Acts 1:10 While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. 11 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.”
Jesus had just told his followers that they would be his witnesses around the world. They had been commissioned to go and make a difference but now, suddenly, Jesus was taken up into heaven from right there in their midst. They were absolutely stunned, and so we find them staring up into heaven. They are stargazing, looking for something…and there may have been something improper about their response. Just imagine what they were thinking:
1) He didn’t restore the kingdom to Israel.
2) If we keep looking we’ll be able to see him.
3) We need him back here with us.
John Stott writes: "There was something fundamentally anomalous about their gazing up into the sky when they had been commissioned to go to the ends of the earth... Their calling was to be witnesses not stargazers" (The Message of Acts [IVP, 1990], p. 51). The duty was not to stand by in idleness staring at heaven and hoping for Jesus’ return. The apostles had great work to do and they needed to get out and do it. The angels spoke words of truth, helping them refocus their attention, shifting from stargazers to witnesses.
The early leaders in Christianity spoke in strong words about this passage of Scripture. God’s followers were to be engaged in his work in the kingdom here on earth. One was not to waste their time trying to discern when Christ might return again. This was considered stargazing.
Let’s be honest, there’s been a lot of stargazing going on. We like to stand and look up into heaven and wonder when Jesus will be coming back. In the meantime there is work that needs to be done in the kingdom. We are called to be witnesses to what God is doing in this world. There are more and more people every single day who need to know about Jesus. People are leaving Christianity in droves and it just might be because we became too engaged in stargazing and not enough in going to Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria and the ends of the earth.
Jesus had to leave so that the Holy Spirit could come. This empowerment of the Holy Spirit transformed the lives of those simple witnesses into powerful voices in the kingdom. God needs powerful Spirit-filled voices witnessing in the kingdom today. We, too, must respond to the challenge of the men in white robes, “Why do you stand looking up toward heaven?” It’s not the time to be a stargazer.
Lord, please help me be your faithful witness today. Amen.