Waiting for Something Better (My Redeemer Lives 5:4)

When we moved from Ohio, one of the things I was going to miss most was what I mentally thought of as our “Ascension Crew.” This was a small group of pastors and their families. Most were quiet guys, but powerful things happen when we sit in awe of a Resurrection God together.

The thing that got them really excited was… one often left unmentioned New Testament Story, sandwiched between two more-often-told accounts: Easter, when Jesus rose, and Pentecost, the arrival of the Holy Spirit on the scene.

Did you guess it?

Yes, they loved Ascension.

This fact originally cracked me up.

One day I walked through a meeting they were in and I kid you not, I saw actual faces lighting up… joyful man-boy faces of varying ages and stages lighting up…over Ascension.

I didn’t get it then, but after one time of sitting in the worship they designed to celebrate all that God does and says through Ascension, I was all-in right alongside them – face lit up, in awe of our Resurrection God.

What is Ascension and why does it matter?

Those are the Resurrection questions we are going to answer today.

Please read Acts 1:1-11 below:

In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.

And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

Remember that the timeline of Acts is right after the Gospel accounts. The Bible is not always chronological – it doesn’t run in a timeline start to finish from cover to cover. Notice in Acts 1:1 how Luke, the author of the book of Acts, references the “first book.” That book would be the biblical Book of Luke. Acts is Luke’s continuation of his witness of what God was doing through Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirt, and the early church.

What insight does Acts 1:3 give us about Jesus and the resurrection?

Jesus appeared alive to them…for 40 days…talking, teaching, interacting. This wasn’t a one-time shot on Easter morning. The Resurrected Jesus had some time and some relationships, and many proofs on this Earth. Acts 1:4 uses really cool terminology in my ESV Bible, “While staying with them…” Other translations include gathered with them, while eating with them, assembled or simply together.

Jesus’s time for those forty days was a gift – a gift of proof and witness (which we’ll discuss in our final week of study) – but also a personal gift for many of those disciples I am sure.

It’s never easy to say good-bye, but just like everything else, Jesus knew how to do it and do it well.

God had a plan from the beginning of time and Christ carried out the work He was sent to do. It was time for the plan to continue.

It was time for the Holy Spirit.

Acts 1:6 tells us that the disciples, at least some of them, recognized the incompleteness of the restoration that we live in, the time of waiting we live in, this side of Jesus’s return for us. Acts 1:6 reveals that the disciples had personal and communal concerns, desires, and needs, just like we do, and that Jesus allowed them to ask questions of Him about these concerns.

Were they going to get the restoration of the people of Israel, the nation of Israel, that they wanted? In Acts 1:8 Jesus tells them, I have a different plan, a bigger plan, a plan for Jerusalem, Israel, Samaria, and the whole world.

Next… Ascension!

Reread Acts 1:9-11. In your Bibles, or on a piece of paper, note every “heavenly” reference you can find, descriptors reminiscent of pictures of heaven or passages you’ve read about heaven.

One minute the disciples are talking about Jesus and the next He’s reigning in heaven. Well, there you go. No big deal.

It is a big deal! Can you imagine?

Ascension reminds us of Who Jesus is and we often need to be reminded. I love that Jesus is my friend, that He’s my companion, my comfort, every present listener.

Every once in a while, I need to be reminded that He is God.

God with a capital G, not a little g. Jesus is God of the Universe, King of Kings, Mighty, Just, Ruler, Lord of Lords, and so much more.

Ascension reminds us not to make Him small.

Ascension reminds us that there is a time of waiting, but God does act and it’s not on our timeline. It is on His timeline.

Luke finds this experience so important that He bears witness to it twice. Read Luke 24:50-53, which is actually his first account, his first book written to his friend, Theopholis:

50 And he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. 51 While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy,53 and were continually in the temple blessing God.

Here Luke gives us the tidbit that when they were done gazing to heaven, the disciples responded with the natural outcry of worship.

Next, in the Book of Acts, the Spirit will come and the Church will be born. We go to church to hear from a Big God. Sometimes we need Ascension to remind us of this. It is an honor and a privilege to meet with others and worship Him in the waiting.

We have a Great Big Awesome God. He is our Resurrection God. He is our Ascension God – on His throne, reigning in our lives and over this world, even when we cannot see it. One day, He will be our Restoration God, even as we are restored today through Jesus’ death and resurrection, just wait for the Restoration to come. I have no doubt it will leave us standing with our mouths hanging open, staring at the clouds, and worshiping in the fullness of joy.

The Time In-Between (My Redeemer Lives 5:3)

Easter Saturday feels like the weirdest day on the calendar to me. Every year, after celebrating Palm Sunday, I ask my husband, “What’s the plan for Saturday?”

