When Christ Went Away

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Acts 1:6-9

A man went through a forest seeking any bird of interest he might find. He caught a young eagle, brought it home and put it among the fowls and ducks and turkeys, and gave it chicken feed to eat even though it was an eagle, the king of birds. Five years later, a naturalist came to see him and after passing through his garden, said: “That bird is an eagle, not a chicken.” “Yes,” said the owner, “but I have trained it to be a chicken. It is no longer an eagle, it is a chicken, even though it measures 15 feet from tip to tip of its wings.” “No,” said the naturalist, “it is an eagle still; it has the heart of an eagle, and I will make it soar high up to the heavens.” “No,” said the owner, “it is a chicken and it will never fly.”

The naturalist picked up the eagle, held it up and said with great intensity: “Eagle, thou art an eagle; thou dost belong to the sky and not to this earth; stretch forth thy wings and fly.” The eagle turned this way and that, and then looking down, saw the chickens eating their food, and down he jumped. The owner said: “I told you it was a chicken.” “No,” said the naturalist, “it is an eagle. So the next day he took it to the top of the house and said: “Eagle, thou art an eagle; stretch forth thy wings and fly.” But again the eagle, seeing the chickens feeding, jumped down and fed with them. Then the owner said: “I told you it was a chicken.” “No,” asserted the naturalist, “it is an eagle, and it has the heart of an eagle; The next morning he rose early and took the eagle outside the city and away from the houses, to the foot of a high mountain. The sun was just rising, gilding the top to the mountain with gold, and every crag was glistening in the joy of the beautiful morning. He picked up the eagle and said to it: “Eagle, thou art an eagle; thou dost belong to the sky and not to the earth; stretch forth thy wings and fly.” Yet it did not fly. The naturalist then made it look straight at the sun. Suddenly it stretched out its wings and, with the screech of an eagle, it mounted higher and higher and never returned.

It was an eagle, though it had been kept and tamed as a chicken. We have been created in the image of God, but men have made us think that we are chickens, and so we think we are; but we are eagles, stretch forth your wings and fly! Don’t be content with the food of chickens!

Why does Jesus have to leave? Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. (John 16:7) Jesus goes so that the Holy Spirit may come in great power and fill the heart of every believer.

From the time of Jesus’ resurrection to His ascension, He appears to the believers no less that ten times. The last of those ten times is on the Mount of Olives at His ascension. When they arrive on the Mount of Olives the Disciples know His departure is at hand. “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them: “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.”

After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “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.” One almost gets the feeling of deja vu with the transfiguration. Two men dressed in white appear. Angels? We assume so. It is a special moments but also a reminder of prophecy.

Zechariah in 753 B.C. gave this prophecy. On that day his (Jesus’) feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south. Then the LORD my God will come (Return of Christ), and all the holy ones with him. On that day (Second Advent) there will be no light, no cold or frost. It will be a unique day, without daytime or nighttime-a day known to the LORD. (Zech 14:4)

Even the ascended Christ does not stop making appearances to the Church.
There are four times that Jesus appears to believers following His ascension.
To Paul near Damascus (Acts 9:3-6;)(1 Cor 15:8). To Stephen outside Jerusalem (Acts 7:55) To Paul in the temple (Acts 22:17-21; 23:11) To John on Patmos (Rev 1:10-19) Jesus even makes an appearance in the Old Testament. Joshua is the leader of Israel and is camped outside Jericho. “Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.” Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?” The commander of the LORD’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so. (Joshua 5:14)

Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, `I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'” Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!”

What Jesus probably means is “Do not think, Mary that by grasping hold of me so firmly that you can keep me always with you. That uninterruptible fellowship for which you yearn must wait until I have ascended to be forever with the Father.” What he condemned was Mary’s mistaken notion that the former mode of fellowship was going to be resumed, in other words, that Jesus would once again live in daily visible association with his disciples, both men and women. The fellowship, to be sure, would be resumed; but it would be far richer and more blessed. It would be the communion of the ascended Lord in the Spirit with his Church.

Between the time of His resurrection and his ascension, Jesus challenged Peter concerning Peter’s love for Jesus. Twice Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him. In both cases Peter responds to Jesus that Jesus knows that Peter likes him. Jesus then responds by asking Peter, “Do you even like me?” For the third time, Peter answers, “You know that I like you. And the third time that Peter answers, he is grieved, perhaps because he had also denied Jesus three times or because Jesus had to lower his expectation of Peter’s love for his Savior with his third question.

When Jesus asks Peter twice, “Do you love me?”, He was asking, “Do you love me because I am precious to you, with a sacrificial love that would make you willing to die for me?” Three times Peter replied, “Yes, Lord, you know that I am fond of you; I have an affection for you because of the pleasure I take in you.” (John 21:15-19). Jesus asked for a love of complete devotion. Peter offers him a love of personal heart emotion. Jesus asks for a heart of surrendering obedience. Peter offers Him a love of personal attachment.

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