The sky was blank. Empty. Clouds and the sun ... S-U-N ... that was all.
Do you blame the disciples for being dumbfounded? For just standing there, as described in Acts 1 in what we've come to call "the Ascension," staring into the sky?
Think of the emotional roller coaster those 11 guys had been on - the triumphal entry into Jerusalem where the people treated Jesus like a king and the disciples had to have thought "this is it: the moment we've been waiting on, the beginning of when Jesus sets things right!"
And of course it was the beginning of when Jesus set things right, but it wasn't "right" the way the disciples were expecting. Instead, they watched - afraid - as Jesus was killed. They hid afterward, not knowing what to do next.
Then Jesus re-appears to them, just as He said He would. They get time with Him again, and again, until at the beginning of Acts they ask, hopefully, "Now, do we get the kingdom?"
And Jesus does what? He disappears. Again.
Did they remember pieces of conversations? Of John 16 where Jesus says, "It is for your good that I am going away."
How can that be? Especially when you look at what happened after Jesus went away that time - the disciples hid, denied ever knowing Jesus.
One of the things that amazes me about Jesus are the chances He took by his ascension.
Jesus took the chance of being forgotten.
But He was not forgotten.
So was it good that Jesus went away? Wouldn't it have been better for Jesus to have stayed and fixed everything?
But Jesus said it was good that He was going because His leaving would bring the arrival of the Holy Spirit.
And because it required people to believe in Jesus "because,'' Jesus said there in John 16, "men do not believe in me."
Now, that's funny, isn't it? We always say if God would just appear it'd be so much easier to believe in Him. But the truth is, we have a whole history in the Old Testament of how God did appear over and over, how He made Himself obvious through burning bushes and clouds and all sorts of miraculous signs, and yet the people who saw Him couldn't rebel against Him fast enough.
Real faith comes from within - the "still small voice'' we respond to; the call we can't explain, that in Christianity we call the "Holy Spirit."
Jesus left the earth to go to His father, and that changed everything.
Ancient religions believed that the actions of the gods above affected the earth below. Zeus got angry and thunderbolts rained down. The ancient formula was "As above, so below."
But that's not the way it works, according to Jesus. Our actions here on earth affect what goes on in heaven. Jesus said, "He who listens to you listens to me; he who rejects you rejects me" (Luke 10:16). The actions of men on earth affect the spirit world. When the disciples went out and performed miracles, Jesus reported that "demons fell from the sky."
So what we do here does affect the Cosmos in some way we can only begin to fathom.
So we go back to that mountain in Acts 1, where we see disciples standing, staring at the sky.
But two angels appear, and state the obvious: "Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven."
And that's our hope, isn't it? Our promise?
But we can't stand and wait, now with Jesus final words ringing in our ears:
"It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."
In The Message, it says the disciples "agreed they were in this for good."
We look at the blue sky and remember that one day, Jesus is coming.
We look at the world around us and remember that it is up to us to make sure the world remembers, and is ready.