Luke 24:44-53 Common English Bible (CEB)


44 Jesus said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the Law from Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures. 46 He said to them, “This is what is written: the Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47  and a change of heart and life for the forgiveness of sins must be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48  You are witnesses of these things. 49  Look, I’m sending to you what my Father promised, but you are to stay in the city until you have been furnished with heavenly power.”

Ascension of Jesus

50 He led them out as far as Bethany, where he lifted his hands and blessed them. 51 As he blessed them, he left them and was taken up to heaven. 52 They worshipped him and returned to Jerusalem overwhelmed with joy. 53 And they were continuously in the temple praising God.

Wait For It

Today we hear the last verses from the book of Luke; I have to think Jesus’ last words in every gospel are some of the most important ones in scripture.  We hear about a remarkable and mysterious ending of the life of Jesus’s earthly body – as he ascends into heaven in front of the disciples’ eyes!  But we also read about the promise of a new beginning.  This is the story of an ending and the anticipation of a brand new way of life.  But we also hear about the gap time – that time in between the end and the beginning of something new.

Instead of simply giving the disciples their marching orders to immediately move forward on their mission to tell everyone about him, Jesus says, but first…….wait.  Jesus says, something fantastic is about to happen, but in the meantime……..wait.  Today we are going to consider not just the ascension of Jesus and the commissioning of the disciples and their anticipation of a new way, be we are going to consider what it’s like to wait for it.

Now wait for it is a catch phrase made famous by Barney Stinson.  Do you know Barney Stinson?  He was a character on a tv show called “How I Met Your Mother.”  “Wait for it” was his catch phrase.  Let me jog your memory.

When I googled this phrase “wait for it,” I even found a definition.  Listen to this:

“Wait For It…” is an expression used to build up suspense in anticipation of an impending spectacle or climactic event. Online, the phrase is typically employed in the title or description of a video to inform the viewer of a gradual and uninteresting build-up before the sudden reveal of a surprising act or event.

And in a way that is what Jesus was saying to his disciples.  There is an impending spectacle, there is a climactic event coming.  There may be a gradual and uninteresting build up while you wait, but suddenly there will be a surprising act or event.  You are going to have to wait in the city for God’s power, but when you receive this power, you are not going to believe it!  You will be able to do all of the things I have asked you to do.  The story we will share next week will be all about that spectacle, that climactic event – in the form of God’s Spirit descending in very dramatic fashion on the day of Pentecost.  We know in hindsight that there is indeed something worth waiting for – because we know that God’s heavenly power will descend upon the disciples in extremely dramatic fashion ….if….. they stay in Jerusalem and wait for it.

But while Barney Stinson’s phrase is kind of cute and sarcastic, that’s not at all how Jesus meant his words.  Because for Jesus I think the waiting was a serious part of the disciples’ call to continue to follow him.  It was going to be harder for the disciples to carry on when his physical body was no longer on earth.  And this waiting must have become an act of obedience and an act of faith.

And so let’s search the scripture to learn more about what’s going on here.  Look back at the scripture.  First in verse 44, Jesus talks about all the things they have learned in scripture – he reminds them about Moses, the prophets and the psalms.  He opens their minds to the meaning within the scripture.  He also reminds them about how his life, death and resurrection fits in with the rest of their faith.  Then he gives them their commission; he tells them that because they are witnesses of his (because they have seen him and heard him and because they know him), they are to preach throughout all nations beginning with Jerusalem.  Jesus says this in verse 47 and 48:

“a change of heart and life for the forgiveness of sins must be preached in [God’s] name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.”

He gives them their marching orders, and then remember what he says in verse 49:

”49Look, I’m sending to you what my Father promised, but you are to stay in the city until you have been furnished with heavenly power.”

The disciples have a huge job ahead of them.  And we would be inclined, I think, to jump right into our calling.  We would get organized, we would make plans, we would want to get everything ready, make a strategic plan, get out the maps and decide how best to spread this message that people must change their hearts lives.  But Jesus says, you can’t do it without the power of God that is coming later.

They don’t know when this will happen.  They don’t know what God’s power might look like.  The disciples aren’t told what to do while they wait.  Jesus doesn’t give any details at all.  And then….. he blesses them and mysteriously ascends into heaven.

Waiting is really hard.  I guess it’s the uncertainty of waiting that makes us anxious and afraid.  It can be boring.  And I think we don’t know how to wait.  We don’t know how to be still.  We spend a lot of time waiting in lines, and we consider it wasted time.  Did you wait in any lines this past week?  I think the worst is the Post Office.  It doesn’t matter if there are no cars in the parking lot, when I get in there the one person in line takes ten minutes.

We are very impatient people, aren’t we?

