After His resurrection and before His ascension, Jesus had told his small band of followers to wait in Jerusalem for ‘the promise of the Father’, ‘…John baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now” [Acts 1:5], He said. And so they waited, together ‘all with one mind’ until the Feast of First Fruits or Shavuot, also known as Pentecost, when Jesus’ words were fulfilled and the Holy Spirit gave birth to the new creation of those who are born into His unseen kingdom (aka: the Church/Body of Christ/Bride of Christ).

come Holy Spirit

Wait for My Spirit...You will be My witnesses (montage: J Fowler)

On Pentecost we remember this eternally historic event, when the Spirit of GOD fell on that small Jewish community. We remember the ‘noise like a violent rushing wind’. We remember the whole house being filled with this supernatural wind. We remember the tongues of fire, and the miracle of translation where everyone who came to see what was happening could hear them ‘speaking of the mighty deeds of GOD’ in their own languages. We remember Peter having to assure everyone that they were not drunk (as the crowd ‘supposed’), and his subsequent sermon to those present. We remember the spontaneous repentance and baptism of three thousand people after hearing Peter’s preaching. We remember the vitality and life of this new creation we call ‘the Church’, where they ‘had all things in common’, eating together, sharing together, praying and praising together, devoting themselves to the apostles teaching together, being together as a new community born of the Holy Spirit. But…what about the waiting?

Rewind the tape…back to Jesus instructions to ‘wait’. Why this waiting? Why couldn’t Jesus have given them the Holy Spirit before He departed? I know the theological answer- Jesus had to be reunited with the Father for the Holy Spirit to come. But I still wonder if that waiting time was an important part of the receiving.

Standing on that hillside staring into the sky they must have wondered how long the waiting would be, for the Holy Spirit to come, and even for Jesus to return. Yet as they squinted with their hands shielding their eyes and their jaws dropped wide open, a couple ordinary angels appear and ask them why they are still looking into the sky. They tell everyone, in essence, that Jesus is coming back the same way He left. In effect I think they were saying ‘move along’. I imagine they probably gave them a friendly shove towards Jerusalem.

Are we not similar? Many of us longing for Jesus’ return- awestruck by His absence. Looking upward wondering when He will return. And we must long for His return. How can we not? He is coming to make all things new. He is coming as Messiah, as the one who will make us and the entire cosmos whole. He is coming as our Creator and Redeemer to create a new heavens and a new earth. He is coming to judge His enemies, Satan and Death. But here we are now. In this ‘present evil age’. Here we are asking about times and seasons (I know I often do) like Jesus’ early followers:

“And so when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel”? [Acts 1:6]

But Jesus replies:

“…It is not for you to know times and epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” [Acts 1: 7-8]

I love how Jesus deflects their question. They had a limited agenda. It seems like they were asking Him if He was going to step onto the governmental scene and take His kingship or at least liberate and restore them as a nation. Jesus had a different idea of His kingdom and His purpose though. He essentially says don’t worry about when things are going to happen down the road, you focus on what’s next- the coming of My Holy Spirit to continue what I’ve started.

Today, are we limiting GOD with our agendas? Is GOD’s plan way bigger than our little denominations or movements or churches? Are we too preoccupied with trying to figure out the timeline? Are we even too focused on waiting for Jesus to return in resurrected bodily form (which I believe Scripture teaches us to hope for)?  Jesus says: ‘Wait for My Spirit, you will be my witnesses…”

Is it time for a new collective waiting…?…a new awakening?

(hat tip to Bill G. for posting this video to his blog)

[Pentecost video by The Work of The People]

J. Fowler

J. Fowler is the website editor and co-founder, along with his wife Pamela, of the Sustainable Traditions project. The Fowlers live with their seven children on a farm near the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.

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