“Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised,which you heard me speak about.” — Acts 1:4
God’s ways are not our ways. The last recorded words of Jesus in any of the synoptic gospels are some form of the Great Commission. John’s version comes in the next to last chapter, but Jesus’ final comments there prepare the disciples to get to work.
In other words, all the gospels end with Jesus saying, “Go” to bewildered and reluctant disciples. The book of Acts opens with him saying, “Wait” to a team that felt ready to get started.
I’m sure we’ve all experienced a promise from God that seems so vivid that we’re bound to see it manifest in the next fifteen minutes. Years later, it finally happens. Abraham waited 25 years from the first promise of numberless offspring until Isaac was born. Thirteen of those years, he probably thought Ishmael fulfilled the promise.
Speaking of Ishmael, whenever God tells us to do something, we can be sure Satan will tell us how and when. God is quite capable of making things work out as he intended in spite of the fumbling and incompetence of his servants, but the founding of the church was too important to take any chances.
By the time the disciples were chomping at the bit to get started, they had to spend ten days in watchful and fervent prayer, waiting for the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. They also took care of important administrative matters. Now, in my experience, to get something very big and important after waiting only ten days would seem like a very fast answer indeed.
Even as they watched Jesus ascend into heaven, they still had the idea that he planned to restore the kingdom as it had been in the glory years of David and Solomon. Jesus had to tell them that the Father had not told him when the kingdom would be restored. Obviously, in hindsight, the disciples’ mission had nothing to do with what everyone expected of a Messiah.
When the Holy Spirit empowered the disciples, now apostles, they went out and made 3000 converts in one day. The church grew in numbers, understanding, and influence. By the time all of the original apostles died, it was dealing with politics, schisms, quarrels, immorality, and all kinds of things that are still happening in the church to this day. But it was also on its way toward proclaiming the gospel all over the world.
Today stands between the time of the promise and its fulfillment. What is the church doing? It ought to follow the disciples’ example during those ten days between Ascension and Pentecost. It ought to pray with fervent expectation and take care of business in preparation for the final culmination of the promise.
Now that the Holy Spirit has come, the church has no reason to limit itself to administrative business. Our task is to follow Jesus, make disciples, and transform the world. Is that what we’re doing. Are we as individuals and as congregations walking in the empowerment of the Holy Spirit? If not, why not? The time of waiting for that has passed.