The Ascension of Jesus1
So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
Suffering as a Christian
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory, which is the Spirit of God, is resting on you.”
It makes a huge difference whether your Savior is standing right with you or not. We have some difficulty imagining just how the disciples felt when Jesus met them on that mountain one last time, gave them the Great Commission, and then disappeared into the heavens above them. Having been through the emotional rollercoaster of Holy Week, I suspect some were quite frustrated that, having not long receiver Jesus back from death, here they were losing him again. It wasn’t that they didn’t believe in the mission, it was that it made more sense when Jesus was there. Or at least they felt braver taking it on knowing Jesus had their backs.
Something else changed this moment as well …something absolutely fundamental to the faith. This moment changed the way we could determine who was inside and who was outside the faith.2 The subject was important enough to make it into Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount not just once, but twice3! You see, following Jesus teaching on insiders and outsiders was as simple as following His example when He was with them. How did you know who was considered part of the “in” crowd? It was whoever was physically close to Jesus. The disciples, the poor, the hurting always had front-row seats, while the Pharisees usually sat in the back and grumbled. Sure, their were moments during His arrest and crucifixion where the bad guys got closer, and perhaps that strange incident with the unnamed woman at the well in Samaria, but overall, Jesus tended to keep His friends closest to Him. Now that He was gone, how could they, and we, tell who was really part of the kingdom?
It is more than identifying who is different and who does not agree with us. It means discerning who does or does not follow Jesus. We look to real action, not just empty promises. We look for grace. We look for transformed lives. Where there are differences between us and Jesus, we seek understanding (although not always acceptance) and we look for ways to connect in Christ’s love and learn from one another. It is what Jesus did. He constantly brought the outsiders in. We ourselves were once outsiders, and sometimes we revert back to our outsider ways, but now we are His people.So what do we do with Outsiders? We learn to love them.
Who are the Outsiders in your life?
What are some heathy ways you can show Christ’s love to them today?