Why Stand Ye Gazing?

Why Stand Ye Gazing?

“And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was departing, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them; and they also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky?” (Acts 1:9-11)

Recently I was asked to speak in a church on a Sunday morning. This church had taken several weeks to observe the biblical accounts leading up to Easter, or Resurrection Sunday, and continued on following the events that ensued after the empty tomb.

I was requested to speak on the ascension of Christ, which occurred forty days after His resurrection.

When my dear friend invited me to speak on this subject, I immediately began to weep. This may sound strange, but I felt I suddenly had a very clear perspective on how the disciples must have felt at that moment.

As you know, my wife Linda passed away on December 30 of last year. This has been, without a doubt, the toughest stretch of my life…ever! We were married for 54 years, we dated for five years before marriage, so we had known and loved each other for almost 60 years. A lifetime of loving relationship suddenly came to an abrupt halt!

Memories of the first date, the first time we held hands and the first kiss; memories of our wedding, starting life and ministry together, as well as memories of our first child, then our second child and eventually six grandchildren. A lifetime of wonderful memories of trips, adventures, friends and family, and the list goes on and on.

Then there were also the difficult moments throughout the journey; the initial cancer diagnosis in 1987 and subsequent challenges all along the way thereafter. Surgeries, chemo, scans, and medical protocols too numerous to mention defined so much of our life together. But these things only served to strengthen and grow our love and commitment to one another.

However, at 9:37am, December 30, 2023, when Linda passed from this life into the eternal presence of God, all earthly experience and memory making stopped for us.

As I began to live and experience life without Linda, especially in the first couple months, I would often think and say to myself (and others), “How can she just be gone?” It was so final! It was the realization that I would never again, in this life, see Linda.

This, I believe, is what the disciples are feeling at this moment as they witness their blessed Savior and friend being taken up out of their sight. Surely they must have thought, “How can He just be gone?”

Though Jesus and His disciples only walked and worked together for about three years, think of all the memories these followers of Jesus had accumulated.

They remembered His initial call and must have sometimes wondered at their immediate resolve to forsake all and follow this man from Galilee. Oh the miracles they witnessed: water into wine, blind eyes made to see, deaf ears to hear. The feeding of the four and five thousand must have been miracles that incited frequent conversation amongst the disciples. “How did He do that?”

Jesus raised the dead, cleansed lepers, walked on water, calmed nature’s fury, and as John stated at the conclusion of his gospel account, “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books which were written” (John 21:25).

But now, suddenly, taken up and away from them. “How can He just be gone?”
The disciples must have reflected on the teaching they had heard from the Master; at times having mysteries revealed to them, and only them.

They certainly had known sorrow and tragedy as this Savior, friend, and master was blasphemed, tortured, crucified, and buried.

Oh, but what joy to hear and see that the tomb was empty, and to literally see Him alive again on more than one occasion after witnessing His certain death. For forty days He appeared to His disciples after He was resurrected. Surely they must have begun

to wonder if perhaps He was back to stay awhile longer. But then, suddenly, after giving the apostles some final instructions, He is caught up in the clouds, and gone…just like that!
In this moment the disciples, and we, learn three very important things.

1. He ascends to the right hand of the Father where He began His intercessory prayer ministry. “When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high “ (Hebrews 1:3). “Christ Jesus is He who died, yes rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us” (Romans 8:34).

When you say amen, He still prays. When you lay your weary head down at night, having exhausted your vocabulary of prayer and you say, “In Jesus name, amen.” He still prays!

Not only this, but His Holy Spirit intercedes on our behalf as well, perfecting our inarticulate mumblings into beautiful petitions fit for the King’s ears. “For we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (Romans 8:26).

Charles Spurgeon said, “Groanings which cannot be uttered are often prayers which cannot be refused.”

2. Before He ascended, Jesus told His disciples, “John baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now” (Acts 1:5). “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

This is perhaps one of the most significant events in all of biblical history! Think how important and significant the presence of God was down through the history of God’s people.

The awesome fear of God’s presence on the mountain with Moses, the indescribable reverence and fear of God in the ark and tabernacle, and the smoke filling the temple as God’s presence descends upon and among His people. But now, this is something completely different, almost unfathomable. God is going to literally dwell within every true believer by His own Holy Spirit. The apostles and we believers will now have an intimacy with our creator unthinkable heretofore.

We will be indwelt by His Spirit, filled with His Spirit, baptized by His Spirit! We will be gifted, empowered, comforted and taught by His very own Spirit. When Jesus said, “It is to your advantage that I go away, but I will send another…the Holy Spirit”; little did the apostles or we ourselves comprehend the truth and power of that statement!

3. “And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was departing, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them; and they also said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven’” (Acts 1:9-11).

So here is the announcement of His coming back again. Paul gives a stunning description of what this will look like. “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord” (I Thessalonians 4:16-17).

What a body of information the disciples (and we) are given in the midst of this farewell departure called Christ’s ascension.

He and the Holy Spirit will be interceding for us continually. His literal presence will dwell within us by the person of the Holy Spirit. And…He’s going to come back to receive us unto Himself forever.

I can almost see the two angels dressed in white saying to the disciples, “Guys, what are you looking at? Why stand ye gazing? Did you hear what has been said?”

The disciples at that moment felt like they were witnessing some kind of ending, but in reality, it could be said, “And so it began!”

We…you and I, have the amazing perspective of biblical history and revelation. We have the understanding and experience of being indwelt by His Holy Spirit. We also are closer to His coming than any who have ever lived, and we see and feel the tension and excitement of His soon return. Thus, we should be most active, most passionate, and most abandoned to His will. We must discern the signs of the times in which we live!

The disciples moved from that point of Christ’s ascension to lives of total service and sacrifice for the cause of the kingdom and the name of Jesus, even to the giving of their lives. I don’t think they were ever asked again, nor should we be asked, “Why Stand Ye Gazing?”

In Christ,
Dallas Holm