Some of you know my husband, but you might be surprised to know that he’s really a granny in disguise because he’s a great cook.  One of the things he makes sometimes that I love is chicken and dumplings.  But I hate the process.  He puts the broth and the chicken in a pot and drops in the dough for the dumplings, stirs it a couple of times, he puts the lid on, takes it off the burner, and he walks away.  He just leaves them, and he doesn’t look in there.  He waits until they are cooked.  He doesn’t stir them any more.  And I can’t stand it.  He knows I want to look in there and stir.  And so, he has to say, don’t lift the lid.  You see, not only am I impatient, but I don’t trust what’s going on out of my sight.   Even though every time the dumplings turn out perfectly, it’s really hard for me to believe this time it’s going to turn out ok.

But this message is not about chicken and dumplings and it’s not about standing in line at the post office.  This message is about serious times in our lives when we are struggling because it feels like we are in this gap time – in this in between time, where we have come to an ending.  Sometimes waiting feels like punishment.

God blessed me with two wonderful sons who have grown up to be wonderful men – they are 26 months apart.  There is only one time in my life when I wasn’t either working or going to school or both.  And it was when my kids were around the ages of 3 and 5.  That was one of the gap times in my life.  We had moved to a new town, and I was having a hard time finding a teaching job.  And I ended up staying home with the boys for a couple of years.  And although this seems like it wouldn’t be a hard time.  It was really a gap time for me.  I had always worked and really didn’t know how to do this stay at home mom thing.  I felt like I was in one of these waiting periods.  My identity was really shifting in a big way, and I couldn’t trust that God was taking care of it.

It is in those kind of times that we can’t imagine what God might have in store for us next.  It’s these waiting times when we feel hopeless and pessimistic….when we can’t imagine that what’s under the lid of that pot will turn out well.  Maybe you have been there before or maybe you are there know.  Maybe it’s coming in your future.  I think it’s a common human experience to be waiting for God – waiting for the Spirit to direct us and empower us to do the next big thing.

And most of the time just like the disciples, we have no idea what we are waiting for!  We are nervous and anxious.  We are bored and afraid.  In fact, we are so confused sometimes that we begin to question that God cares or even exists.  We don’t think God is working in our lives at all at times.

I come to tell you today that God is with you through all the trials and turmoil that comes from life.  God is with you while you are waiting for it.  God is moving in your life even when you can’t see it or feel it or imagine that things will ever be better.  God loves you with an everlasting love.  All week long, I’ve been thinking about a scripture from Hosea 11.  And so I decided I would just share it with you.  It describes God’s love for Israel.  In this text God’s people have disappointed God once again by worshipping idols.  Yet God’s divine love remains.

Hosea 11 Common English Bible (CEB)
Divine love

11 When Israel was a child, I loved him,
and out of Egypt I called my son.
The more I called them,
the further they went from me;
they kept sacrificing to the Baals,
and they burned incense to idols.
Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk;
I took them up in my arms,
but they did not know that I healed them.
I led them
with bands of human kindness,
with cords of love.
I treated them like those
who lift infants to their cheeks;
I bent down to them and fed them.

God’s love for you is just the same, especially when you suffer, and especially when you are waiting for a new beginning.

Some miraculous things happened in the disciples’ lives.  In their time with Jesus they were witnesses.  They witnessed the blind and lepers being healed, they saw Jesus forgive sinners, hungry people ate, and their Savior was crucified, died and was buried.  The disciples thought there lives as disciples of Christ were at an end when that happened.  They couldn’t imagine that anything good could come from this tragedy.  But the best was yet to come, because he rose from the dead, and he ascended into heaven.

And so, we wait with the disciples.  Because we trust.  Because we have faith.  And as a response to that grace that God pours out on us as bands of human kindness and cords of love.  Each of us have been witnesses to many things in our lives.  And God will ask us one day to use those things we have seen and experienced for God’s good purposes.

Perhaps one day, we can encourage another person who is struggling.  Perhaps we can say – the dumplings turned out great, even though I couldn’t see what was happening.  I even got a chance to say recently that, you know those two years I was a stay at home mom were hard, but they were some of the most special times of my life.  And I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

We are witnesses of the gifts and miracles that come from God, too.  And one day, we will be commissioned to tell others about our experiences.

And so listen to how the disciples waited for it, starting with verse 50:

50 He led them out as far as Bethany, where he lifted his hands and blessed them. 51 As he blessed them, he left them and was taken up to heaven. 52 They worshipped him and returned to Jerusalem overwhelmed with joy. 53 And they were continuously in the temple praising God.

My prayer for us today is that we might wait for God’s heavenly power with joy and with celebration.  May we praise God continuously knowing that God will use our witness to share the love of God with others.  In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.