They stood there, looking up into the heavens to see where He was going. Up He went to the right hand of God, His Father and now our Father.
Have you ever looked up into the starry sky? Maybe even squinting your eyes to see as far as you could. As a little child – everything seemed so far, far away. Still does. And your imagination filled with wonder. Perhaps you own a telescope to look even farther at the mysteries of space, the magnificent stars and planets. Large objects, that could never fit on this earth. Too large even to comprehend. Though many have tried.
Our telescopes and equations conclude the universe is expanding, and then Einstein said perhaps it is like a rubber band and beginning to retract.
We spend billions of dollars to look up. To look out. Some searching for life. Others hope?
We have been looking up for some time. Looking for God or gods. Looking for meaning, the beginning, the ending.
But looking up is not just a scientific enterprise.
Eve was a theologian of the simplest kind. She looked at herself – she looked up at God, then she looked at the forbidden fruit. So she could ascend where God was.
The politicians and engineers thought the same thing as Moses tells us in Genesis. Let us make a tower to go up – up to God. Let us make a name for ourselves.
For millennia we have looked up for God. Messiahs telling us – to look up. To reach upward. To reach God or godliness.
Religions instructing faithful Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, etc. to go up. To climb up. To pay it forward. To do things that bring you up to God. To do good deeds. To earn merit like climbing a ladder. Helping others lifts your foot up to the next step. Disobedience takes your foot back down. Some become quite satisfied, thinking they are getting closer to heaven, nirvana, God.
Others become frustrated – forget it all. I can never get up there. Who cares! What’s the point? It’s impossible. I’m doomed anyway. This is just a cruel joke – God and His impossible ladder.
Does that describe your spiritual life? Going up? Are you currently under the illusion that you have ascended quite a distance? Are you tired of sliding back down? Tired of the whole ladder thing? Tired of looking up to God who so often seems so very far away?
So here are our saints – looking up. As Jesus ascended. Perhaps thinking, we would like to go up too.
And they couldn’t see Him anymore as the clouds moved to hide Him.
And two men dressed in white robes suddenly stood beside them as their eyes were fixed, looking up. And they said, “Men of Galilee – (what a disappointing reference – men of Galilee – hadn’t they earned a greater title than that?) Why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus who was taken up from you into heaven will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven. Then they returned to Jerusalem.
Looking down, I suppose.
Walking on the ground, on the dirt and dusty road, back to the others.
It was for our Lord to ascend – to return to His Father and our Father. It was for Him to capture our flesh in His divine person – forever mingled.
And with Him we are forever in the Holy Trinity.
We don’t need to climb.
It is ours now to enjoy being human! To rest in the forgiveness of our sins and the hope of the resurrection!
Brothers and sisters in Christ, don’t worry about going up! Up ladders of good deeds. Up impossible stairs to God.
Come to me all you who are weary and I will give you rest!
We have rest in Christ. We don’t need to labor to see God.
God has COME DOWN TO US!
And rescued us, not to be divine beings up there, but to be truly human as he intended DOWN HERE!
Freed from sin, freed from fear.
And so it is the work given us to do – to be down here. To hang out with people down here.
People who are tired of climbing the ladder. People who have given up on climbing the ladder. People looking for ways to escape themselves, like Eve. People working in vain building towers to heaven.
As Paul Simon says in The Boxer: Laying low, seeking out the poorer quarters where the ragged people go, looking for the places only they would know…
Through the Church, through you and me, Jesus is still descending into people’s lives washing them in the cool waters of baptism and feeding them with the bread of life, the body and blood of the Lamb, of God himself.
Telling them, you don’t have to look up anymore!
He has come down, and made us right with God.
And He is coming down again. Not to take us up with Him, but to recreate the heavens and the earth. Even raising our bodies from the dead to live here. Without sin, death, or the devil. Amen!