13 May 2010

Acts 1:1-11

"When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight." (v.9)


The Acts of the Apostles is a sequel to Luke's Gospel and both books are dedicated to Theophilus (Luke 1:3Acts 1:1), which is a Greek name meaning 'lover of God'. It is not known whether Luke was addressing his work to one specific historical person or simply using this name to embrace in both a personal and generic way all those who love God.

Luke begins his second volume at the point where his first volume had ended - the ascension of Jesus (Luke 24:50-53). After his resurrection, Jesus remained on the earth for a further 40 days before ascending into heaven. The ascension is a transition point - marking the end of Jesus' earthly ministry and the beginning of the acts of the Apostles.

In this passage we see that before finally departing from his disciples Jesus reminds them about the promise of the Holy Spirit which will come upon them "not many days from now". In fact, the disciples have to wait 10 more days until they are filled with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4).

Unlike the resurrection - when there are no recorded witnesses to the actual moment when Jesus rose from the dead - Jesus ascended into heaven "as they were watching". Even after the cloud has hidden him from their sight, the disciples are still staring into the sky and two men in white robes ask them why they are doing this. This echoes the two men in dazzling clothes who ask the women at the tomb on Easter morning, "Why do you look for the living among the dead?" (Luke 24:5). In both cases, these stunned friends of Jesus are brought back down to earth with a bump and find themselves facing the reality of the present in the light of a new vision of the future.

To Ponder

How do you think the disciples felt as they watched Jesus depart from their sight? What experience do you have of saying goodbye to someone you love?

To what extent are you and/or your church too heavenly minded to be of any earthly use?

When have you been brought back down to earth with a bump?

Bible notes author

The Revd Nicola Vidamour

Nicola is a Methodist minister, currently serving two churches in East Ham, London. Before taking up this appointment, Nicola spent six years as the associate pastor of Pskov United Methodist Church in Russia.