As bedtimes so often go, my four-year-old uses the last few minutes of the day in hopes that he can begin a conversation that will require me to linger just a little bit longer.
Most recently, he began a line of questioning that started with curiosity about the new heaven and the new earth, and then morphed into an intense desire to understand Jesus’ triumphant return (Rev. 21:1, Matt. 24:42-44). He did not receive the news well when I explained that Jesus says we won’t know when he’s coming back. Worst case scenario, we wait. If you have parented any preschoolers recently, then you know that waiting is not one of their strongest suits.
The late hour and his annoyance escalated as he shouted, “I don’t like surprises! I just want to know when Jesus is coming back!”
I chuckled to myself as I listened to him express frustration over a dilemma that many adult Christians have faced for years. I could relate to his both his irritation in not having all the information and his disappointment in being asked to wait for something exciting!
Waiting is hard. Interestingly, as I poured over the Scriptures detailing the crucifixion of Jesus, I didn’t find evidence that anyone was waiting for Jesus to rise from the dead.
Here is what I did find.
The knowledge was there. When the angel spoke to the women at the tomb of Jesus, he reminded them that they had been told that Jesus would rise on the third day, and yet there they were, surprised to find an empty tomb (Luke 24:7).
The people scattered. Throughout the Gospel accounts, when Jesus reveals his resurrected self it happens to small collections of people. No great crowd of people, or even a group of disciples was lurking about, anticipating that Jesus would actually rise on the third day.
Hope was lost. The women arrived with burial items for a dead man, not food and water for a living man.
It’s not just waiting that is hard, faith is hard. The women at the tomb remind us that knowledge doesn’t always equal faith. All the knowledge and experiences in the world are often not enough to sustain our faith. They had direct access to Jesus, his teachings and eye witness to his power; and yet they doubted his resurrection.
If not knowledge, then what?
Our faith is a work of the Holy Spirit that lives in us and reveals the word of the Lord to us and creates something living and active inside of us that stirs our hearts and sustains our faith.
“Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law (Psalm 119:16).”
My son is certainly not the first to question the Lord. The disciples stood before Jesus and boldly asked- when do you plan to bring your kingdom here to Israel?! Jesus declares that this knowledge is “not for you to know (Acts. 1:7).”
What he does say is this, “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. (Acts. 1:8).”
What does that mean to my preschooler? What does that mean for me, for you?
Frankly, I don’t think it means much to my little guy. What he will see is me and my husband. This Easter weekend, he will witness the work of the Holy Spirit in us. The Spirit will allow us to demonstrate patience and faithfulness in the waiting and the unknown. As Jesus asked the disciples before us, we will testify and bear witness to the hope we have in eternal life.
I can’t spare my son the frustration of the unknown, I can’t even perfectly explain the mysteries of our faith. In some moments, I will lose faith, and show up to the tomb with preparations for the dead when I should’ve been prepared to greet the living!
One day I hope my son will understand, that Jesus does surprise us. Sometimes when we lose sight, he shows up where we least expected to find him and yet it’s where he planned to be all along. He doesn’t turn us away in our unbelief, but instead he invites us back on the journey, and continues to prepare us the work that has yet to be done.