Can you imagine what it must have been like to be a first-century Jesus follower?
You’ve just endured the traumatic experience of watching your friend and leader be brutally beaten and hung on a cross. Grief overwhelms you as he’s placed in a tomb. He remains there for an entire day, and then, on the third day, your friends go to cover his body in oils only to discover he’s not there!
Your friends rush home to tell you what they’ve seen — an angel, sitting near the tomb saying that Jesus has risen, just like he said he would. But you find that hard to believe.
As your friends recount the details of their story, two more friends arrive, telling you they just talked to Jesus on the road to Emmaus.
This is just too much. You want to believe, but logic tells you it’s simply impossible, and grief says it’s just not true. Your friends continue talking when, suddenly, Jesus is standing right in front of you — a sight that’s almost more than your human heart can bear.
“Peace be with you,” he says. And this unbelievable new reality begins to set in.
He asks for something to eat. You give him a fish. He starts talking, and suddenly, you understand everything he’s ever told you — he didn’t just come to rescue Israel from Roman rule. He came to redeem all of humanity. He came to offer everyone life — a life of hope and compassion, of freedom and grace, of lifting others and leading by way of serving, an eternal life! This is good news. It’s great news! It’s enough to make you want to rush out of the house and tell everyone you know and then have them tell everyone they know!
And that’s what Jesus says you’re going to do.
But first, you’ll need to wait.
Wait for the gift the Father has promised you.
Wait for the gift of the Holy Spirit.
It’s possible that getting still and waiting on God is one of the hardest things about being a Christ-follower. But, as Jesus modeled, it’s also possible that it’s the most essential. In waiting, the disciples released their need to control and surrendered to the Spirit’s plan. In waiting, they learned to listen. They worshiped wholeheartedly. They rested and healed from the trauma they’d experienced, their grief giving way to hope. As a result, when the Spirit arrived, they acted in the Spirit rather than react in their humanness.
How often do we let our humanity win? Acting on God’s behalf, but charging forward in our limited strength? How often do we listen to the lie that “If I don’t do it now, no one will,” ignoring the gentle voice inside that says, “Stop. Be still. Rest. Trust my love enough to give me your ambitions. Trust my provision enough to handle your worries. Trust my timing enough to let yourself heal. Wait for my Spirit. I will tell you when to move.?”
Franciscan Friar Richard Rhor says that transformative action is birthed in times of deep silence and contemplation. Or, in other words, it’s birthed in waiting.
“Without some degree of inner and even outer silence,” he writes, “we are never living, never tasting the moment. The opposite of contemplation is not action but reaction. We must wait for pure action, which proceeds from a deep silence.”
Little did the disciples know that as they waited, as they withdrew into the stillness of God’s presence, God was planning something big. Jesus’ death and resurrection were about to launch a movement that would transform the world. And though the movement would be led by the Holy Spirit, it would be carried out by God’s people, a people that would be known as the Church — a people that included James and John, Mary and Martha, Peter and Paul, you and me.
Wait for the Lord, as the psalmist says. Be strong and don’t lose hope, but wait for the Lord.
What do you do when God calls you to wait? Are you currently in a season of waiting? How is that process?