June is the month in which we celebrate the Ascension of Jesus back to our Father’s right hand in the kingdom of heaven and then Pentecost, the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise to send his Holy Spirit. Actually, Ascension Day is May 29th this year, but very few churches have an Ascension Day service in this day and age so we’ll hold our celebration on Sunday June the 1st. Before physically leaving this earth Jesus told his disciples to wait, just for a little while, before launching into the ministry that He commanded them to carry on. He tells them to wait in the city, Jerusalem, until the power from heaven, the Spirit of God himself, comes upon them and remains with them. He didn’t say when that would be, but it didn’t take long. Just ten days later, during the Jewish feast of Pentecost (the Feast of Weeks) that promise is fulfilled in the familiar rushing wind and tongues of fire. In essence, Jesus says, “wait a minute, until I equip you to move out.
On the day of his ascension Jesus took his team just outside the city of Jerusalem, to the Mount of Olives, renewed his promise, and gave them their orders. “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.” (Acts 1:8) He then was taken up into heaven, ascending through the clouds. There they all stood, looking straight up with their jaws agape and tongues hanging out wondering, “What are we supposed to do now?” It ends up that they did what they were told, they went back into Jerusalem and waited, for just a short time.
These followers of the Savior received another promise on the mountain that day. ‘And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and 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.”’ (Acts 1:10-11) This pronouncement has touched off another period of waiting in the Church, this time for much longer than the figurative minute that the earlier promise had taken to be kept. We’re now approaching 2000 years of waiting.
We’re waiting, waiting for Jesus to return, waiting for Jesus to take us to be with him in heaven. But this waiting is not like the waiting in a doctor’s or dentist’s office; sitting there and doing nothing. No, our waiting is to be active participation in the ongoing work of Jesus. Jesus won the war for us, the war against the powers of sin, death and the devil. That’s what Holy Week and Easter are all about, victory! No, our waiting involves active participation in the ongoing work of Jesus, proclaiming that victory, along with the spoils that go with it, to all the world. Jesus has called us, has called you, to be a witness to all that He has accomplished, and that witness is to extend to all the world. To the first disciples He stated that the work was to begin in Jerusalem, where they were hanging out at the time. It was then to expand outward to the nation around them, to the neighboring nations (even their enemies), and then to all points beyond. That’s the same calling that we modern day disciples have, to be witnesses; first in the places that we’re hanging out, then to the nation around us, neighboring nations and everywhere beyond.
That sounds like a lot of work. It sounds like it because it is! Its work that all of us are to be engaged in, all of us who are eagerly waiting for Christ to return. There is something for all of us to do, no matter how old and tired we might think we are. Keep in mind that retirement is not a Biblical concept. Noah built an ark at nearly 600 years old. Moses worked up until the day he died at 120 years old. And Jesus, yes Jesus, worked for us right up to his death. Then three days later got up and went back to work again. As we wait we are to be active; be doing, be giving, be praying, be loving and be witnesses. And as we do all of these things we have the power, the energy and the strength through the life giving presence of the same Holy Spirit that empowered the first disciples and energized their turning the world upside down with the Gospel. The urgency comes in that we don’t have another minute to wait. Jesus may return at any time, and those who are still in darkness will be lost forever, shut out of the kingdom and subject to the punishment of hell. God doesn’t want that to happen to anyone, and neither do we.