Waiting for the Promise

Acts 1:4 While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. “This,” he said, “is what you have heard from me;5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”


Luke is setting the context for the book of Acts. Just before Jesus ascended into heaven he had given instructions to his disciples. He would be leaving them, but only in his going could they receive the promise of the Father. While for the disciples the ascension may have seemed disconcerting, it ushered in a period of waiting. They weren’t sure what they were waiting for, but they lived into the promises of Jesus. The promise was the comforter, the advocate, which would be the overwhelming sense of Jesus’ continual presence through the Holy Spirit. Looking up into heaven their hearts must have been heavy. Stepping into a period of waiting may have been difficult, but it would be worthwhile. They would experience the dynamic and transforming presence of the Holy Spirit who would empower them beyond their understanding. 


I can’t imagine what it must have been like for those followers of Jesus to watch him ascend into heaven. While Jesus had promised them the Holy Spirit, I can only surmise that waiting wasn’t easy. How do you wait on something that you don’t fully understand? How do you have patience when the Messiah has left? 

There are moments in life when we feel that we are living in the space of waiting. We are waiting for that diagnosis. Waiting for the wedding day. Waiting for the next school year. Waiting for our children to grow up. Waiting for our retirement. 

My mother-in-law used to say quite regularly, “Don’t wish your life away.” Sometimes in the waiting we live too much in the wishing and we miss out on the present. 

After watching Jesus ascend into heaven the followers went to Jerusalem where they waited for the Holy Spirit. They had no idea how long it would take or what the presence of the Holy Spirit would actually mean in their lives. However, they were obedient to the words of Jesus and they went and waited. Every day they went to the upper room and spent time in prayer. They fellowshipped together. They broke bread together. The men and the women were there united in faithfulness to Jesus. They simply remained faithful day in and day out as they waited for the promise. 

When we are in a period of waiting, we are also called to faithfulness. We are to press on with our lives, remaining in a state of prayer. We are to have fellowship with fellow believers and break bread with one another. There is something beautiful in the ordinariness of life that helps us in our waiting. 

Eventually the Holy Spirit came and everything was changed beyond their imagination. In hindsight, I’m guessing that those days of waiting were a period of peace and joy among the believers. The period of waiting refined the group and when the fire fell — it fell upon those who had been faithful in waiting. It was evident who had been there waiting on the promise.

We learn to lean on Jesus’ promises in the time of waiting. We continue in the ordinary adventures of life as we live in community. The community helps us with our wait for it becomes a collective journey. When the promise is fulfilled it becomes transformational for all and life is never again the same. 


Lord, as we celebrate this day — your Ascension into heaven, may we live in the peace of your promises.  Amen.


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