by Andrew Hillard
We aren’t always the best at waiting. We want what we want, and we want it when we want it. In many ways, it’s a posture that is driven by a clear sense of purpose and fuels productivity. It’s the approach that says, “I’m not going to wait around for someone else to act when I can do this on my own,” but it’s also an approach that makes the finals words of Jesus recorded in Luke’s Gospel feel strange, “But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). The final words recorded from the mouth of Jesus before His ascension are not instructions to go or do or work. There is a bold and compelling vision of gospel proclamation and gospel purpose there, but it is followed immediately by instructions to stay. “Go and tell…everyone,” Jesus says, but first, “Wait.”
It’s an instruction that is repeated in the opening chapter of Acts, but why? When the stakes are so high and the souls of so many are at stake, why does Jesus tell His disciples to wait? Jesus most famously answers that question in Acts 1:8, “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.” Jesus didn’t downplay the enormity of the early church’s mission—of our mission. He makes clear that the task could not be more urgent or more global, but He is just as clear that our mission of declaring the good news of His death, burial, and resurrection is NOT one of those things we can do successfully in our own strength. We need the power of the Holy Spirit, the One who spoke through the mouth of David (Acts 1:16), to speak through us if our testimony of a crucified man raised back to life is going to do what it is intended to do.
Jesus said to wait for the Holy Spirit. Thankfully for those of us in Christ today, the Spirit of God dwells within us. The waiting is over, but what isn’t over is our dangerous tendency to believe that we can do it on our own. When we take that path, what we inevitably find is what Jesus mercifully tells us here—that our mission is bigger than our strength but that nothing is too big for His Spirit.