A few days ago I finished writing a series of devotionals on the Gospel of Luke. The last one was about Christ’s ascension into Heaven. I pondered that moment with an attitude I had never had before. A critical attitude.
In the days before the crucifixion, Jesus had told his beloved disciples how bad things were going to get for his followers. They did it to me, they’ll do it worse to you. (Luke 21:12) There followed the horror of watching him die, the joy of his resurrection, and now he was leaving again. And he was telling them to stay behind. True, he was promising to prepare a place for them and come back for them. But he was also promising problems in the meantime. “In this world you will have trouble.” (John 16:33) A mean time, indeed.
Then angels appeared and rebuked them for staring up into the sky.
I thought, Lord, no wonder they stared after you rose up into the sky. They wanted to go with you. I would want – I do today want – to go with you. I have this train of thought a lot since the stroke. Wasn’t the greatest command to love God? I had just written a book about that. Wasn’t it natural to want to be where Jesus went?
It was only when my questions reached this point that I sensed any response in my heart. God was telling me to remember the rest of what Jesus said. Something about a second commandment that was just as important as the first. (Matthew 22:38-40) That second command had nothing to do with what I felt or wanted, regardless of how much I loved God or wanted to be with him and away from the troubles of this world.
Jesus left the disciples behind, and he leaves us here for awhile, because there are others who have still not been told. We’re left here with a job to do. That job needs doing in spite of any difficulties we face while staying to do it.
And I suddenly got a clue about another thing Jesus said that had always clunked in my brain.
At the last supper with the disciples, Jesus told them, “If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. ” (John 14:28) Jesus explained that he couldn’t send the Holy Spirit to them unless he went away first. But I always had trouble being glad about the trade. I understood why the disciples were dismayed. I sympathized.
Now, finally, I started to see the moment from a different perspective. When I was being dismayed, it was because I was looking at my own feelings, my own distress. Jesus was calling his disciples (and me) to think of the good of the other person. Jesus was finally getting to go home to Father God? That was, indeed, wonderful. If I wasn’t glad about that, something was wrong with me. Now my attention could – should – turn. Not to myself. It should continue to turn to others.
In spite of any difficulty, any suffering I may encounter, serving others takes priority. As Rick Warren noted in A Purpose Driven Life, “It’s not about you.” It’s about what the Father is doing and what He wants done. If I have given my life to Jesus, my life is his to direct. As for any discomforts and troubles? Jesus said I could expect them. But he has us here to be ambassadors to everyone else. That’s his priority today.
While I wait for him, it must be mine as well.