The disciples listened intently as Jesus told them their mission. ((Acts 1:8)) They weren’t clear on all the details, but that didn’t dull their anticipation. It was hard to say exactly when they noticed the cloud, but they knew it symbolized something important: the smoke around Mount Sinai when God met with Moses ((Exodus 19:18)); the pillar of cloud that guided the Israelites through the desert ((Exodus 13:21)); the cloud that had descended on the temple when it was dedicated ((1 Kings 8:10-11)). Peter, James, and John remembered the cloud they had seen on the mountain, when Jesus had met with Elijah and Moses, shining as brightly as the sun ((Luke 9:29-30)). They knew something amazing was going to happen.
The cloud was a symbol of God’s presence, the cloak that protected human eyes from gazing on his true glory. That Jesus was now inside that cloud ((Acts 1:9)) filled their hearts with awe. At any moment he would reappear, surrounded by the armies of heaven. They pictured the army of angels riding through the streets, overrunning their armies and seating Jesus on the throne. A minute passed, and the cloud started to thin. They looked intently, but Jesus was nowhere to be seen. ((Acts 1:10))
That he was gone dawned on some sooner than others, but they could not tear their eyes away from the spot where he had been standing. What had just happened? They had already lost Jesus once. Had Jesus finally outgrown his motley band of followers? What now?
Then an unknown voice broke the silence. “Hey, Galileans! Why are you just standing there? Jesus has been taken from this world into heaven.”
Two men, dressed in white, were standing on the hill with them. They had not been with the group minutes earlier, and no one had heard their approach. Some of the disciples remembered that men in white had also been outside Jesus’s tomb, and had delivered the message that he was no longer there.
The men in white continued: “He is coming back.” ((Acts 1:11))