II Kings 2:6-12, Acts 1:1-11
May 19, 2019
“What are we waiting for?” We usually think of that as an expression of urgency or desire to do something, or maybe even impatience. Or, it could even be excitement. Somebody might say, “Would you like to go, say, to the ball game?” And we might respond, “Yeah! What are we waiting for?!” “You’d better believe I would!” “Yeah, come on, let’s go!” Do you see? Have you used that expression?
That’s what I think about when I read this story. Here we find the disciples looking up into heaven. Jesus has just been miraculously been taken up from them, in the event we have come to know as “the Ascension.” Actually I’m jumping the gun a little on that event. Ascension usually takes place during the week sometime, being that it’s 40 days after Easter. That’s actually next Thursday! But I thought it was ok to talk about it a little earlier. (Does it even seem like 40 days after Easter to you?)
So, the disciples are looking up into the sky, where Jesus has just ascended, and I think one of the biggest parts of this story comes at that point. At the end of verse 11, there are these two men – two angels – standing by them, and they say, “This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come again in the same way as you saw him go.” Here, at the departure of Jesus from this earth, we hear the promise that Jesus will come again.
That’s what they would be waiting for. That’s what we have all been “waiting for” for the last 2,000 years! In all of the Church’s understanding about Jesus, about who he was and what he did – in all of that, all the way back to these very early days of the Church, there is this belief that Jesus will come again. That’s what we are waiting for!
The problem with that promise is that no time frame was given! It sure would have been easier if it had! Ever since that promise was given, people have been trying to figure out the big question, “When?” (Echo, echo, echo…)
What do you think about that! What do you think about the Second Coming of Christ? Some believe that day is not far off. They look at the news and think, “This must be the end times!” (I have to admit, I wonder about that!) Others think it’s something far off in the future, or that it won’t really happen. And of course, still others just don’t give it a thought. Where are you in all that?
In the early days of the church, the belief was that Jesus’ return was imminent! They believed the two angels at the Ascension meant that Jesus would return pretty much right away. Some were even thinking about that “earthly kingdom of Israel” thing! Maybe that’s how that was finally going to happen! Some even lived as though things of this life didn’t matter. They ceased being productive members of society. Because after all, Jesus was coming again soon. So none of the things of this life mattered!
But Jesus did not return very soon! And as the years stretched into decades and then centuries, people had to “rethink” that. And I think in that process, they began to think about it less and less. And yet here, at Jesus’ departure, is that promise!
There have been times when there’s been a resurgence in that thinking. Over the years, we’ve heard of people like Hal Lindsay, who have made their predictions of when Jesus would return. But, those predicted times have come and gone. (Hal Lindsay’s prediction was 1998, I believe.) Do you remember the “Left Behind” series? That was a dramatized series of stories about what might happen in the world when Jesus returns. They were interesting. But again, no one really knows when! Even Jesus said, it is not for us to know the time the Father has set – not even the Son!
Still, there have been those who are so anxiously awaiting the second coming that they didn’t give much consideration to things in this life – much like those early days. It has been said of some that they are “So heavenly minded they are no earthly good.” Maybe you’ve heard that expression before.
I think the saddest thing, though, is that many people just don’t give this a thought. They don’t think much at all about the promise of Jesus’ return, and when they do, they see it as an “inconvenience.” The love they have for this life is all consuming, and any thought of it ending, would not be welcome. There are people who are “so earthly minded that they are no heavenly good!” And I get that. I love this life! This is an amazing world God has given us, and I believe he wants us to enjoy it all.
But I think we need to find that middle ground! No matter how great we see this life as being, we need to consider the importance of that promise that Jesus will come again. We need to see how great a thing that is. Because I think most people don’t think of it as being great at all. Either they don’t like the idea of everything they know and love coming to an end, or they’re thinking of the dire predictions of the end times they know from scripture.
I think we need to consider, that it is possible to be excited, even to be anxious, for Jesus to come again. That’s what I want you to think about that today.
Again, this is the story of Jesus’ departure from this earth. And in that great event is this promise that I think we all must consider. Jesus will come again. What does that mean to you? The last words of the last book of the Bible, the book of Revelation are, “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely, I am coming soon.” Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20)
Those are the last words in the Bible! That’s an anxious, excited plea, for Jesus to come again! Is it possible for us to be that anxious for Jesus to return? Could we say, “Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!” “Let’s get the eternal kingdom started!” “What are we waiting for?!” We pray every week, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth…” Do we really mean that?
At the very least, I hope today I’ve given you reason to think about all that again. I believe we should be thinking about it. And no, it’s not possible for us to know exactly when that day will be. But the idea is, to live as though it could be any day. The idea is to know we are part of God’s kingdom every day! To have him in our thoughts every day.
“He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely, I am coming soon.”
Eternal God, we thank you for the love you have for us. We thank you that you have sent your Son into our world and into our lives, and we thank you for the promise that he will come again. Help us to be mindful of that, and to be aware of your hand in our lives every day. For we pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.