I have always been fascinated by two particular verses in the first chapter of the book of Acts. In Acts 1:10-11 (NLT) we read, “As they were straining their eyes to see him, two white-robed men suddenly stood there among them. They said, ‘Men of Galilee, why are you standing here staring at the sky? Jesus has been taken away from you into heaven. And someday, just as you saw him go, he will return!’” I can picture the disciples standing there looking off into space as Jesus ascends and suddenly is gone. I am sure many of us have had similar experiences where we saw something so awe-inspiring that we just couldn’t stop looking – even though the event may have ended. I think that our human desire is to preserve those moments, like when we take a photograph. Perhaps that is why so many today share their life events through pictures on social media. We want to preserve those moments and maybe even cling to them. Unfortunately, if we cling too hard, we can miss the world going on right in front of us. I think this was the temptation that those disciples faced on Ascension Day.
This wasn’t the only time they had struggled to move past the moment. Craig Keener, in his impressive four-volume commentary on the book of Acts, reminds us that this event in Acts has a strong parallel to Luke’s recounting of the empty tomb in Luke 24:6-7. Keener suggests that the angels ask the disciples why they are standing there staring at the sky because they should have believed what Jesus had already told them – they should have expected it. The disciples at the empty tomb also seemed frozen by the shock of the revelation that, “He is not here, but has risen.” They had heard Jesus say that this is what would happen, but when faced with the reality of the resurrection, it was challenging to get beyond the angel’s revelation. Similarly, at the ascension of Jesus, the disciples were in awe and perhaps shock. Jesus had left them. However, again they forgot the promise of Jesus – that he would send the Holy Spirit to empower the Kingdom work that he had called them to.
Perhaps as disciples today, like those early followers we also struggle to believe Jesus’ promises and to move past staring into the sky. Perhaps we have experienced God’s amazing grace, but rather than moving past that moment of initial salvation, we struggle to press on and work out our salvation in fear and trembling. Maybe we have experienced the transformational work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, but we find ourselves frozen. Perhaps we are staring at the sky, forgetting that while Jesus has promised to return, in the meantime he has promised the Holy Spirit who will propel us into mission in our everyday ordinary lives. Our world needs disciples who move beyond staring at the sky and embrace the promises of Jesus as we walk with him each day.
 Keener, Craig S. Acts: An Exegetical Commentary. Volume 1. 2012.
 Anon, 2016. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version, Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
Featured image courtesy Tim Hüfner on Unsplash.