Last week I ordered something online that is just about due to arrive. It was supposed to take about five days to get here, and today was day five. So I spent the better part of the afternoon obsessively glancing out my front window wondering whether the delivery truck would arrive.
By six o’clock, the awaited package still hadn’t arrived, so I stopped glancing out the window. But I didn’t stop thinking about the arrival of the package. I imagined myself opening it, and what exactly I would find inside. Would the contents of the package be everything I had hoped for?
Unable to stop thinking about the package and the excitement I anticipate feeling upon its arrival, I found myself telling my husband all about it this afternoon. I chatted with him about the package’s arrival. “It’ll probably come tomorrow.” I told him, “Or maybe the next day. I’m not really sure, so we should just be sure to have one of us here at the house at all times until it gets here, so it’s not stolen off our front porch.” I told him about what I ordered and what I hope to do with the contents of the package when they are finally in my possession. Telling him felt effortless, because I am just so excited that the package I ordered is arriving in the mail soon!
Just after Jesus ascended into heaven, his disciples behaved much as I did today while waiting for my package to arrive.
“They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky?” (Acts 1:10-11)
The disciples stood staring into the sky! They did nothing else with their lives! They just stood there, watching and waiting for Jesus to come back. They stood there waiting for so long, in fact, that two men dressed in white (possibly angels?) had to appear and tell them to stop it!
“Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:10-11)
Jesus himself had just told them, literal moments before his ascension, that he would come back at an undetermined time.
“Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:6-8)
Because the time is unknown, Jesus’ disciples knew they needed to be ready at any moment for His return. The parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25, if you want to look it up!) taught them that the wise virgins (aka the wise followers of Jesus) were prepared for the return of the bridegroom (aka Jesus). The foolish virgins missed his return, and were denied entrance at the wedding banquet. So the disciples watched, and waited, in order to be prepared for Jesus’ return.
After the angels rebuked the disciples, they ran off and began a more productive form of watching and waiting.
“Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk from the city. When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.” (Acts 1:12-14)
They joined together constantly in prayer! What may seem an excessive and over exuberant way for me to wait for my package to arrive in the mail seems like the perfect way to wait for Jesus’ return, doesn’t it? The disciples prayed constantly, and then they spread out and shared the Good News.
Here we are, nearly 2000 years after Jesus’ death and resurrection as His disciples, still watching and waiting for his return. But we have the opposite problem of those early disciples. The early disciples were eager for Jesus’ return to the point of doing nothing else with their lives other than to stand and stare hopefully at the sky. In today’s day and age, many people have done the opposite and thoroughly moved on with their lives. Those who aren’t Christian scoff at the idea of Christ’s return. Those who are Christian forget about His return on a daily basis. His return can feel like a far off if not possible event, one we are unlikely to experience in our lifetime. But the end is near, always.
"Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour. (Matthew 25:13)
His return could happen in another two thousand years. But it could also happen tomorrow. Or in five minutes. So keep watch! Do as the early disciples did and "pray continually." (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Don’t give up meeting together. Don’t give up sharing the Good News. And don’t give up teaching and praying with your children so that His Love can be passed on to the next generation. Let your enthusiasm for Jesus' return far surpass the enthusiasm you feel for an eagerly awaited package arriving soon in the mail.