10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes. 11 “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
They are stunned, these friends of Jesus. Gobsmacked. Flummoxed. They have been walking with the resurrected god-man Jesus, and now he’s gone. Up into the sky he goes, taken away in a cloud and leaving them behind.
And suddenly two men in white (angels, we presume) are standing there, saying, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven?” What a dumb question! What else could they do, but stand there in wonder? Where has he gone? Why has he gone? Will we ever see him again? Then comes this mysterious advice: “This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
It strikes me that this advice is spoken as much for you and me as for those who first heard it two thousand years ago. Metaphorically we stand there with them, wondering. These words seem even more poignant during this Advent season as we wonder at the mystery of the Lord Jesus coming to earth as a newborn baby. We wonder also at the mystery of his eventual return.
When the angels ask this question (perhaps sarcastically, if angels have a sense of humor, which I suspect they do), “Why are you standing there?” it seems they are really saying, “Don’t just stand there!” The point is this: he will come again, just as you saw him go, so don’t just stand there. You can’t just wait around. You have no idea when he’ll return, so get back to your business! Go fishing. Return to your work. Go back to school. Do whatever it is you do to build up the kingdom of God. Just do it.
God has given each of us some work to do, and our proper response is to prepare for his return by doing it in godliness and in witness to the Good News. Jesus is the resurrected Lord, and because he is alive, we know that our labor is not in vain. [1 Cor. 15:58]
© Bruce D. Baker, 2013