Short Meditations on the Ascension: 14. Explanation
Acts 1:11 “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.”
These accounts of Luke in his Gospel and then in the Acts have four parts: there is first the teaching that Jesus brings to his disciples to prepare them for the days ahead, then there is the ascension itself, then this explanation and finally the ongoing activity of the disciples.
The ascension has happened, Jesus has gone and the disciples are still standing there, possibly open-mouthed, still staring at the sky, when there comes this sudden angelic visitation to bring them back to earth.
Look at what they speak: “Men of Galilee.” i.e. we know who you are and why you are here. In those words they remind them not only of their origins but where most of the action had taken place for the last three years, action they are now going to have to continue.
“Why do you stand here looking into the sky?” Don’t be daft, it’s obvious, we’ve just seen the Master go up there. Hold on, you miss the point. He told you what you’ve got to do so why are you standing around. Yes, it’s happened, he’s gone, now go and do what he told you to do. That’s what disciples do – what the Master tells them to do!
“This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven.” Yes, we know all about what has just happened, we’ve been watching from heaven (implied perhaps?), we’ve seen the Son of God return home and it’s about him we need to talk to you. Are you listening?
“will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” This is highly significant. Do you see this? You saw him go up before your very eyes. He didn’t just disappear, he allowed you to witness his departure. Now, understand that he will come back in the ages to come and when he does it will be in exactly the same way – visibly so that those on the earth will be able to see him. The “Second Coming” will be a very visible event. Sometime in the future (see Rev 19) Jesus will return in power. He will not come in ordinary human form and so we need to remember his warnings about false Christs (Mt 24:44). People who simply talk the words are not him!
When he comes every eye will see him (Rev 1:7). Even as he ascended, so he will descend – but in great power! Jesus had said, “I will come back,” (Jn 14:3) and be seen (Mk 13:26, 14:62) and that message would be preached by the apostle Paul (1 Thess 1:10, 3:13, 4:16, 2 Thess 1:7, Phil 3:20, 1 Cor 11:26) as well as others (Heb 9:28). So disciples, be reassured, this is not the last time this world will see your Lord – he will come again!