I need reminders. I’d guess some of you – many of you? – can relate. It seems as if one of the effects of sin is that it’s messed up our ability to remember properly.
For example, it seems to be really easy to forget about blessings God’s given to us. By contrast, we seem to be really good at remembering challenges which we have. Similarly, it seems like we can often forget about sins which we commit against others, particularly if that sin doesn’t seem – to our mind – to be that serious. By contrast, we seem to be really good at remembering sins which other people have committed against us. Our memory: sin has messed it up.
And of course, the God who knows all things knows us, and knows that we need reminders. We need reminders of his love, his blessings, his truths, etc. Perhaps we need those reminders even more when times are challenging.
For the disciples, life was about to get lots more challenging. The disciples were going to see people beaten, imprisoned, put to death. They were going to witness families being torn into two. For what “crime?” For believing in Jesus! The disciples themselves were going to feel the whip, were going to taste imprisonment, were going to die martyrs’ deaths.
So what do you think? As these things were going on, do you think it was easy to remember that God was blessing them? Do you think they might have appreciated/needed a reminder? Oh, I’m guessing!
Jesus’ ascension is a powerful reminder! Remember, Jesus ascending to heaven is the last sight which the disciples have of Jesus. In other words, this was the “picture” of Jesus that was going to stick in their minds, for we humans tend to remember people the way they looked the last time we saw them. So what’s the last sight which the disciples get of Jesus? Let’s walk it through.
First, Jesus takes them up onto the Mount of Olives, so that they can see the city of Jerusalem laid out below them. From there you can see the Garden of Gethsemane, the area where the upper room was located, Caiaphas’ palace, etc. Perhaps most valuably, you can see Mt. Calvary and the empty tomb. For a believer, these are the places!
Then, Jesus lifts up his hands to bless them. As he does so, what could the disciples see? Of course! The nail marks! Then, as Jesus was blessing them, he was powerfully taken up into the sky and a cloud came and covered him. He never stopped blessing them. And, he hadn’t really left; they just couldn’t see him with their physical eyes because of that cloud covering him.
Wow! What sights! And yes, this was the last sight they had of Jesus, the sight which would most likely stick in their minds.
Imagine how this would have helped the disciples! When their consciences were bothering them, how valuable to “see” those hands of Jesus, to “see” those nail marks, to “see” the place where Jesus had died and risen.
When they’re wondering if God really loved them, how valuable to “see” those glorious scars on his hands, to “see” the Garden of Gethsemane, the palace. If Jesus was willing to be taken captive, was willing to endure that crazy trial, was willing to walk to the cross and die, could there be any possible doubt as to whether Jesus loved them? No way!
When the disciples were down, discouraged, how valuable to see those hands upraised, in blessing! How valuable to know that those hands never came down, but remained up!
When the disciples were feeling weak, how valuable to see the risen Jesus powerfully ascending into the sky! When the disciples were feeling alone, how valuable to see the cloud covering Jesus, reminding them that Jesus hadn’t really left. What powerful reminders this “sight” gave to the disciples!
Dear pastor, those reminders are for you and me, too. Feeling alone? See that cloud cover Jesus. No, you can’t see him, but he’s right there, with you, always. Feeling weak? See Jesus powerfully rise up off the ground and go up into the sky! Feeling horrible about some sin(s) committed? See those nail marks, see the places where Jesus suffered, and be assured – your sins are forgiven, in full, completely! Feeling frustrated or nervous? See those hands of Jesus, raised in blessing, and be reminded that God really is ruling all things for your benefit. Wow! What reminders!
I can’t speak for you, but those are exactly the reminders which I need!