In 1957 a book was written that quickly became a movie. The Three Faces of Eve.
The book was the story of Chris Costner Sizemore who suffered from multiple personality
disorder. There are people who suffer from this. They see their life through the
eyes of different characters. Perhaps you could say a person with multiple personality
disorder is three different people.
The Three Faces of Eve is mentioned in connection with Ascension Day not because
there is anything abnormal about the Ascension of Jesus. There are, however, three
different ways of looking at life in view of the Ascension. Each of these three
ways reveals a different way of thinking and feeling. Each of these three ways may
happen to each of us from time to time.
If you speak about looking at something and you speak about it in a directional way,
you really only have three choices. Either you are looking down or straight ahead
or up. If you are presented with something that is before you, those three ways
of looking would be your choices.
On this evening before the Ascension of Jesus, let’s look at how we are looking!
THE THREE LOOKS OF THE ASCENSION:
2. Straight ahead
Some people may be looking down this evening. There is reason enough to look down
these days. There was reason enough at the time of the first Ascension to be looking
down too. Bad things had happened forty days before this first Ascension Day. Jesus
had been brutally killed. His followers had been forced to watch…or flee. It was
hard to get over the sight and the fact. Heads drooped. People were down. They
looked down too. Not many were looking up at that point.
They weren’t the first to have looked down. Nor would they be the last. In Genesis
we hear, “Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast?
If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is
right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master
it.” Cain was looking down. People who live in sin and with sin and because of
sin are those doomed to looking down. This is a depressing way to live and to look.
Those who say with the Humanist Manifesto, “Every day in every way, better and better”
are doomed to looking down. It won’t happen. We are not in a state of evolution.
That would mean that life and culture and society would be going up. But it isn’t.
It is going down. No one can look at things and think they are getting better.
No one can suppose that life is looking up. It isn’t.
Remember too what Jesus said to the Emmaus disciples that first Easter evening. They
were trudging along the seven miles back home to their village of Emmaus. Jesus
stopped them. They didn’t know who he was. They surely weren’t expecting to be
talking to Jesus. And we read, “They stood still, their faces downcast. One of
them, named Cleopas, asked him, ‘Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know
the things that have happened there in these days?” Downcast. Down. That’s the
way they were looking. That is just plain the way things looked right then.
The women had the same problem on Easter morning. They had gone to the tomb to anoint
a dead and decaying body. What they intended to do wouldn’t make any difference
in the awful face of death. They might make the smell go away for a little while…but
it would come back. In the face of death---when you look at it---there is no hope.
They were looking down. Things were looking down. We know it because they had
to “look up” to see the stone rolled away. But when they looked up, they saw that
the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. Mark 16:4
There is a universal language in our looks. You can tell when someone is looking
down or looking up. Remember, der Christ ist ein optimist. Christians are supposed
to be optimistic. Why shouldn’t they? They are encouraged to think about heaven.
They are told to look up and see their redemption drawing near. (When these things
begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is
drawing near.” Luke 21:28)
Christians who suppose their God is dead look down. Christians who live their lives
like their God is dead look down. When and if you suppose your God has assumed room
temperature, you cannot help but be looking down. You really need your God’s help
at that time. You need him to gently put his hand under your chin and lift your
head. He’s not dead. No need to look down anymore. Death has been defeated. Your
sins have been forgiven. Don’t look down! Don’t ask “downer” questions like, “Lord,
are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel.” Don’t ask questions
that show that you are looking to the things around you in this world as very important.
There are better places to be looking than down.
Jesus showed us at the time of his Ascension that he knew our inclinations to be
looking down. He does encouraging things to people with slumped shoulders and downcast
heads. “After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing
proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke
about the kingdom of God.” Surely this holds much to keep the disciples from looking
down. And it still does.
Jesus has proven that he is alive. Don’t look down!
2. Straight ahead
Looking straight ahead is necessary now. It isn’t the best way to be looking but
it is necessary now. It is true at least that sometimes we have to be looking resolutely
straight ahead. There are matters on our plane of life and being that we have to
attend to. It isn’t over here until it is over. “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.” This is surely straight ahead
stuff. To the ends of the age, straight on with life until it ends. There are things
we need to look into that happen on the level plane of this planet.
So we look straight ahead…resolutely. We are on a journey. We are going someplace.
We need to be attending to our walk of faith and life. We have a destination. We
are fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. He is up but
we are here and we have to go on until the end. Straight ahead. Not swerving to
right or left. The Galatians had this problem. They weren’t looking straight ahead
and walking straight ahead. Paul worried when he said to them, “I am astonished
that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and
are turning to a different gospel---which is really no gospel at all. (1:6) And
he worried again when he had to say, “But now that you know God---or rather are known
by God---how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles?
Actually, following someone requires that you look straight ahead. We are following
Jesus. We are on our way with him through this world. We are following his command
for us to take his word to all peoples. We can see the gentle slope of his shoulders.
We get to know our Savior’s back, not because he has turned it on us like his Father
turned his back to Jesus on the cross. We get to know Jesus’ back because we follow
Jesus. He has to face the troubles ahead of us. We get to follow him through them.
And the third look that is possible on this evening and even necessary if we are
truly going to catch the meaning of the Ascension…is up! After (Jesus) said this,
he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. And
get the picture. See it. See how the people at the first Ascension were looking…They
were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed
in white stood beside them.
What a good place to be looking! Up! Keep looking up. Keep knowing that this world
is not going to win out, not going to continue, not going to be here after a short
while. It is passing away but what is up is never going to pass away. We are going
to be rising to meet the Lord in the air. We are going up. We are going to fly.
Heaven is our home. Earth is a desert drear. Even on its best days, earth is that
compared to the “up” of heaven. Jesus told the thief dying next to him on a very
dark and dreary day when things were in freefall mode down, “I tell you the truth,
today you will be with me in Paradise.” That was---pure and simple---an invitation
to look up.
That is the promise the Ascension angels make to us too. They promise each of us
on this evening of looking, “(Jesus) will come back in the same way you have seen
him go into heaven. This is the promise. This is where we are looking and where
we will look.
And, by the way. As you consider the looking down and avoid it, and as you consider
the looking straight ahead and endure it to the end, and as you look up to heaven
and know it is real and that you will be there by God’s grace…in all your looking,
don’t look around. Don’t look around for another way or another Jesus or another
religion. Don’t look around for another church. You have found the right place.
We don’t say that you are looking good. But when we say you are looking up, we are
saying that you are looking right! Amen.