And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.…
Lovers of nature find almost as much pleasure in watching the clouds as in gazing upon a landscape; in some respects even more, for the colouring is far more splendid, and the whole scene is one of perpetual change and variety. We read very much of clouds in Holy Scripture. The one before us is the Ascension cloud. A last thought is the extent and amount of the change involved in the Ascension. "A cloud received Him." That is all. This and no more is the change made by the Ascension. Behind, above the cloud, is the Person who a moment ago was visible, was audible, was conversing and communing with us, was here, and answering our questions; was speaking of things pertaining to His kingdom. There is now just a cloud between us — between us and Him. That is all. No other change has had place or room. We are still gazing into heaven, only a cloud has intercepted the view. His last act was benediction: while He blessed He was taken from us. The hand is stretched out still. It is to leave His peace with us which passeth understanding. The Ascension cloud has nothing but benediction in it. It was that He might fill earth and heaven, St. Paul tells us, that He went away. In other words, it was that, being out of sight, and because He was out of sight, He might be to us that spiritual presence which alone profits, satisfies, comforts, or saves. The Ascension cloud is all blessing. The mystery which it involves is no illusion. It is true and wholesome doctrine. It is the doctrine of the reality, and the activity, and the nearness to us of that spiritual presence which is our life. Alas I it is quite ether-wise with other clouds which intercept the view of the Ascended. "Earth-born clouds" our evening hymn speaks off They are of all kinds. There is the cloud of simple indifference. The heart feels no want which earth cannot supply. The heart sees no beauty in spiritual satisfaction. Christ is out of sight; the cloud is between, and we care not to pierce it. Let it hide the Invisible; we do not want Him. And then there is the cloud of unbelief. We have heard of the sneer of the infidel; alas! we have listened to it. All things are dared in these days, even if it be to the parodying and caricature of the Bible. Wheresoever the soul has no God in it, there clouds are, and their name is legion. There is the earth-born cloud of sinning. Yes, for one cloud of worldliness, or levity, or conscious unbelief, there are in the individual skies thousands and tens of thousands of damp, dark, heavy clouds of sin; and each one of these hides Jesus Christ from view. If it be no bigger than a man's hand it is enough. Each one of these little clouds places Him at a measureless distance, Him the holy, the undefiled, the separate from sinners. He cannot dwell where sin is, either as guest or host. "A cloud receiveth Him out of their sight." It was one of the earth-born clouds. It was not the sweet Ascension cloud, for that while it intercepts the view of sense only quickens the view of faith, which is the eye of the soul.
Parallel VersesKJV: And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.