Jesus left us.
He stood on a hill. He ascended into the clouds. He was gone.
When you think about the ascension in light of God’s mission to rescue His people, that seems a little strange. The mission was to take the most significant news in history to the entire earth. So, why did the center of the mission, the long-awaited Rescuer, go away when it finally came time to share the news? Why did Jesus exit and leave behind a bunch of confused disciples?
The answer to this question is of critical importance to the purpose of your small group.
Jesus left so He would not hinder the mission.
Everyone needs to hear that everything broken can be fixed through Jesus and that everything ruined can be restored through Jesus. Jesus knew that if He had stayed on earth in His physical body, the good news He made happen in His physical body would have gotten only as far as He could carry it with His physical body. Jesus left us because He brilliantly understands how we work.
Answer this question: If Jesus was still physically on the earth in Israel right now, where would you be?
The answer is pretty simple. We’d all be in Israel. Jesus is the best thing that’s ever happened to us, without any close second. If you could get on a plane right now and go hug Him, you wouldn’t even go home to pack a bag. If Jesus was still in Israel today, He’d have to make us go away, because otherwise we’d all be in Jerusalem waiting in line with our next ticket to hug Him. After Jesus died for our sins and defeated our deaths, He knew He had to leave us behind with that news if it was to spread around the world.
Jesus left so there would be many “little Jesuses.”
Not only does the ascension mean there’s no physical-Jesus-bottleneck for the mission of redeeming the world, but there is also the potential for millions of little Jesuses to continue the mission. The word “Christian” actually means “little Christ,” and that’s what we are. Jesus said in John 16, when He WAS here in a physical body:
…it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you.”
Jesus ascended knowing it was the best thing for the mission. He knew that when He left, He would send His Spirit, and then there wouldn’t be just one Person with the power and the message of Christ, but many.
Answer this question: What is the wisest way to put together a basketball team that can win the world championship?
Option 1: You can have Steph Curry on your team. Steph Curry, by the way, is the MVP of the NBA, for those of you who might hate sports analogies.
Option 2: You can send Steph Curry to heaven and give his basketball skills to ten other players. You can have one Steph Curry, or ten players with the power of Steph Curry.
That is basically what Jesus did. He went to heaven so He could give His power to all of His people.
That’s what you should see when you look at your small group—a team of people with the power of Christ and a mission to reach the world. Jesus left us for a reason. Someday, we will get to join together in the great line of hugging. Until then, let’s join together in sharing His great hope.
Brandon Hiltibidal is a former church planter and multi-site pastor, and he is now part of the Groups Ministry team at Lifeway Christian Resources. He and his wife have two little girls. You can read about his group ministry and his girls on Twitter: @bmhiltibidal.