So Ascension Day! That concealing cloud also means that a new era is beginning. Jesus is to be seen no more but something new is going to happen. Jesus made it very clear as he said goodbye to his disciples that he would be replaced by a universal presence called the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit. 'I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counsellor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you '(John 16:7 ).
In the divine economy Jesus' departure is to be followed by the coming of the Third Person of the Trinity. Pentecost follows Ascension. It's a kind of divine chain reaction. Jesus comes to show us the Father and the Holy Spirit comes to show us Jesus Christ. And more than that. It is for your good. When Jesus was on earth he could only deal with the few, a woman by the well, a blind man, ten lepers, 12 disciples. Among the 5000 fed how many hands was he able to touch? He is flesh and blood. He became tired. He only travelled a few square miles when the whole world needed him. But on the cross he accomplishes reconciliation for the world, for everyone, and when the Spirit comes he can go through the whole world carving a way of conviction, love, joy, forgiveness, assurance and power to live God's new way.
The cloud of glory that speaks of a new era also marks the ultimate victory, for there is consistent New Testament teaching that the Messiah of God will return on the clouds of heaven. To the disciples looking up at the cloud comes the rebuke: 'Men of Galilee, why 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 (Acts 1:11).
The cloud marks how the God who has interrupted this world once, when Jesus was born in Bethlehem that people might see their God face to face, will interrupt this world again. The clouds of glory with the returning King Messiah mean that history has purpose which is held in God's hands. History is not a haphazard collection of chance events leading nowhere. Jesus is the Alpha and Omega - he will be there at the end.
A prayer helps me say it today (from Contemporary Prayers)
Ascended Lord Jesus, I adore you!
Once you lived a human life subject to the limitations of time:
now you are the same yesterday, today, and for ever.
Once you were limited to one particular place:
now you are present wherever people turn to you.
Once only those who met you face to face knew you;
now your divine love extends through all the world.
Jesus ascended Lord of time and space,
love as wide as life,
I adore you!