I remember thinking when I was a child about what it would be like without my grandfather. While he lived in the city of St. Louis, he was constantly out at the farm in Beaufort. His work on the farm was never done, but he would often talk about the day when he wouldn’t be around anymore, and that it was best for me to learn what to do on the farm to continue to make it better than before. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like without him. He was always there.
In essence, this is the question that Luke is trying to answer for us in Acts chapter 1: What will life be like without Jesus? The disciples had a daily relationship with Him. They had witnessed His love for them and for others. They experienced His compassion for the poor and oppressed, the lepers and prostitutes, the up and coming, and the down and out. They watched His life and learned how to live, and they watched His death to learn how to die. Now they found themselves in a situation where the reality of His absence was going to impact their lives as much as His presence. What were they going to do without Him?
Jesus anticipated their fear and gave them hope for the future. In fact, things would be different, as they always are in every situation, but they were going to see dramatic things continue, maybe even greater than they had witnessed in Jesus’ presence. They were going to experience things they couldn’t even begin to imagine. How could anything be better than before with Jesus living with them?
I may be oversimplifying the situation, but it seems to me that I have learned more from my mentors in their absence than in their presence. In fact, absence is not the right word. I suppose we all have a collection of people who are now dead who influence our lives. They may be family, friends, teammates, professors, colleagues, teachers, or some other type of acquaintance. My point is that their influence on us after their deaths, carries, at times, far more weight than before they died.
My grandfather died on April 18th, 1988, just a little over 34 years ago. There aren’t many days that pass where his influence doesn’t have an impact on me. The reason for this is that we had a relationship. Relationships don’t end, they change. Often through their deaths, we are bonded to someone, in our memory, far more than in their living. In fact, it is their death that seals our living relationships. In the same way, it was Jesus’ life that was sealed by His death, resurrection, and now, His ascension which seals His life for us to be challenged and directed in our own lives as we live in our own worlds. Jesus is not here. He is ascended and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, waiting to return and bring final judgment to the world, both the good and the bad.
What are we going to do without him? Ignore him? Work for him? Follow him? It seems to me that we should struggle to find out what Jesus would do if He were living my life in my setting with my friends, family, and acquaintances with my strengths and abilities? Based on that information, how should I adjust my life to meet His example? Instead of looking into the sky, we, too, have things to do in the kingdom of God.
This Sunday, we will take a look at Jesus as He ascended into Heaven. Leaving His disciples behind, but not alone.
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