They . . . returned to Jerusalem with great joy

“Parting is such sweet sorrow,” as Juliet said to Romeo.   Isn’t this the way many farewells go?   Whether you’re sending a child off to make their way in the world or leaving a grandparent after a visit, saying good-bye can be bittersweet.   The sweetness lies in your love for them;   the bitterness, in leaving them.

Surprisingly, Jesus’ apostles do not weep at his ascension.   Quite the opposite, Luke tells us that they returned to Jerusalem—the very place where Jesus was executed—“with great joy” (24:52).   Such a display of exuberance can make the apostles appear unrelatable, almost superhuman.   What about their deep human connection with Jesus?   Didn’t they feel sad that after overcoming death, the greatest separation there is, Jesus decided to leave them anyway?

Of course they were sad.   But more than anything else, they were filled with joy.   They were confident that they would one day follow where Jesus had gone, and then they would be reunited forever.   So their hope of seeing him again made their sorrow sweet.

This is the key to our joy as well.   By faith, we know that Jesus has gone to prepare a place for us in heaven.   But it can still feel as if he has just moved on and left us on our own.   One way to counter that sense of alone ness is to imagine Jesus in heaven right now.   Think about how he has opened heaven to you, a place you could never reach on your own.   Imagine him standing with his Father, your Father.   Picture him preparing a place just for you.   See the smile on his face as he thinks about opening the doors to your new home and welcoming you in.

Jesus has ascended to heaven and longs for all God’s children to join him.   Until then, he never stops interceding for you and pouring out a constant stream of grace.   All so that we can one day taste the sweetness of heaven.

Word Among Us