Much of life involves waiting. There’s the everyday waiting of traffic and shop queues; the joy of looking forward to a holiday, a special event, a new birth; the less easy moments of waiting for exam results or hospital tests. Then there are those altogether less certain moments in life when something has happened which will bring change, but we do not yet know what the change will look like — or what it will involve — the “in-between” times.
The Easter story is full of such moments of waiting. John tells us of the waiting of the disciples following the arrest, crucifixion, death and burial of Jesus, as they gathered together with the doors locked for the fear of the Jewish leaders. It was an in-between time filled with fear and anxiety that was totally transformed by the appearance amongst them of the resurrected Lord (John 20:19-20). An awful day of death gave way to an incredible day of resurrection. All this was accomplished by God, while the disciples waited.
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
John 20:19-20 (NIV)
In Acts, Luke paints an incredible picture of the days following the Lord’s resurrection from the dead. During these forty days, there were multiple appearances of the resurrected Lord, the disciples witnessed convincing proofs that Jesus was alive, and Jesus spoke with them and taught them (Acts 1:1-3). But then came the ascension, Jesus’ return to the Father, to sit at God’s right hand in the place of all authority and power (Ephesians 1:18-23). Before he departs, the Lord Jesus tells his disciples there is another in-between time to come: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptised with water, but in a few days you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:4-5). This in-between time came to an end ten days later, at Pentecost, when Jesus’ promise was fulfilled and the Holy Spirit was poured out (Acts 2:1-41). Days of joy at the reality of the resurrection gave way to days of wonder at the gift of the Spirit. Again, all this was God’s work; the disciples’ task was to wait.
In all of life, we wait for God. In the awful days when death-dealing forces invade our lives, we wait for God to bring life again, to bring resurrection. In the days of joy, we still wait for God, realising that we need to be clothed in power from on high (Luke 24:49) if we are to witness and participate in all that he is doing in the world.
I write at a time when terrorism has again struck in our nation causing loss and injury to life. As we find ourselves waiting in places of suffering and pain, Christ himself comes alongside us, one who fully understands what it is to be human, and what it means to suffer. The reality of our saviour drawing near to speak with us, to listen to us, to comfort us is always transforming. Christ’s suffering and death gave way to life. And we follow in his footsteps. The cross, the resurrection, the ascension, Pentecost – all of these speak of God working in his creation to bring forgiveness and healing and new life. God’s power and love are constantly being poured out to heal the broken places and make us whole. God’s great story transforms our story. Though we are waiting, God is working.
And we wait for Jesus to return. We look forward to that day when God himself will wipe every tear from our eyes, when there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain (Revelation 21:3-4). And in this ultimate in-between time – as in all our times of waiting – God is at work, fulfilling his promises and purposes as he draws more and more people to faith in him.
Don’t overlook the obvious here, friends. With God, one day is as good as a thousand years, a thousand years as a day. God isn’t late with his promise as some measure lateness. He is restraining himself on account of you, holding back the End because he doesn’t want anyone lost. He’s giving everyone space and time to change.
2 Peter 3:8-9 (MSG)
Head of Bible Engagement