Life Notes—June 2, 2011
“When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.” Acts 1:9
Jesus has been betrayed, crucified, buried and resurrected. He returned to his disciples in some sort of body/spirit mix for a number of days prior to his ascension into heaven. In the passage above he is spending his final post-resurrection moments with his disciples, talking about the future and the Holy Spirit. When he is finished, in the presence of his disciples, he is lifted up to heaven in a cloud. Talk about dramatic exits.
The imagery of this passage presents a major dilemma to me. I do not find it difficult to believe Jesus was capable of being lifted into the sky by a cloud until he was out of the sight of his disciples on the ground. I believe God is fully capable of any sort of strange occurrence that God finds useful. My problem is this: when Jesus ascended up into the sky, where did he go? I’ve watched enough space shuttle lift-offs to know there’s nothing up there but satellites and space debris, at least not for a very long way. I have difficultly believing heaven is actually “up there” somewhere, as is often referenced. Heaven is also referred to as being “within,” as if it were somewhere inside our bodies. I’ve seen enough x-rays and worked around enough cadavers to know there’s nothing heaven-like in there, either. So, my problem is not in believing Jesus was lifted up; my question is where he was lifted to—outer space? Saturn? Another solar system?
The image I have of the stairway to heaven does not go up; it sort of goes through. I picture something like an ethereal doorway that opens to another dimension at our death and we are there—which is also here. Can I prove it? Of course not; at least not yet. But if we are to believe God and Jesus and all the saints who have gone before us are nearby, then they cannot be off in outer space, can they? I believe with certainty they surround us at all times. It is only the limitations of our earthly existence that prevent our direct awareness of them. So, when Jesus is said to have ascended on a cloud to heaven, did it really happen as described? Or was that simply the most logical way the writer of Acts could describe the event? One day we will know with certainty, when we travel that stairway (or doorway) to heaven. And if the stairway to heaven is a cloud lifting me into outer space, I will just smile at my error, wave and enjoy the view. After all, I’m looking forward to heaven, regardless of how I get there…
Tom’s sermon downtown this Sunday is titled, “He Ascended Into Heaven,” based on Acts 1:1-11. Life worship is at 9:40 in Brady Hall. Traditional worship is at 8:30 and 11:00 in the sanctuary. Mitch’s sermon at the west campus is “Head of the Class,” based on Acts 1:12-26. Contemporary worship at the west campus is at 9:00 and 11:00.
Come home to church this Sunday. How you arrive is up to you!
Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator