Why must we wait?

Acts 1:1-14

 In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.

And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away. 13 And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. 14 All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.

Budding Branch | London, England | April 2023

I’m not really good at waiting…unless I have my iPhone or iPad and a good connection to the internet. I can check my email. I can play a game of solitaire. I can read news articles. I can listen to a book or a podcast. All while I’m waiting. But that’s not really waiting, is it. That’s more like killing time. Filling the void of boredom rather than waiting in the fullest sense of the term.

Waiting in the best sense of the term involves also hoping and trusting. For example, “Those who wait/trust/hope in the LORD shall renew their strength,” says Isaiah (Isaiah 40:31). When we wait on the promises of God, we also hope for their consummation and trust God to fulfill them.

So when Jesus tells the Apostles  not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father (the Holy Spirit), he is calling for them to do more than kill time. He is promising them something (someone) to engender trust as well as for which they might hope. He is also reminding them to rest and prepare themselves for the adventure of a lifetime. They will need their energy. They will be pressed into service in ways they cannot imagine. Even Jesus’ promise that they will be his witnesses is beyond their comprehension. How would they witness of him to the ends of the earth? So Jesus says to wait.

I’ve long appreciated the work of the Holy Spirit in bringing people to faith. I love Martin Luther’s explanation to the third article of the Apostle’s Creed: I believe I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to him. But the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel… The Holy Spirit has engendered faith in my heart. Thanks be to God. But that’s not all the Holy Spirit does. He compels me to share my faith. He propels the good news of Jesus to more and more hearts. He furthers the Mission of God. We who are reading this are testimony of the Holy Spirit’s work to that end.

There is a mystery here: we, like the Apostles, are to rest, wait, hope, trust, and prepare for this great work to which God is calling us. We are to engage fully as God gives us the opportunity in witnessing to Jesus’ work in our lives. We are to devote ourselves fully to his work. And it is God who is at work in us to do all this. In other words we are to wait and rest in anticipation and preparation for our work in God’s mission. But it is his work to bring people to himself.

I think I need to wait and ponder, and pray about all this. How am I to wait today, heavenly Father? Help me to see the opportunities you provide and act on them; for your glory, by the power of the Holy Spirit, and in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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