Scripture

Acts 1:1-11

Jesus Taken Up Into Heaven

In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 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.”

After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

Reflection

The book of Acts begins with Jesus giving final instructions to his original followers then returning to heaven. He leaves the apostles filled with uncertainty and staring up into the sky. While they are struck with awe, two divine messengers appear and ask, “Why do you stand here looking into the sky?” I can imagine the stunned Apostles, startled by the heavenly messengers saying, “Huh? What? Oh yea, we have work to do. Where do we start? What’s next?” 

“What’s next?” It is a question we all should be asking, not just when something startling or profound happens, but every day. This simple question implies that there is something next, something more to do, some better version of ourselves or our circumstances waiting to be received.

Jesus gave his followers a clear mission in verse 8 of this passage. It probably seemed daunting to be “witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” It was probably easier to stare up at the sky than to know what to do next. But there was a mission, a momentous one. And the early disciples could not be paralyzed by fear or uncertainty. They needed to move forward with the most important mission ever given. So they began to ask themselves, “What do we do now?” And then they began to take the next steps.

Everyone has a “next step.” No matter your age, experience, years as a follower of Christ, time in the church, everyone has a next step on their journey toward Christ. We are all a work-in-progress, “moving on toward perfection,” as John Wesley would say. So instead of wandering aimlessly, each of us must awaken ourselves again to God’s preferred vision for our future by asking this powerful question, “What’s next?”  

Prayer

God of creation and spirit, guide me on this journey toward the mind and likeness of Christ. Open my soul to recognize my need for growth and show me the steps to take. Give me peace as I move forward and remind me to find joy in each moment. You are my rock and my redeemer. You provide both comfort and challenge. Thank you, Lord. Amen.