In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning  until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen.  After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.  While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. “This,” he said, “is what you have heard from me;  for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”  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.”
The feast of the Ascension comes 40 days after Easter and this year falls on May 30. It commemorates Jesus’ ascending into heaven following his resurrection. It also anticipates the feast of Pentecost which falls 50 days after Easter (June 9 this year), which celebrates the giving of the Holy Spirit to the apostles and all believers as Jesus says in v. 8.
Jesus makes the point to the disciples that his ascending into heaven isn’t the end of the story, but instead a transition into a new phase of God’s work in the world. Sometimes this is talked about in terms of “there was still work to be done” but what Jesus is preparing them for is much grander than a divinely given “to do list”. Perhaps a better way to view Jesus‘ words is as an exhortation that there is plenty of life to be lived—and it will be a new life in the power of the Holy Spirit. This life will include times of waiting and seeming inactivity, as evidenced by his instructions for them to wait in Jerusalem until the Spirit came. As well as seasons full of things to do and places to go as demonstrated by Jesus’ commission that the disciples would be his witnesses in Jerusalem, all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.
The feast of the Ascension reminds us that while circumstances and situations change, God is constantly with us, sometimes in ways we didn’t expect—to guide, direct, and empower us to live in the life we have been given in baptism. There are seasons of rest and waiting and seasons of action and activity. Some are called to stay in the same place and situation, while others are called and sent into new places and circumstances. Yet through it all, God is present and at work in and through His people.