Acts 1:1-10

 

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:

1. Down

2. Straight ahead

3. Up

 

1. Down

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? (4:9)

 

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.

 

3. Up

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.