by: Paul Briggs
Some of you might remember the television commercial of yesteryear (the mid-late 70’s to be exact) advertising tomato ketchup. If you don’t remember it, you can find it here on YouTube - (incidentally the kids in that commercial would be 50 years old now!) The commercial promotes the virtue of tomato ketchup that is “a slow go” and is “worth the wait.”
I thought about this recently when my granddaughter’s sixth birthday party was unexpectedly postponed by about 10 days. When the day of her celebration [finally!] arrived, it was fun to watch the various emotions she displayed as the excitement of her party grew. First there was the arrival of the family members (carrying a card or a gift bag for her). She gleefully received them and carried them into the house to be opened later in the day. Then there was the food being prepared, served and being enjoyed by those who had come to celebrate with her by spending the afternoon together.
I had to chuckle when, having barely finished my lunch, my granddaughter asked if she could take my paper plate to the trash. As I watched this scenario unfold repeatedly around me, I interpreted her actions to be the not-so-subtle way of a six-year-old letting us know it was time for the next thing on the party agenda…the much anticipated opening of her cards and gifts! Her party had been postponed for 10 days due to unpreventable circumstances, after all! In the immediate context, she had been savoring this moment for over a week! But really, the feeling of excitement had been building over the last year since her last birthday! And after the opening of the cards and presents there was the cake, complete with lit candles to be blown out and the singing of “Happy Birthday!” Yes, there was a culmination of the anticipation!
This strange combination of vintage TV commercials advertising tomato ketchup and my granddaughter's birthday party led me to think about the return of Jesus. As individual members of the body of Christ and as the collective whole of his people who come together as his church, we should be anticipating; experiencing the feeling of excitement about this glorious event that is on the calendar of the Father (Matthew 24:36). The return of Jesus is an event promised by Jesus himself around which there should be great expectation and anticipation, both personally and corporately.
How are you doing with the anticipation of that great event? Do you find yourself so caught up in the day-to-day tasks of everyday life that you rarely think about the return of Jesus? You know, paying the bills, the boss who is demanding more of you, the diapers that need to be changed, the family that needs to be fed or chauffeured around to various activities? Or do you find yourself savoring that moment, looking to the clouds and wondering, “Could today be the day I get to see Jesus face-to-face?!”
If you are anything like me, then your “Anticipation Meter” - the spectrum of expectation for the return of Jesus - has both its valleys and its peaks. The days that pass without thinking about seeing Jesus face-to-face at all and the days when you find yourself repeatedly saying, “even so come quickly, Lord Jesus!”
At the beginning of Acts 17 we read about Paul and Silas who arrived in Thessalonica and went to the local meeting place of the Jews to explain and prove from the Scriptures “that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead…” The reaction to their message was mixed: some were persuaded and joined, some devout Greeks (non-Jews) joined and “not a few of the leading women.” But the Jews had a different reaction: they were jealous; they formed a mob, they set the city in an uproar and attacked the house of a follower of Jesus whose name was Jason. They dragged him and some of the brothers before the authorities of the city.
It is interesting to note that when the apostle Paul writes his first letter back to the church established in Thessalonica (1:9-10) he identifies “waiting for Jesus from heaven” as a life characteristic of one of those who had turned to the true and living God from idols. Is that true of you?
There are numerous passages in the New Testament that point the follower of Jesus to the importance of waiting for his return. Whether your “Anticipation Meter” for the return of Jesus is in a valley moment or a peak moment, here are a few of those passages which give us some specifics on how we should be savoring that glorious moment when our Savior and King returns.
- As we have already seen, waiting is a fundamental characteristic of the follower of Jesus, 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10 - For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, who he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.
- Wait patiently, James 5:7 - Be patient...brothers, until the coming of the Lord, see how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains.
- Wait with alertness, Matthew 24:42 - ...Stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.
- Wait with eagerness, Philippians 3:20 - But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ...
- Wait while living in a sensible and godly manner, Titus 2:11-14 - For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.
Occasionally during the morning worship service at Kossuth we sing about the return of the Lord Jesus. One of my personal favorites is “He Will Hold Me Fast”. The last stanza of that song says this:
For my life He bled and died, Christ will hold me fast;
Justice has been satisfied; He will hold me fast.
Raised with Him to endless life, He will hold me fast
'Till our faith is turned to sight, When He comes at last!
He will hold me fast, He will hold me fast;
For my Savior loves me so, He will hold me fast.
In a few short words the phrase ‘Till our faith is turned to sight, When He comes at last! points the follower of Jesus to that anticipated moment when the promised event of the return of Jesus comes to pass [finally!]. In the meantime, however, we have the precious and very great promises of Jesus and the faith he has given to us and we know that he is holding us fast. Therefore, “Let us … lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith… Hebrews 12:1-2