Summary: Not all forms of waiting are the same. Imagine 3 different sets of people waiting at a bus stop...
Not all waiting is the same. If you have got three sets of people waiting at a bus stop, the emotions they are going through could be entirely different.
One brother and sister are waiting for the bus to go to Ealing Hospital as they have everyday this week. They doesn’t know what they will find when they get there, but they hope they’ll be back waiting at the bus stop tomorrow. Their mum is lying dying in hospital. Will it be weeks, will it be days, will it be hours? They know it’s inevitable, but they keep hoping the wait will be that bit longer, that they will that bit more time with her.
Then there’s a boyfriend and girlfriend waiting for the bus to take them to their anniversary dinner. She thinks that’s all they are waiting for. Her mind’s on other things and she chats aimlessly about Eastenders. He waits nervously - in his pocket is a ring. Tonight he will propose to her.
Then there’s a couple in their early 40s. For ten years they have been waiting for a baby which has not come. Now they are waiting for the bus to take them to the clinic to find out if what's probably their last chance at IVF treatment has worked.
They are all waiting for the same bus, but each of their waiting is different.
There’s waiting in the bible, and again each waiting is different.
For hundreds of years the Israelites had been waiting for a messiah. After being conquered by Babylonians, then Persians, then Greeks, then Romans, the Israelites were waiting for Great David’s greater son - who would lead them to freedom.
This of course is not the kind of messiah who is going to come. But even 40 days after Jesus has risen from the dead, Jesus’s disciples are still expecting this sort of messiah. “Lord is this the time when you will restore the Kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6)
I wonder if there has been anything in your life that you have been waiting for with eager anticipation thinking it will be like one thing, only to discover that it will be like something totally different?
Jesus tells them that the messiah will be a totally different sort of messiah. “It’s not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will recieve power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judaea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth”
There is the old proverb - “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans” - and yet we are reassured in the bible that God has good plans for us - “"For I know the plans I have for you" declares the Lord, "Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future"" (Jeremiah 29:11)
A second sort of waiting is the despairing waiting of Good Friday and Holy Saturday. The disciples go to the upper room and “lock the doors for fear of the Jews”.
I wonder if you have had that sort of waiting -where you are waiting for something that feels so terrible that you would rather curl up in a ball and face reality, rather look backwards than forwards.
We still see a trace of this in today’s reading. “He was going and they were gazing up towards heaven”. They are looking at Jesus disappearing, hanging on to every last glance of him, clinging onto that glimpse of his feet. Physically their eyes may be on the skies but in reality they are looking backwards. Wasn’t it great when Jesus walked among us?
The Dominican Fr Richard Ounsworth says “Something I’ve found myself saying a lot recently – I suppose because I’ve finally understood something I ought to have figured out years ago – is that we shouldn’t ever say that Jesus came back from the dead at Easter. This isn’t because I don’t believe in the resurrection, but because I don’t like that word ‘back’. Jesus didn’t come back to life, he went forwards to life – the new life of the new creation.”” (1)
You’d notice wouldn’t you if there were two angels standing next to you? Yes? The disciples are so busy looking backwards trying to hold on to Jesus’s feet, that they don’t even notice the angels standing next to them. The angels have to go [make gesture of prodding someone with a finger to get their attention] “Oi Oi Oi… Men of Gallilee why do you stand looking up to heaven”. (Acts 1:11) God doesn’t want us to look to what he has done in the past. God wants us to look to what he is going to do in the future.