The Ascension of Jesus into heaven is one of those strange Bible stories that Cecil B. De Mille would’ve enjoyed filming. Charlton Heston would play Jesus, of course. He would give the apostles some final instructions and then say with just the right touch of divine resonance, “STAY HERE IN THE CITY UNTIL YOU HAVE BEEN CLOTHED WITH POWER FROM ON HIGH.” Charlton/Jesus would take the next cloud to heaven in proper cinematic flourish. I picture it as an escalator-type effect, slow and lingering but with a decided trajectory, just the right light but without the stairs. Maybe some cherubim music, but clearly within the bounds of proper taste.
Finally, the camera cuts to an overhead shot of the apostles — dazed, mouths agape, like Gomer Pyle looking up at a skyscraper for the first time. Shazzam, he’s gone. Someone once playfully suggested that as Jesus departed into heaven, the disciples finally saw the “sole” of Jesus. S-o-l-e, the bottoms of his shoes. Anyway, they all stood there looking up as if visiting Cape Canaveral for an Apollo space shot. “Now what?” we can almost hear them all say. “Our leader is gone. Now what?”
The Ascension of Jesus is a great story. Like the parting of the Red Sea, or the sling-shooting of Goliath by David, or the feeding of the 5,000, you can see the Ascension in your mind. You can use your imagination and fill in the details. The disciples are in the shadows looking like they want to grab Jesus’ feet and keep him on earth (like trying to tether an escaping hot air balloon).. There’s a devilish little angel over in the corner who’s making a face directly into the gaze of the viewer of the canvas as if to say, “We’ve got him up here now. You don’t. Now what are you going do?”
What are we going to do? We are now sent on mission to be his presence and to do his ministry. In essence, Jesus empowered the disciples and us to live a wholly new relationship with him, one that will be expressed in our daily living. We are the living presence of the risen Christ in our world today.