I shifted in the saddle and checked the reigns for the umpteenth time then settled with the familiar smell of leather and warm horse. I started tapping my heels against my horse’s sides while gently maintaining contact with her mouth through the reigns. We both had to find the sweet spot of anticipation and control. She started to prance in place as I intended. This little dance cued her to pay attention to me while preparing herself to launch across the starting line. If I worked her up too much, she might twist or leap in the wrong direction instead of toward the righthand barrel. She might cross the line prematurely and disqualify us. If I held back too much, she would drag her start. It was a tricky equilibrium, not knowing exactly when the horn would blow.
Jesus guided His disciples with a knowing hand much more effectively than I handled the horse. Jesus appeared off and on to different people after His resurrection. No one knew when or where He would show up and didn’t recognize Him when He did. Yet, for forty days after His defeating death, He prepared His followers for the race ahead.
He readied them by first chiding them for their thick-headed and thick-hearted unbelief. Then He prepared them by explaining how Scriptures, from beginning to end, foretold His plan. He opened their eyes to see the necessity of His entering our world as a human to suffer, die and rise. He invited them to see His resurrected body, to hear His unfolding the Old Testament, to touch His wounds, and to smell and taste fish as He ate.
After they calmed from seeing the resurrected Jesus, they marveled. They rejoiced! Their hearts burned within them! Jesus told them they would preach the gospel in Jerusalem and beyond. They would tell of Him with power. They would perform miraculous signs. They were excited and leaping to baptize, heal, and command evil spirits. They were chomping at the bit to tell everyone that Messiah came manifesting God’s love and securing forgiveness. But after all they had been through and now anticipated, Jesus told them… to wait. Wait!?
They were to wait for the promised Holy Spirit, who would bring power and reminders of Jesus’ teachings. The Spirit would come to stay with Jesus’ followers after He ascended and sat at God’s right hand. The Spirit would help them and guide them, but they had to wait for His coming.
Waiting challenged the disciples and it challenges us. We shift our weight from one leg to the other. We look around, fold our arms and sigh. We are impatient to get on with it! Why not send the Spirit RIGHT NOW?
We wait, because God uses time to teach us. Waiting is not idle limbo, but leads us to ponder. The passage of time challenges our faith and thereby strengthens it. God purposes waiting as part of His plan, because some lessons can only be learned through the gradual sinking in of truth and polishing of time. The longer the wait, the more we shift from placing trust in ourselves to the Holy Spirit. When our trust finally settles into Jesus, the peace of God settles on us, and we are readied.
My pony and I were not the fleetest barrel racers, but the race thrilled us both, especially when we had a good start. We finished our races puffing and invigorated. We, lovers of Jesus, must prance the dance of being rearing to go but under the control of our gentle master. He will guide us on the path intended for us with perfect timing, if we hold our horses and wait for it.
“Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” Luke 24:45-49
“After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” Acts 1:3-5