Easter is over, and spring has begun. New projects are underway, and plans for summer are being made. It is a season of fullness, energy, and enthusiasm over ephemeral pleasures and pursuits.
But for the first Christians, the time after the resurrection and ascension must have been strangely, throbbingly empty. They had seen the promise of God’s Messiah finally fulfilled, even beyond their wildest imagination, and now they expected to see a satisfactory conclusion. Even immediately before the ascension, they were asking Jesus, “Is it time?” But He only tells them, “There’s still something that needs to happen, it will come. Wait for it.”
And so there they stand, staring into the sky, waiting. Waiting for the Messiah to return and finish everything right there and then, as they were sure He must. It takes an angelic messenger to move them from that spot. “He will come back,” they are told. So they continue to anticipate Him. They move on at the angel’s admonition, but their hearts don’t stop being set on His return. That hasn’t changed in all the centuries since then. We are still waiting for Him, and the smallest things can remind us of that deep desire.
Last week, I took some middle school girls from church to see the latest movie version of Cinderella. “Best movie ever!” they exulted. “Didn’t you love it at the ball? The prince never even looked at another girl.” The film had all the classic elements of the fairytale to charm a young girl, but one line echoed a story that can captivate young or old, man or woman.
Near the end of the movie, the prince has at last discovered Cinderella and has come for her. As she rises to go down to him, she wonders, “Will I be enough, all by myself, just as I truly am? There is no magic to help me now.”
It is true; on her own Cinderella shouldn’t have been enough to make the prince even turn to look at her. But the prince doesn’t take note of her dirtiness, her ragged dress, her pathetic plight, or the abuse she has suffered. He isn’t shocked or disturbed by her situation. He simply takes her by the hand and leads her out into freedom. He chooses her, just because he wants to. That is the magic of the story.
It is the magic in our stories too. We have a Prince who comes to us, sees us just as we truly are, and chooses us anyway. Like Cinderella’s prince, He is able to do so because of His position. His worthiness makes up for our unworthiness. You and I don’t have to worry about not being enough, because He is more than enough. That is what enables us to wait eagerly and confidently. We know He will come, that our dire situations will be no test for Him, that our low estate will be of no concern when overshadowed by His great majesty.
Our task is to find out how we are to endure the interim. Cinderella, locked in her tower, waits patiently and joyfully because of the confidence she has in her prince. We see the disciples go to the upper room, where they remain quietly until the Pentecost. “All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer,” we are told in Acts 1:14. Perhaps their prayers were not much different than ours are, especially when we see troubles and cry out, “How long Lord?” We believe in the promise and so hold on resolutely as the days lag by and problems multiply around us. But often we think, “Surely, it should be soon! This world needs you now, Lord.”
But the disciples were not permitted to stay in the upper room. Then Pentecost came, as Jesus had told them it would 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.” The time of waiting is meant to also be a time of work. We are not allowed to remain in the tower, or hidden in the upper room. Our Prince has already visited us to free us from captivity. He has already granted us power to act on His behalf.
Indeed, the prophecy “Behold, your king is coming to you, righteous and having salvation,” which we have seen fulfilling our great desire once already, goes on to say:
“As for you also because of the blood of my covenant with you,
I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit.
Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope;
Today I declare that I will restore to you double. …
The Lord of hosts will protect them,
and they shall devour and tread down the sling stones,
and they shall drink and roar as if drunk with wine…
for like the jewels of a crown
they shall shine on his land.
For how great is his goodness, and how great is his beauty!”
(Zechariah 9:9, 11-12, 15-17, ESV)