There are some life passages that mark some people more than others. I remember graduating from High School, and the shivery sense of liberation at having completed my mandatory education. It lasted the whole day! The next day reality set in. I wanted to go to college and needed to earn the money necessary to make that happen. Therefore, a full-time, adult type of job was required. Once hired, the set-in-stone, work schedule came as a shock, only softened by the promise of a paycheck. The next shock was the scandalous amount that was deducted from that paycheck in the form of taxes! Following that shock was the adolescent behavior of the people in the accounting office where I worked! It rivaled the tomfoolery of High School! Imagine! Adults acting like kids! Who knew? The first day of school the next year felt surreal. I was working in an office and the new school year was starting – without me! Since then, of course, there have been many more unanticipated passages which have come in the form of shocks.
And speaking of shocks, can you picture standing with the disciples on the mountain top after Jesus was lifted up, disappearing through a cloud? This was a startling life passage for these poor guys! Jesus was really gone! They continued to stare at that cloud as if willing Jesus to come right back down to them (I’m sure I would have!). The chilling truth of all Jesus had warned them about now smacked them in the face. They were alone! No! Jesus had promised never to leave them, so they just felt alone. But it was a very, very strong feeling of being alone. Remaining mute with shock and fear and attempting to figure out what came next was their collective state of mind. That is, until they were shocked out of their shock by two angels (men in shining white) bluntly telling them to get on with the mission.
Now, can you imagine the conversation, once they had recovered speech, as they made their way back into the city? Wait in Jerusalem, Jesus had told them. But for how long? How would they know when they had received the promised gift? Did any of them feel prepared for whatever was next? It was all fine and dandy when Jesus was with them, always unflappable, always at peace, always able to move as if guided step by step, word by word. Had any of them gotten to the place where they could wait with patience, with joy, with confidence?
Was this day, this closing of the final curtain, the end of all ends, a blessing, or a trial? Would this be a safe period of waiting? Would they end up being arrested as co-conspirators with Jesus? Would their Galilean accents give them away? Would the Kingdom Jesus had conferred on them be a cause for rejoicing, or would it prove to be a mill stone around their necks? Once back in the room where they were staying, the silence was oppressive. After a long time, one of them spoke quietly the thought on everyone’s mind: “I can’t believe he really left us.” The floodgates were opened and now everyone began to express their fears, their disbelief, all the questions they still had . . . PD
*Today is Ascension Day in churches around the world.