Language of the Eternal, Acts 1:1-11
I came across some interesting facts about the languages of the world.
Fact #1 – Approximately 7,117 languages are spoken in 196 countries of the world
Fact #2 – The top 2 languages spoken in the world are English by 1.132 billion people and Mandarin Chinese by 1.117 billion people.
Fact #3 – There are around 46 languages that only have a single speaker still living
Fact #4 – At least 3,000 of the current languages will become extinct in the next century
- The Intrepid Guide, January 1, 2020
In light of these facts about the languages of the world, I invite us to consider the difference between the language of the world and the language of the eternal. To help us in our consideration I invite us to hear Acts 1:1-11 and the story of the risen Christ ascending into heaven so the disciples may speak the language of the Eternal on the day of Pentecost. Next Sunday we will remember the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Pentecost but today we remember the ascension of Jesus that makes Pentecost possible. On Pentecost, we will remember how the language of the Eternal was spoken boldly by the disciples as they were empowered by the Holy Spirit. On Ascension Sunday, we remember how the disciples spoke the language of the world as they were unable to comprehend the language of the eternal.
Listen now to the story of Jesus’ ascension as recorded in Acts 1:1-11
In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning 2 until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3 After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. 4 While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. “This,” he said, “is what you have heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now. 6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. 8 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.” 9 When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. 11 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.”
The disciples were speaking the language of the world. They had become ensnared between the past and the future. Unable to comprehend the language of the eternal, they had become preoccupied with asking the risen Christ, why, how long, and when. I will confess that there are times when I stand with the disciples in becoming preoccupied with the language of the world. There are times when I am unable to comprehend the eternal message of Jesus’ ascension as I become ensnared in the questions, of why, how long, and when rather than trusting in the power of the eternal.
The disciples were speaking the language of the world as they asked Jesus, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” Preoccupied with the questions of human language, they could not comprehend the Eternal language Jesus was speaking. In response, Jesus spoke about the power of God’s Holy Spirit that would soon descend upon them in the here and now.
One person whom I remember speaking the language of the eternal was a man who had suffered a devastating illness which, by all human rights, should have left him bitter and questioning the fairness of life. He was facing upcoming surgery that was required as different parts of his body became infected. It was obvious this was not the first time that surgery had been required because of this illness. As we spoke, he shared openly of his grief, but it was obvious his grief was not entombing him. Acknowledging he was sad because of the reality that he was facing him with his upcoming surgery, he spoke the language of the eternal and how God was present in the here and now. I asked him what gave him the strength to face his illness. He answered in the language of the eternal, “My faith in God gets me through.”
When we face the times of life that ensnare us between the past and the future, there are two languages we can speak. One language is the language of the world that asks why, when, and how long as we face the questions. The other language is the language of the eternal that affirms God’s presence in the here and now.
Robert Raines directed a retreat center in the Pocono Mountains of northern Pennsylvania. He tells of a time he heard a person speaking the language of the eternal. It happened early one morning when he got into his car and started driving through the mountains. There was no one on the road at that time as the mountains were quietly beginning a new day. The beautiful colors of autumn were splashed all over the trees. It was a magnificent and glorious sight as the early morning sun glistened upon the wonders of the mountains and the valleys below. It was in the light of this glorious beginning to a new day that had never been before and would never be again that Robert says he saw and heard one of the most beautiful things in his life as he heard the language of the eternal.
At the edge of a mountain peak, facing the panoramic view of the valley below, was a young man with a trumpet pressed to his lips. Breathing deeply and releasing all of the energy in his soul, he was playing the Doxology on his trumpet as he spoke the language of the eternal.
Praise God, from whom all blessings flow: Praise God, all creatures here below,
Praise God above, ye heavenly host, Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.
- 103, James W. Moore, When You’re a Christian, the Whole World is from Missouri
On the day of his ascension, Jesus spoke to his disciples in the language of the eternal. He told them they were going to receive the power of the Holy Spirit so they could tell the story of Jesus who lived, was crucified, was resurrected, and who ascended into heaven. On this Ascension Sunday, Jesus speaks to us in the language of the eternal. Whether we find ourselves ensnared between the past and the future or singing the doxology from the mountaintops in the here and now, our crucified, risen, and ascended Lord calls us to speak the language of the eternal.
May 16, 2021