The book of Acts is truly intriguing – it is filled with miracles, corruption, persecution and astronomical growth of the church. What astounds me the most is that the disciples, who in the not too distant past were hiding and terrified, afraid to even visit Jesus’ tomb, now boldly face persecution and death. What a transformation! I am left to wonder, what caused this change? How did a bumbling group of followers who seemed to always miss the point become the conduits of the power of God?
The beginning of the book of Acts reveals that this great work of God began by waiting. Seriously – thousands came to know Jesus because of waiting! In Acts 1:4-5 we read that Jesus’ command to the disciples is to not leave Jerusalem, but rather to wait for the promised gift of the Holy Spirit. A little bit later, in verse 8, Jesus informs his followers that they “will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you.” It is at this point that the disciples will become witnesses.
The call to wait is not a new addition, but rather a theme that seems to run throughout God’s interactions with humanity. The Psalmist writes often about waiting on the Lord, Noah had to wait for the promised flood and subsequent delivery, Abraham had to wait for his promised son and David had to wait for his kingdom. That is just the tip of all of the people in Scripture who had to wait! Yet, notice that these times of waiting are both active and expectant. Each time, the period of waiting is dependent on a promise to the one waiting. This waiting individual lives expectantly, knowing that at some point the promise will be fulfilled. Like a person waiting on a bus, they are not idly sitting but rather expectantly looking forward to the time the bus will arrive. With this long line of people who were called to wait, it is not surprise that God called the disciples to wait.
The great news is that God also waits! Now, I understand that God is outside of time and therefore waits in a different manner, but the life of Christ reveals a God who waits. Henri Nouwen, in his article “A Spirituality of Waiting,” reveals that “the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection reveals to us a God who is waiting.” Jesus waits for his time to come – and in a way had been waiting since before the foundation of the earth.
Thankfully, the stories of Scripture remind us that God is faithful and we can wait with great hope. We know that throughout thousands of years God has proven to be faithful. Ultimately, if God ceased to be faithful God would no longer be God. This does not mean that God is a genie, whom if we simply wait correctly and long enough will give us whatever we want. Remember – the disciples lives included poverty, persecution and death. But it does mean that we can wait in hope knowing that God will fulfill God’s promises.
The manner of waiting seems to be integral. While I cannot delve into every aspect of how we should wait, it seems that waiting demands community and remembrance. The Christian community as a whole is in a time of waiting – we wait expectantly together! Nouwen asserts that “the whole meaning of the Christian community lies in offering a space in which we wait for what we have already seen.” Through community, we can lean on each other and wait expectantly together – reminding one another that God has never ceased to fulfill a promise.
Waiting. There is so much more to say, but I will leave that for a later day. Ultimately, we know that the miracales that follow Acts 1 were only possible because of the power of the Holy Spirit which came through the disciples willingness to wait.
So I wonder, how have you been called to wait on the Lord in the past?
How are you waiting expectantly now?
Are there people in your Christian community that you can help wait expectantly on the Lord?
Ultimately, as brothers and sisters in Christ we wait expectantly for the return of Jesus – come Lord Jesus come!