The One Who Goes Up, Will Come Down
1. Recognize the context: Historical and literary Context-
As the sequel to the book of Luke, Acts is addressed to the same recipient, Theophilus. Luke continued the story of Jesus after the resurrection.
Jesus appeared to his disciples on various occasions over 40 days. In Acts 1, we have Jesus' final gathering with the disciples before his ascension or return to heaven.
Jesus instructed them to go to Jerusalem and wait for the promised gift of the Holy Spirit. The disciples asked him about the restoration of the kingdom to Israel. Instead of answering questions concerning God’s timing, Jesus redirected the discussion to the power from the Holy Spirit to be witnesses beyond geographic and ethnic boundaries.
2. Read the Scripture: Acts 1:9-11
9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. 10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 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."
3. Reflect on the Scripture:
After Jesus promised power from the Holy Spirit to be his witnesses, he was taken up to heaven right before their very eyes. His disciples witnessed his resurrection, and now they witnessed his ascension.
In verse 9, the mention of a cloud obscuring their vision of him most likely refers to God’s glory, which was a common theme in the Old Testament (Ex. 16:10, Ps. 104:3). This image is supported by the sudden presence of two angelic beings (men in white) with them (Luke 24:4).
Again, we notice the presence of two as witnesses for Jesus. For Luke, this imagery of two witnesses was essential since, in Jewish law, two people were needed to provide witness (Deut. 19:15). In Luke, two witnesses gave testimony concerning the Messiah at the start of his Gospel (Simeon and Anna, Luke 2:25-38). Two angelic beings gave witness to the resurrection before the women at the tomb (Luke 24:4). Finally, two disciples gave witness to Jesus after the resurrection on the way to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35).
Here, the two angels offered a minor rebuke with their question, “why do you stand here looking into the sky?” Then they give witness and offer reassurance to the disciples that Jesus would return from heaven the same way he departed.
4. Relate to life:
Remember, it is important to be a doer of God’s Word, not merely a hearer or reader (James 1:22-25). Here are some practical ways to actively respond to God’s Word. Consider these or create other ways you can apply the message.
Today, prayerfully reflect on the ascension of Jesus. Imagine what it would have been like to be present as a disciple. Consider all the vision language used in these three verses.
Thank God we have eyewitness accounts from those who shared what they saw.
Today, prayerfully consider the assurance we have of his return.
To do: (Actions with the Holy Spirit's help)
Given the prayer suggestions above, how do you need to respond today? Think about your attitudes, actions, and words. Think about your family, friends, church community, and co-workers. To whom can you share the good news and be a witness for Jesus?
To study: (Always make sure to read the immediate context of the given passage.)
Read and study the verses above.