It’s an empty day. It’s a day for dying Easter eggs or picking out Easter clothes, making deviled eggs, or doing egg hunts. It’s a day to sit around, a day to do nothing, to fill with nothing.

While I have no idea what to do with it each year, in studying and writing for this study on resurrection I realized something —

Easter Saturday is an appropriately weird day, because it’s a day of waiting.

What must have the disciples thought of Saturday? What were they doing? Jesus had told them more than once that He would rise from the dead, which we covered in our video this week, but we have no indication that they got it.

What was the centurion by the cross doing on Saturday? What was Nicodemus, or Jairus and family, from our story yesterday, doing on Saturday? What about all the people He had healed or taught…what were they doing?

I’m going to guess that many of them were mourning, stupefied by loss, shocked into silent contemplation of the color of a spot on the floor, like many of us are in early loss. It’s the Sabbath, so Jewish believers would have been tied to the law of the Sabbath. Maybe then, they just sat around, unsure what to do, where to go, beyond mentally beginning the slow crawl to the new normal. They could have walked right back into regular life, thinking it was over, they had the wrong guy, so much for the Messiah being this one.

The time in-between generally feels like helplessness, nothing to be done.

The time in-between finds us with empty hands, either looking for something to do, like me on Easter Saturday of any given year, or drained of energy before the day has even started.

Just like for those followers of Jesus at that time, sometimes our times in-between, the waiting bits of life, are fear-filled, grief-filled, wondering-filled, or even nothingness-filled.

Mark gives us a tiny glimpse of the in-between, and even this small tidbit teaches us something. Read Mark 15:44-47 below:

44 Pilate was surprised to hear that he should have already died. And summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he was already dead. 45 And when he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the corpse to Joseph. 46 And Joseph bought a linen shroud, and taking him down, wrapped him in the linen shroud and laid him in a tomb that had been cut out of the rock. And he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. 47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid.

All while we’re unsure what to do, God is preparing some stuff. God sent a man named Joseph to lovingly care for Jesus’ body. The Spirit brought Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses to check on the place where He lay. Even Pilate, without him knowing it, was directed by God to work in the background in this time in-between.

This becomes even clearer if we read the time in-between account of the death and resurrection of Jesus in Matthew 27:62-66:

62 The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate 63 and said, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’ 64 Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.” 65 Pilate said to them, “You have a guard[j] of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.” 66 So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard.

So, the Pharisees, unbelieving, murder-plotting leaders, remembered the point of it all. It’s quite remarkable that God works in these men, to set up something big in the in-between.

Seal the tomb.

Post some guards.

And wait.

Nothing could keep Jesus in that grave.

God brings plans and purpose to our helplessness. God brings meaning to the moments, days, weeks, and years in-between.

Sunday is coming. Easter is coming. Resurrection is coming.

As Job reminds us in our study theme verse, He is coming back and we will see Resurrection like never before. Well, kind of like before, only better. Job 19:25-27:

For I know that my Redeemer lives,
    and at the last he will stand upon the earth.]
26 And after my skin has been thus destroyed,
    yet in my flesh I shall see God,
27 whom I shall see for myself,
    and my eyes shall behold, and not another.
    My heart faints within me!

And so we wait in the in-between. We live in between the Easter Feast and the Wedding Feast. Jesus will come back and make all things new, and because He’s done it once before in a small (by comparison) way, we can trust in the time in-between for us now. He is preparing and planning and doing His work in the middle.

He brings Hope to our helplessness and Magnificent to our middle, Meaning to the time in-between.

Waiting to Fall Asleep (My Redeemer Lives 5:2)

Have you ever had a hurry up and wait experience?

I’ve been on several mission trips and these perhaps represent the pinnacle of hurry up and wait, whether because of two cultures meeting, however briefly, or because of the nature of the mission trip experience. When you walk into another culture, even one out your backdoor, you exchange what you’d like to get done for what other people actually need, and figuring out where those two meet takes time and energy.

The Biblical mandate of missioning itself — the going out to know and share the Word and life together, the conversing and building up of people and places to gather in His Spirit —  has a hurry up and wait quality to it in general. God’s command to make disciples is urgent, for sure, and it doesn’t happen overnight.

Hurry up…and wait.

I get the idea that people in the New Testament knew about hurry up and wait as well. In a time with no Wi-Fi, no electricity, and no indoor plumbing, I think waiting would have looked like hurrying to get water from the well, and waiting for your turn with everyone else in line for water; hurrying to prepare for someone’s arrival, while waiting for an unknown arrival time with no cellular data to alert anyone; waiting for the Messiah, the King, the Savior.

