May 15, 2023: Witnesses

Reading: Acts 1:6-14

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey away. When they had entered the city, they went to the room upstairs where they were staying, Peter, and John, and James, and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers.



Moments before ascending to heaven, Jesus commissions his followers, saying, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Then as his disciples stare, Jesus is lifted up and vanishes from their sight.

And still they stare. Necks leaning backward, faces tilted toward the sky, eyes squinting in the sun, they stare, trying to see where Jesus went. Is that him, through the cloud? No, only a seagull drifting and circling. Over there? No, just a trick of the light.

While the disciples stare, two men slip among them and ask, “Why are you still staring upward?” The disciples — not breaking their skyward gazes — reply, “He told us we were his witnesses. So we’re watching him, trying not to let him out of our sight.” (I know, that part of the conversation isn’t in the Bible.) The two strangers help them understand: “You cannot always gaze at Jesus; you must help others gaze at him too. You have been witnesses to Jesus’ life and work; now you must bear witness into the world.”

Who knows how long the disciples would have stood there, necks craned, eyes straining, had not the two men in white robes guided them toward their next steps in discipleship — guided them to see that their personal experiences of Jesus were not the end, but only the beginning.

–Rachel Hackenberg



Jesus, we long for you in our lives. We wait anxiously for an experience of you, for an “Aha!” moment of feeling your presence. Remind us, we pray, that we have been called not only into relationship with you but into relationship with all the world. Compel us into the work of witnessing.