This picture did it. Threw me across the line I’ve been toeing for several days, if not weeks.
Seems pretty harmless, right? Maybe even encouraging? Even if you realize, as I did the moment I saw it, that this is a picture of Barry Gibb, one of the Bee Gees.
Today we celebrate the Ascension. The story is told in Acts 1:1-11. 40 days after the resurrection, Jesus “was lifted up,” (ascended) into heaven. Today is that day this year – 40 days after Easter.
Immediately after the ascension, Luke, the author of Acts, tells us,
While he was going away and as they were staring toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood next to them. They said, “Galileans, why are you standing here, looking toward heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way that you saw him go into heaven.” -Acts 1:10-11
This is the part of the Ascension story I want to focus on today. And, maybe, every day.
Today I echo the words of those two men in white robes:
STOP looking at Jesus!
Barry Gibbs/Jesus helped me grasp this, so now I share it with you. We do too much looking at Jesus.
I think all these images of Jesus we surround ourselves with distract us from actually following Jesus. To be fair, it’s not Barry Gibbs’ fault. Here is a collage of many of the images of Jesus found around our church, Euless First United Methodist Church
When we make Jesus look like a first century person, we are distracted from the realities of 21st century life. However heart warming it is to see a picture of a bearded, robed guy, most of us don’t look at actually, living, bearded guys in robes with any such positive thoughts. This kind of removing Jesus from our current context too easily leads to nostaglic dreaming of all kinds of days-gone-by. I’m pretty sure Jesus would rather we live today.
When we insert a image of Jesus into a current situation, we create space for us to back out of the challenging part of following Jesus. Are you tired, stressing out, even depressed? Facing tough times? Grieving the loss of a loved one or poor choices your children (or parents) are making? Here’s a picture of Jesus to tide you over to get you through. No! The picture of Jesus that Jesus wants you and me to share with the hurting is the Imago Dei (image of God) that we carry in our beings!
May you experience all the joy of the Ascension: knowing that Jesus is in heaven, and that he didn’t leave us here to stare up at heaven, or at pictures, looking at Jesus. He left us, commissioned us, is counting on us, to continue his work.
So, STOP looking at Jesus and follow him!