When others went home, Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. It was quiet there. The land He loved stretched out like a brown blanket tucked around Jerusalem’s walls. For all it meant, it could have been Jesus’ favorite place on earth. Perhaps that’s why He took His disciples here to say goodbye.
The Eleven could walk the path blindfolded. Out the East gate, through the ravine, up the incline. They had hiked it with Jesus a few weeks before, the day before He suffered and died. Today it felt like old times for them, but Jesus had another agenda.
“You’re going away?” they whispered. But you’ve just come back to us, they wanted to say.
To identify with this moment, remember how it feels to say goodbye to someone you love. You linger long in the driveway. Hug them again. Talk about the next time you’ll be together. When you say, “Goodbye”— you’re really saying a shortened, “God be with you.” The disciples caught a glimpse of that blessing today on this mount.
“Yes, I’m leaving,” Jesus said, “But I’ll still be with you.”
It’s one thing to say God looks down on us from a distance and quite another to say He is with us. Never the detached observer, He promises to be present in us. His Spirit connecting with our spirit. His life giving our lives power.
“You will receive power when My Spirit comes upon you,” He said pointing east, “You’ll tell people about Me here in Jerusalem—then in all Judea and Samaria, and someday to the ends of the earth.”
Like on cue, He looked up and His feet lifted off the ground. The clouds swept low and just like that, He was gone. While they still looked up, two men in white clothes appeared beside them, “He’s coming back you know; the same way He left. Right to this spot.”
In a day before Youtube, the disciples must have replayed that scene in their heads a thousand times. No doubt, they felt homesick watching Jesus disappear into the clouds. But they may also have felt a strange, new feeling of . . . of possibility . . . of hope. This is not the end.
Far from it; history tells us it was only the beginning. Before Jesus’ instructions will be accomplished, His disciples, then and now, will carry the good news of life in God down a million different roads. It’s traveling still, as much through the air now as it has on roads. And Jesus won’t touch down again on the Mount of Olives until everyone has had the opportunity to say ‘yes’ to His offer of life.
As the disciples discovered, this life of faith is full of expectation and adventure—if only because He goes with us. He leads us in Spirit now, until the day He comes back for us in person. Even so come, Lord Jesus.