What Are You Waiting For?
Acts 1:12-26 describes a unique time in church history; a unique time in world history, no less. What was unique about it? Jesus had been with his followers - now represented by these 120 people - for 3 years. They heard him teach, watched him perform miracles and signs, ate the last supper with him, watched him get arrested and executed, and then interacted with him after his body was raised from the dead. Near the end of that, he promised them that the Father would “clothe” or “baptize” them with his personal presence - the Holy Spirit.
We know, based on the timing of Jesus’ crucifixion (Friday after passover), the fact that he raised on the third day, and Luke’s report a) he was with his disciples for 40 days and b) the Holy Spirit came on Pentecost, which is the 50th day after Passover, that the period of time covered by Acts 1:12-26 is about seven days. From the birth of Jesus until today, these seven days mark his greatest absence from his people. Not with them in body, not fully with them in Spirit…. for seven days.
Seven days of waiting. Seven days of wondering what it will be like. Seven days with 120 people crammed into an upstairs room in Jerusalem.
Don’t forget, they didn’t know this thing would happen on Pentecost. They only knew they were commanded by Jesus to wait in Jerusalem, and then they watched him ascend, out of sight, taking the throne of heaven. Waiting is really different if you know how long you have to wait. But it’s generally much slower if you don’t.
You know, like when you drive somewhere for the first time, it always feels like it takes longer to get there. But when you drive home, you realize “oh, that wasn’t nearly as far as I thought.” Anyone?
In the big picture, seven days is fast.
A classic Bible story about waiting is Abram/Abraham. God promises him that he’ll bless the world through Abram’s descendants, but Abram is already an old man and his wife is an old woman, and they’ve been unable to conceive. Abram was 75 years old when God gave him this promise. By the time Abraham (his name changes in the middle of this) and his wife bear a child, he’s 100 years old. Quick math: He waited 25 years for God to make good on the promise.
In the big picture, 25 years is fast.
The people Israel (Abraham’s descendants) were delivered from Egypt after 400 years of slavery. They spent 40 years wandering in the wilderness, and a whole generation died without receiving the promised land.
In the big picture, 40 years is fast.
When they had filled up the cup of rebellion after generations of idol worship in the promised land, led by kings and priests alike, God allowed Babylon and Assyria to overrun the people Israel. And they were in exile for 400-500 years. Some Jews believe they are still in exile, which would mean 2400+ years. Others think it ended in 1948, which would mean the waiting was limited to 2350 years.
It’s for another blog, but I think Jesus ended the exile when he announced “the year of the Lord’s favor” at the beginning of his work. It’s just the people would look really different now - truly, all the nations would be blessed through him. So, let’s call it 500 years.
In the big picture, 500 years is fast.
You see, God is telling a story, and when it takes a long time, we are reminded of a critical factor: The story is not about us. It’s not my story.
I’m waiting on several things right now. I’m waiting for a replacement part for something in my house to arrive in the mail. I’m waiting for clarity on next steps for the church. I’m waiting for my baby son to be able to drink milk without spitting up all over my shirt every time. If the story was about me, I’d be right to be impatient... or at least closer to justified.
The “clothing with power from on high” that happened when the Holy Spirit came could have happened the instant Jesus ascended. Everything was in place. He had the authority and the right and the ability to send the Spirit. But he waited until the day of Pentecost, the day Jews called the Feast of Weeks, when they remembered how God gave the Holy Law to Moses and Moses descended from Mount Sinai with it written on tablets of stone. Why?
Because it’s his story, and he’s a brilliant story teller. The themes that started with Adam and Eve carried to Noah and Abraham, carried to Moses and Joshua, carried to Samuel, Saul and David, carried to Nehemiah, and carried to this group of 120 believers. This is God’s story. Told in his time, at his pace, for his glory.
If 500 years is fast in the big picture, what IS the big picture? Simply, the big picture is God’s time. How long is that? You won’t have scratched the surface of how long God’s time is even after you’ve spent 3 Million Years enjoying the feasts and joys of the New Heavens and New Earth. You’ll feel like the fun, the joy, the love has just gotten started. You’ll feel like you’ve only begun to praise him.
So, what are you waiting for? Maybe, just maybe, your wait is proof that this isn’t your story.
When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright Shining As the Sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’d first begun.