The disciples were anxious, afraid and extremely sad as they watched Jesus whisked up to heaven. What would they do now?
He promised he wouldn’t leave them alone, that God would send the Holy Spirit. But how could this Spirit possibly replace Jesus? What could take the place of seeing his face, hearing his voice, or feeling his arm around their shoulders? How were they supposed to follow Jesus now?
We can relate to their dilemma. We go along in the Christian life experiencing God in a certain way. We find a rhythm that works. We know how to pray, how to live, where to go, and what to do. Then suddenly one day it stops working. Jesus seems to have left the building. And at a time when we need him most.
We pray harder, spend more time in scripture, and repent of everything we can think of. We may even read books or take a class, but nothing seems to rekindle the spiritual life we once had.
A disorienting darkness descends. When it persists, we may be tempted to give up on church, God and the whole darn thing.
After Christ ascended, the disciples kept looking up at the empty sky. Finally the angels shooed them away. Jesus would come again in glory at the end of time, but meanwhile, God had something new in store for them.
And God has something new in store for us as well.
Early on in his ministry, Jesus told a mystified Pharisee, “You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ ”
When we find ourselves in the dark, perhaps we’re in a birth canal. Maybe God is about to deliver us into a whole new way of being. Once the disciples stopped looking back to what they had and looked forward to Christ’s coming anew, some pretty exciting stuff happened.
“Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised,
which you have heard me speak about. For John baptised with water,
but in a few days you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit.”
– Acts 1:4,5