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April 15, 2018

Sermon Luke 24:49  . . .“Bible places:  a place of waiting”

“Bible places:  a place of waiting”

Luke 24:49

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus.

Nearly a hundred and seventy years ago, back in 1850, a gardener by the name of John Gray moved to Edinburgh, Scotland, with his wife Jess, and his young son John.  But as hard as he tried, he couldn’t find work as a gardener, so he joined the Edinburg police force as a night watchman.  And to keep him company on those long winter nights, he got a dog, a small Skye Terrier, a “watchdog,” that he named Bobby.  And together, John and Bobby became a familiar sight, trudging through the old cobbled streets of Edinburgh.  Through thick and thin, rain and snow, winter and summer, they were good, faithful friends.

But the years on the streets took their toll on poor John, and though he was treated by the police surgeon for tuberculosis, he died on February 15, 1858.  He was buried in a cemetery called Greyfriars Churchyard.

But what about Bobby, his loyal, faithful watchdog?  Believe it or not, the dog spent the rest of life, another fourteen years, sitting beside his master’s grave. 

When word got out, the good people Edinburgh began to help.  A local caretaker built him a shed, and every day, at one o’clock, another man, William Dow, led Bobby to a local coffee shop for his afternoon meal.  And when a law was passed requiring all dogs to be licensed in the city, Edinburgh’s mayor himself paid for his license and bought him a collar with this brass inscription:  “Greyfriars Bobby from the Lord Provost 1867 licensed.”

Then, when Bobby eventually died, he was buried not far from John Gray’s grave.  And along with a statue donated in his honor, a headstone reads:  “Greyfriars Bobby—died 14th of January 1872—aged 16 years.  Let his loyalty and devotion be a lesson to us all.”

Waiting.  It’s something none of us likes to do.

Think  of Russian comedian Yakoff Smirnoff.  He said, when he emigrated to the United States, the thing he loved the most were American grocery stores.  He said, “I’ll never forget walking down one of the aisles and seeing powdered milk--just add water and you get milk.  Right next to it was powdered orange juice--just add water and you get orange juice.”  Then he said, when he saw baby powder, he thought, “What a country!”

But think of all the waiting we have to do!  We wait in traffic, we wait in line, we wait for a spouse, for a baby, for graduation, and for retirement.  When we go to see the doctor, there’s even a place the receptionist tells us to sit.  It’s called, “The waiting room.”

Think of football.  By rule, the actual game should take sixty minutes, but the average NFL telecast lasts three hours.

That’s a lot of waiting!

The Bible talks a lot about waiting.  David wrote in Psalm 27:  “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!”  The prophet Micah wrote:  “But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation.”  And the prophet Isaiah wrote:  “They who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”

Abraham waited.  Noah waited.  Moses waited.  Paul the apostle waited.

And in the book of Luke chapter 24, even Jesus’ disciples had to wait too.  Please turn with me to page 1126 as I read the words of our text.  I’ll start at chapter 24, verse 36:  “As they were talking about these things, Jesus Himself stood among them, and said to them, ‘Peace to you!’  But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit.  And He said to them, ‘Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?  See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself.  Touch Me, and see.  For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.’  And when He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet.  And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, He said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’  They gave Him a piece of broiled fish, and He took it and ate before them.”

If you know the story, and I’m sure you do, Jesus had just risen from the dead.  First He appeared to Mary Magdalene, then to two men walking on the road to Emmaus.  Now He appeared to His disciples, hiding behind locked doors.  And in their fear, doubt  and disbelief, He showed them His hands, His feet, and His side.  And He said, “Do not disbelieve, but believe.”

But now it was time to return to His Father in heaven.  Now they would preach and teach and baptize, and do the work the Father had called them to do.

And so He said in verse 44:  “‘These are My words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’  Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.  You are witnesses of these things.  And behold, I am sending the promise of My Father upon you.  But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

“Stay in the city,” He said.  “Wait, until you are clothed with power from on high.”

Back in 1981, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers sang a song called, “The Waiting.”  Part of it went like this:  “The waiting is the hardest part.  Every day you see one more card.  You take it on faith, you take it to the heart.  The waiting is the hardest part.”

Now we understand waiting in line and waiting in traffic.  But waiting on God is the hardest part.

Why doesn’t He give me what I’ve asked for?  Why doesn’t He answer my prayer?

In the book of Matthew, chapter 15, there’s a story about a woman who came to Jesus in prayer.  The Bible says she was crying, and said, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.”

Now if anyone ever had a reason to pray, it was this woman.  Her daughter was possessed by a demon!  And if anyone could or should answer her prayer, it was Jesus.  

But what does the Bible say?  It says, “But He did not answer her a word.”

He acted as if she wasn’t even there.

Then, to make matters worse, when His disciples suddenly showed up, they said, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.”

Not only did Jesus ignore her, the disciples essentially told her to get lost.

And to add insult to injury, when Jesus finally did speak, He said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

In other words, “I’m a Jew, and you’re a Gentile.  You are not the reason I’ve come.”

Still with tears in her eyes and knees hard on the ground, she said, “Yes, Lord, but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”

And with a smile, Jesus said, “O woman, great is your faith!  Be it done for you as you desire.”  And her daughter was healed that very moment.

So why does God make us wait?

To teach us patience, to make us stronger, to draw us closer to Him.

As one author wrote:  “Sometimes it’s hard to understand God’s perspective.  He sees our lives differently than we do.  We’re a fast-food, soft-on-suffering, high-on-anxiety society.  We want what we want now and we want to avoid any discomfort.”  

And she wrote, “But God knows what we need.  And He knows how to make us grow.”

As James wrote in his epistle:  “Therefore, be patient, brothers, for the coming of the Lord.  The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains.  You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the Lord’s coming is near.”

In his book, It Happens after Prayer, author H. B. Charles tells the story of a woman who, one afternoon, went to buy grapes from a neighbor’s produce stand.  The line was long, but his produce was good, so she was willing to wait.  And the owner always gave his customers special attention.

When she finally made it to the front of the line, he asked for her order.  She asked for grapes.  Then with hardly a word, he walked away and disappeared behind a building.

For some reason, this rubbed the woman the wrong way.  He had greeted everyone else warmly, and had given them special attention.  And he had served them immediately.  But when she got to the front of the line, she had to stand and wait some more.

She was hurt.  She was offended.  She wondered why.  Was he taking her regular business for granted?

The longer she waited, the angrier she became.

A few minutes later, the owner finally reappeared.  And with a big smile, he presented her with the most beautiful grapes she had ever seen.  He invited her to taste them.  She had never tasted grapes so good.

And as she turned to leave with her delicious grapes, he stopped her, and said, “I’m sorry I kept you waiting.  But I needed the time to give you my very best.”

How long have you been waiting on God to grant your request, to meet a need, to solve a problem, to open a door?

Whatever you do, don’t get out of line.  And don’t stop praying.  Wait on God.

How is all this possible?  Because we have a Savior who wouldn’t wait.  For, at just the right time, He became one of us and bore sin’s curse for us, not only to the cross, but to a defeated, conquered, overwhelmed, open tomb.

Which makes it possible for us to say:  “I will watch expectantly for the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation.”

 

Dear Father, just like the disciples, sometimes we find it hard to wait.  Help us to rest calmly and confidently in Your will and way.  This we ask in Jesus’ name.  Amen

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