Jesus knows how to make an exit, doesn’t he? He makes a pithy parting word, and then is taken up into the clouds and out of the disciples’ sight. It’s like the end of some kind of classic movie where the hero gives a wry parting remark and then rides off into the sunset, the adoring friends transfixed on watching him go. But while an old movie would move on to the credits, our scene turns to the friends watching him go.
“They were gazing up toward heaven.” I feel like this is the right place to use the word “gawk”—they were gawking at the heavens, staring, slack-jawed, filled with awe and wonder and confusion. Jesus, who had somehow undone the bonds of death, had been with them for forty days, teaching them and explaining things. Their rabbi, their friend, had broken bread with them, and passed through doors to get to them, and walked with them along the road. Now, suddenly, he was gone. And they watched where he went, as if by their force of will they could stare hard enough to bring him back to them.