picture is of the apostles longing for the past. They wanted Jesus back. They had no sense of looking to the future and what God had planned for them in the service of Jesus. The angelic messengers gave them the prod they needed to look ahead.
We need that same prod. As we approach a new year, many of us will examine our past and look ahead at our future. For some of us, however, the past is so overwhelming we can’t take our eyes off of it.
For the apostles, the point seemed to be that they couldn’t imagine moving forward without Jesus being right there. For us, it is different issues. Perhaps we did something great this year and we can’t get our minds off of it to move ahead and do even more in Christ’s service. On the other hand, perhaps we did something awful. We can’t get past how bad we’ve been to recognize Jesus has plans for us anyway.
In any case, we need to be reminded Jesus is returning. We don’t know when. It may well be in 2009. That being the case, instead of standing around with our heads in the clouds trying to recapture or fix the past, we need to look ahead.
When the angels prompted the apostles, they did what Jesus had told them in Luke 24:49. They went into the city and waited to be clothed with power. When we receive this prompting, we also need to look ahead and get ready for Jesus’ return by doing what He told us.
It’s good to learn from our past. It’s good to remember the past. But let’s not get stuck there. Jesus is returning. Let’s get in His word and get ready.