In today’s reading, there is a lot of waiting. Some expected, and some unexpected. At places in the story, as the reader, you want to yell, “Hurry up!” but goodness knows at the other end of hurrying, there would probably have been waiting anyway. And as always with waiting, we don’t have the fullest picture — only God does.

Please read Luke 8:40-56 below and consider, where is the waiting in this account? Maybe underline or jot down the people and phrases that indicate waiting. Who is waiting? Why are they waiting? And what difference would hurrying make?

40 Now when Jesus returned, the crowd welcomed him, for they were all waiting for him. 41 And there came a man named Jairus, who was a ruler of the synagogue. And falling at Jesus’ feet, he implored him to come to his house, 42 for he had an only daughter, about twelve years of age, and she was dying.

As Jesus went, the people pressed around him. 43 And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and though she had spent all her living on physicians,[f] she could not be healed by anyone. 44 She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, and immediately her discharge of blood ceased. 45 And Jesus said, “Who was it that touched me?” When all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the crowds surround you and are pressing in on you!”46 But Jesus said, “Someone touched me, for I perceive that power has gone out from me.” 47 And when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling, and falling down before him declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. 48 And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”

49 While he was still speaking, someone from the ruler’s house came and said, “Your daughter is dead; do not trouble the Teacher any more.” 50 But Jesus on hearing this answered him, “Do not fear; only believe, and she will be well.” 51 And when he came to the house, he allowed no one to enter with him, except Peter and John and James, and the father and mother of the child. 52 And all were weeping and mourning for her, but he said, “Do not weep, for she is not dead but sleeping.” 53 And they laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. 54 But taking her by the hand he called, saying, “Child, arise.” 55 And her spirit returned, and she got up at once. And he directed that something should be given her to eat. 56 And her parents were amazed, but he charged them to tell no one what had happened.

Waiting would have changed this story entirely, or would it have? God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. I don’t think He plays by the same rules we think of when we think of time. Resurrection proves that.

The crowd was waiting… 

Let’s personalize that — People, with faces, and families, and needs, were waiting.

Luke 8:40 tells us right off the bat that people were waiting for Jesus – this healer, this hope walking around like an ordinary man. Did they know He was the God of Resurrection, the long-awaited Messiah? Maybe some did, but just as in our world, I’m willing to bet that pain looks every which way to find a Savior. It’s one reason we, like Jesus, look out at the pressing crowd called the world and walk right into it, sharing Who He is and the Hope He brings, His truth, His love.

A woman was waiting… 

Twelve years, we are told, this woman waited and bled with no cure. She spent all her money on doctors and medicines, ointments and oils, relief that turned up empty and sucked away every last coin. Do you know someone who has been there? Health problems are no joke, and until you’ve had one it’s easy to think that it won’t happen to you, that your skin is thicker and your veggies are more potent. Let’s help people find Jesus before they are desperate, but desperation is a good place for Jesus to meet the people in our lives. With compassion, Jesus does not reprimand a desperate woman as she falls at His feet. Instead, He teaches her with one sentence Who He is and the place of faith in the midst of her trial.

A father was waiting… 

All the while, there’s a poor father probably wringing his hands, wanting to yell, “We ain’t got no time for this!”

He too fell at Jesus’ feet, it tells us in Luke 8:42. He too cried out, spent tears I am sure, waiting for Jesus’ response. Jesus said, “Yes,” also in verse 42. He went. He could have stayed. He could have not pressed through the crowds. Jesus could have said no, and that’s a vulnerable place for Jairus to be in. It takes no small effort to set our will aside and place ourselves before God, asking for help. It’s vulnerable and that needs to be honored. Jairus is much like all of us in prayer, waiting for an answer. And He does answer. But sometimes, just like Jairus, there’s some very uncomfortable waiting.

Jesus was waiting… 

Is it possible that God sees waiting a little differently than we do?

More than that, is it possible that God Himself is waiting?

God’s miracles are interrupted only by other miracles.

That doesn’t mean the miracle will look the way we expect it. Resurrection, to be honest, doesn’t always look the way we expect it to, but that doesn’t make it any less miraculous.

In the end, Jesus says in Luke 8:52 –

“Do not weep, for she is not dead but sleeping.”

Jesus sees the world differently. God sees the whole picture and He is a waiting God.

He waits for us to get it. He waits for us to share Truth and Love and Life. He waits for our neighbor to come to Him. He waits for our children to come to Him. In the meantime, He teaches, He heals brokenness, and He touches lives and families.

What waiting are you experiencing in your life? What waiting do you see around you? Share with us today in the comments. Let’s pray together and lay it before our Resurrection God, and let Him fill us with new reminders of the Hope He gives.

Let’s hurry. Let’s wait. Let’s hurry up to share the message of life made new. Let’s wait with God to see what He’s going to do with it.