4 May 2024

Waiting for the gift

Captain Ruth Hammond

Captain Ruth Hammond explores how the disciples were prepared for the coming of the Holy Spirit.

Key text

How good are you at waiting? I guess it depends on what you are waiting for, what impact it might have, how prepared you are, how long you have to wait and to what degree you have been blessed with the gift of patience.

I recall counting down the days to the due date of my first child with a building sense of anticipation and excitement, as well as the immense frustration when she decided she wanted a couple more weeks before making her appearance. Sometimes having a known end point to your waiting can be helpful. But we don’t always get that, do we?

I like to put myself in the shoes of the people I read about in the Bible. In our study passage, we join the disciples just after Jesus’ death and resurrection. It must be a very strange time for them, having no idea about what their future holds. But they have had three years of front-row seats to Jesus’ miracles and radical teachings, planting seeds of knowledge and understanding. Even if they haven’t always understood it at the time, that experience is the firm foundation they need going forward.

They have seen their master crucified and resurrected, but Jesus ensures there is no doubt left in their minds that he is alive. They witness ‘many convincing proofs’ (v3), including spending time with him, and being able to touch him and eat with him (see Luke 24:38–42). Jesus spends 40 days speaking to them about the Kingdom of God, opening their eyes and solidifying their understanding of what God are all about.

He makes sure they are ready for everything he has planned for them.

Pause and reflect

  • Can you identify times when God has prepared you for something?
  • How and when did that happen and how did it impact your life?

Now prepared, the disciples receive Jesus’ command: ‘Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised… You will be baptised with the Holy Spirit’ (vv4 and 5).

A photo shows someone praying by a lake, with particular focus given to the hands.

Acts 1:8

You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you.

Read Acts 1

Jesus’ words would prompt the disciples to recall what he previously said about the Holy Spirit: a good gift given by a loving Father (see Luke 11:13); a giver of words to speak (see Matthew 10:20); an advocate, the Spirit of truth living with you and in you (see John 14:16 and 17); a teacher (see John 14:26); and a guide (see John 16:13).

The disciples would recall the change seen in people’s lives marked by baptism with water by John. They would probably have heard about Jesus’ own baptism by John. Being baptised with the Holy Spirit – being gifted this advocate living within them – would therefore be something quite amazing and wonderful. To top it all off, it would be happening in just a few days – the wait would not be long.

On hearing these words from Jesus, I picture a sense of excitement starting to bubble up in the disciples. What they previously thought was the end is now certainly not the end. There is something more to come and it is coming soon.

Pause and reflect

  • What is the most amazing gift you have received from someone?
  • How did it make you feel?
  • How do God’s gifts and the feeling of receiving them compare?

Knowing that something amazing is coming their way, the disciples understandably still have questions. They gather around Jesus, wanting to know: ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’ (v6). They are excited by this idea, but the way they ask shows they still don’t fully understand God’s plan of restoration, which involves humanity – and creation as a whole – living in peace and perfection, not just one group of people.

Jesus explains to them that only the Father knows when this will happen. With no timetable given, the disciples must continue to wait.

Pause and reflect

  • Waiting often comes with questions, particularly when there are unknowns about what is coming. How good are you at taking those questions to God and resting in his answers?

Jesus brings their focus back to the here and now, to what they are soon to experience. The Holy Spirit will give them power and a job to do. Soon they will take on the responsibility of being witnesses to Jesus, to keep his words alive and spread the good news to the ends of the earth.

The scene ends with the disciples looking intently to the sky, as Jesus is taken up into Heaven to be with his Father. The disciples are left still trying to process all they have been told, and probably wanting answers to many more questions. Two of God’s messengers snap them back to reality, assuring them that Jesus will be coming back and is not finished with them yet.

But for now, they must wait.

In their waiting, Jesus has already prepared them. He has spoken of what is to come and promised that it’s good and exciting.

In their waiting, there are questions, but all that is held in God’s hands and that is where their trust must stay.

When we experience times of waiting, may we also rest in the knowledge that God is with us every step of the way. Where necessary, he is preparing us. When our hearts and minds are full of questions, he is revealing what we need to know and holding us close.

Bible study by

A photo of Ruth Hammond.

Captain Ruth Hammond

Corps Officer, Ivybridge

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