I don’t suffer from a particular fear of heights, but I do get wobbly when I’m up very high without much protection. I’m guessing that most people feel the same way, unless you are a particular daredevil! Sometimes we can avoid being up high, but for various reasons at times we cannot. If we find ourselves in a precarious position, often someone will give the advice: “Don’t look down!” That’s good advice, although my natural reaction when given that command is to immediately look down, which never goes well!
After Jesus was raised from the dead, he spent forty days with his disciples, proving his resurrection. At the end of those forty days, he ascended to the Father, and the disciples were witness of this. We are not told exactly how Jesus’ ascension happened, but there was clearly some kind of vertical movement, as Luke tells us in Acts 1:
“They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going…”Acts 1:10
As they are looking upwards, two angels appear and essentially give them this command: “Don’t look up!”
Just as when you are in a high place, looking down isn’t helpful, so for the disciples looking up wasn’t helpful either. No doubt they missed Jesus and wanted him to stay with them in person for a longer time. But staring into the sky hoping that he might come back wasn’t going to help. Jesus would come back, but in his own time, not at the command of the disciples.
“Don’t look up!” say the angels. Rather, “Look out!”
Before he ascended, Jesus gave those same disciples a commission. They were to wait for the gift of the Holy Spirit, which Jesus would give to them very shortly. Once the Spirit had been given, they would have power to be witness to Jesus’ resurrection, in Jerusalem, in the surrounding area of Judaea, and to the ends of the earth.
Looking up wasn’t helpful because they had a commission to look out. They had been given a job by Jesus to go out with the good news to all the earth. We have the same commission, and the same job to do. We long for, and look for, Jesus’ return. But we don’t stand still looking at the sky. Instead, we pray for the power of the Holy Spirit to be witnesses for Jesus in the world.