Clouds of Glory
After Jesus’ Resurrection, he appeared to his disciples to encourage them and prepare them to continue his mission. Because they were still looking for Jesus to re-establish the earthly kingdom of Israel, they asked him when he would restore the kingdom to Israel. But, as always, Jesus had a different plan. He planned to restore the kingdom of Israel not as an earthly kingdom, but as God’s kingdom on earth. In order for this to happen, Jesus had to ascend into heaven to return to his original glory in order to send out his Spirit to empower them to do his work on earth. If he had stayed, his reach would have been limited, but because he reigns in heaven, he is able to send his Spirit into his disciples so that his message reaches to the ends of the earth.
At his Ascension, the disciples were “looking on.” They were looking at Jesus. They continued to look to him for guidance and inspiration.
Luke then writes that Jesus “was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight.” (Acts 1:9) The Greek word used for “lifted up” is eperthe, meaning “taken up” or “exalted.” At his Ascension, Jesus was taken up and exalted. The image of the cloud represents Jesus returning to his original glory. The cloud is a significant image in Scripture.
In the Old Testament, the cloud is the image of the glory of God accompanying the people in their liberation from Egypt in the Exodus: “The Lord preceded them, in the daytime by means of a column of cloud to show them the way, and at night by means of a column of fire to give them light.” (Exodus 13:21). When the Israelites were encamped at Mount Sinai and Moses received the Ten Commandments, “the glory of the Lord settled upon Mount Sinai. The cloud covered it for six days, and on the seventh day God called to Moses from the midst of the cloud.” (Exodus 24:16) There are many other references to God’s presence in a cloud in the Old Testament. At Jesus’ Transfiguration, “a cloud came and cast a shadow over them,” and God spoke from the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” (Matthew 17:5; Mark 9:7; Luke 9:34-35)
As we look to the clouds, may we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and look to him for guidance and inspiration in our daily living. Let us open our hearts to hear the voice of God speaking to us. As sun shines through the clouds, let us remember that we are filled with the Holy Spirit and can boldly proclaim Christ’s Good News to all peoples.