Whenever we turn to Jesus' words in Luke 24:49, the instruction carries with it the command to stay in the city until the Lord clothes them with power from on high. The disciples had experienced "much light" so to speak in regards to insight and instruction from Jesus. Acts 1:3 states Jesus had appeared for a period of 40 days to these men, instructing them about the Kingdom of God and showing them convincing proofs that He was alive. In addition, upon His first appearance to them He had breathed upon them the Holy Spirit to prepare them for such a "download" of profound insight.
They had experienced the Son in the glory of unglorified, pre-cross, pre-resurrection incarnated humanity (they of course got a sneak peak of His Divine majesty on the Mount of Transfiguration). For over 3 years they walked with the Son as God in human flesh. But now Jesus was coming to them, but now He was God not just in human flesh, but God in post-resurrected humanity. What they thought they knew about Jesus was not only going to be added to, but enhanced. This was their encounter with the post-resurrected, pre-pentecost Jesus.
The time had come for Jesus to ascend back into heaven. Undoubtedly reeling from what had been five weeks of intense experience (the crucifixion, the burial, the resurrection and subsequent appearances), the disciples needed time to process - and to wait on God.
Oftentimes when we focus on Jesus' final words to His disciples, many will refer to the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20 - and certainly that is a very important command. But very few focus on this instruction - the need to wait on the Lord before proceeding any further. Why did Jesus have these disciples to wait in Jerusalem? Today's post aims to begin unpacking this significant instruction from Jesus to His apostles, and why waiting on the Lord is so important for you and I today.
Waiting on God is very important in the scriptures
As one begins to survey the Bible, it is very clear that God often had seasons of waiting in His people's lives as evidenced by the emphasis He placed on waiting. Psalm 27:14
"Wait for the Lord;Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord." Or consider Hosea 12:6 "Therefore, return to your God,Observe kindness and justice, And wait for your God continually." As the saints of God grew in their faith, over time they learned the benefits of waiting upon the Lord. Isaiah 40:31 is perhaps among the most familiar passages on waiting: "Yet those who wait for the Lord Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary." Certainly by the time we arrive at the New Testament, we find Simeon in a posture of waiting in Luke 2:25 "And there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him." Undoubtedly the concept of waiting upon the Lord is vitally important in God's Word. So then what of Jesus' instructions to His disciples to wait until the Holy Spirit should come upon them?
Jesus instruction to wait in Luke and Acts
The sequence of events that took place from the time of Jesus' resurrection until His ascension entailed much activity. We read in John 20:22 that upon Jesus second post-resurrection appearance to His disciples on the Easter Sunday evening (the first being to Mary Magdalene), He breathed upon them the Holy Spirit. Jesus did that to prepare them for what would be an intense 40 day period of illumination, proclamation and final instruction. According to the NIV Harmony of the Gospels, Jesus made no less than ten post-resurrection appearances to his disciples and followers. The grace and power that came with Jesus' outbreathing of the Holy Spirit upon His disciples was for that 40 day period.
In the chronology of Luke's Gospel and the Book of Acts, it appears that Jesus' instructions in Luke 24:49 for the disciples to wait could be followed by the words we see written in Acts 1:1-8. Being that Acts is the sequel to Luke's Gospel, Luke is doing a quick review for Theophilus from whence he ended. Thus after the events of Acts 1:1-8, both the events of Luke 24:50-53 and Acts 1:9-11 parallel quite nicely with one another.
Between the time Jesus ascended in Luke 24:50-53 and Acts 1:9-11 until the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2 is 10 days. That timeframe was to be the specific time of waiting to which Jesus was referring. Both sets of verses in Luke and Acts give us a couple of reasons as to why Jesus had these disciples to wait.
1). Wait for reception of the Father's promise.
Luke 24:49a states - "And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you....". Acts 1:4 notes - "Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised,“Which,” He said, “you heard of from Me." Jesus of course is referring back to what He had spoken to his disciples in the upper room on the eve of His crucifixion about the Holy Spirit in John 14:16; 15:26-27 and 16:7.
2). Wait for empowerment from the Holy Spirit.
Luke 24:49b "but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”
Acts 1:8a defines this Power "but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you."
3). Wait so as to minister the message about the Son to all people.
Acts 1:8b "and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”
Unpacking Jesus' instruction to wait on God
Now notice the three main purposes of waiting as gleaned from our observations in Luke 24:49 and Acts 1:1-11: reception, empowerment and then ministry.
These men needed to wait in order to receive from God before they could give to men what God had told them. Unless I have something in my hand to give and something in my heart to tell you, I won't have anything to give or tell. John the Baptist said in John 3:27 "John answered and said, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven." For 40 days they had been receiving instruction, shown further evidences of Jesus' post-resurrection power and were encountered by Jesus Himself on ten different occasions. Imagine trying to process all of those events! Furthermore, the task these men had ahead of them far outweighed all the previous 40 days and 3 years of their time with Jesus combined. They needed to be yielded to the Father in a posture of waiting to demonstrate they could remain yielded to the Father's will in their process of going. Their prior time with Jesus was like a sprint. The upcoming 30 years that would follow in the Book of Acts was going to be a marathon.
Perhaps you reading this have been sprinting for the Lord in your church, your job, your family and in your life. God has something up ahead He would have you to do. You know so much about Him, but do you know Him? You know how to do for Him, but have you cultivated the much needed discipline of waiting upon Him? To realize that He is the Promising God who deals with us in covenant relationship prevents us from developing an aloofness to His Presence in our lives. We are often so busy being Marthas that we fail to be Marys. (John 11) There will be those times of course where we have to be a Martha, and of course it was to Martha that Jesus gave the insight about He being the resurrection and the Life in John 11:25. Nonetheless we need to be sure not to neglect waiting upon God, otherwise we won't be in the position to receive what He has and Who He is.