I had the distinct pleasure of substitute teaching Father Keith’s Wednesday morning Bible Study today. Our assigned topic in his Eastertide study of Encounters with the Resurrected Jesus was the ascension story; a timely topic what with tomorrow being the feast day that bears that name. His title for the study was the question of the two men robed in white from Luke’s version of the story in Acts (a portion of which is also assigned for Sunday), “why are you standing there?” But I think I’m in agreement with the Sermon Brainwave crew when, back in 2011, they suggested the key question in this text is “Lord, is this the time?”
The disciples had followed Jesus to the precipice of Hell and back. They had heard him teach about the Kingdom and its politics. They had seen him exert supernatural control over wind and water, illness and demons, even life and death. They had marched into Jerusalem with him ready to take on the world, watched him toss the tables in the Temple and get in the theological grill of the religious powers-that-be, and declare that the whole thing would come tumbling down while he would build it back up. They were ready for him to flex his muscles and restore all things to their rightful place when they watched with horror as he stood silent before his accusers, admonished them to put away their swords, collapsed in exhaustion under the weight of his cross, and died pathetic and naked hanging from a tree. They had been to the bottom of the pit and had sunk in the miry clay, when lo and behold, he was back. He had conquered death!
After 40 days of hanging out in and around Jerusalem. After hearing him continue to teach about the Kingdom and its politics. After watching him disappear from their sight in Emmaus and reappear in the middle of an upper room in Jerusalem. After a miraculous catch of fish and delicious fire baked breakfast. After all of that, they were ready for him to do what they still fully expected him to do – put his boot on the neck of Pax Romana and restore the Kingdom and lineage of David.
Lord, is this [finally] the time!?!?!
You can hear the desperation in their voice, and feel the sinking feeling when he responds essentially by saying, “Nope. Not yet.”
We do not know the day or the hour. Trying to pinpoint the time and the place and what series of construction projects will bring Jesus back is absolutely pointless. What matters is how they, how we, take all that stuff that Jesus taught and that stuff that Jesus did and work toward bringing the Kingdom to earth in the meantime. Now certainly is the time for that.