by Liz Young
(Based on John 17:6-19)
The disciples had to wait between Jesus’s ascension and receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes we wait in happy expectation, such as waiting for Christmas; at other times, waiting can be a very precious time, such as when we share the journey with some one dying. I wonder how the disciples felt while they waited.
When my mother was dying of breast cancer, I spent the whole time grieving: I didn’t talk to her about how she was feeling. But my regret for doing that was the spur to me, to later say to children dying from leukaemia, and their death waited for by grieving parents: OK it’s your choice, shall we stop treatment now, and do what we can to help you die a good death? They were always prepared to stop treatment. They knew they were dying, the children, but they needed those around them to also know and accept the inevitable and talk about it.
Between his death on the cross and his ascension, Jesus met with His disciples over forty days. He walked with them, talked with them and broke bread with them: he prepared them for his ascension, his final departure. During this time he asked them to wait together in Jerusalem until they received the Holy Spirit, which they did.
In the reading from John’s Gospel, Jesus prayed to God the Father, “I have made your name known to those whom you gave me. They know everything you have given me, is from you.” Ie, the disciples knew that the words that Jesus used when he was teaching, and shared with them, came from God.
Their experience of his resurrection was unexpected by them. The two on the journey to Emmaus took time to recognize Him, and I must say Thomas’s reaction is the one that rings most true to me. But they all accepted that he had risen from the dead.
Jesus will finally leave his disciples at the ascension: and he has left them prepared. He had sent them out practising healing and preaching during his ministry. He has warned them again that he is leaving them. But they have trust and faith in him, they know he will be there for them in Spirit. He has given them the knowledge and understanding to pass on his teaching to others. The gift of the Holy Spirit would inspire the disciples to preach, to repeat the parables Jesus had told them and discussed their meaning with them. The disciples knew Jesus, they had lived with him for three years. He’d taught them how they should live their daily lives. They wanted to share their experiences of him, Jesus, with others.
Waiting time: those of us born into a Christian family, attending Sunday School and church, we have to wait to develop our own personal faith, we have to mature. We have to experience temptation, doubts and mistakes before we can develop a personal relationship with Christ. Those whose parents aren’t Christians or whose parents’ practice of Christianity doesn’t fit in with a child’s natural sense of justice, will be introduced to a personal relationship with Christ at varying stages of their lives, and develop a relationship with Christ for different reasons.
All over the world Christians have different daily experiences. Here in New Zealand we are rarely challenged, as those Christians in Pakistan and other places of religious conflict are. But we need to be on the alert for racism and challenge it when it’s implied, as well as when it’s obvious. We need to value difference as part of life’s rich tapestry instead of devaluing or criticizing it. To explore what we have in common. We need to value the humanity in everyone we meet, and be open to altering our opinions, to aim for empathy and warmth.
We need to be generous of Spirit, looking for opportunities to help rather than criticize those who are poor or unsuccessful. How much time do two parents who are working full time have to care for their children? Those of us who are retired have time: are there ways in which we can share it more?
For many years the early Christians expected Jesus to return in Glory, soon. Now, two thousand years later, I don’t expect that to happen physically, but I reason and believe that if I, and we, follow his teachings, which were based on everyday life experiences, and apply them to our lives; and we believe in his resurrection, we will know that he will be here alongside us as we make our daily choices, and live our daily lives.