Don’t give up

We’ve all been discouraged at some time. You may be discouraged right now. Maybe things aren’t working out as you’d hoped; maybe it’s been that way for a while. You’ve prayed and prayed. You’ve waited on God.

No answer.

No change.

And you may find it annoying or even maddening when you share your frustration with someone else, only to be told breezily, “Oh, well, just hang in there and keep praying. God will make everything okay, you’ll see.” They’re not really listening, just giving you the required pious platitude.

I don’t want to be one of those annoying people.

But I also don’t want to miss pointing out the places where we might find some of the subtler signs of hope in the pages of Scripture.

In the previous post, we saw the resurrected Jesus and his disciples out in the vicinity of Bethany. He had been with them on and off for forty days. When they asked if at long last he was about to restore the glory days of Israel, he rather abruptly redirected the question. That’s not your concern, he basically told them. You have work to do.

Was it disappointing to be put off that way? Perhaps. But the disciples returned to Jerusalem with joy (Luke 24:52), to await the power they would need to be his witnesses. It may not be what they expected, but they knew now that they had a place in something even bigger, something that would spread to the ends of the earth.

When they arrived in the city, “they went to the upstairs room where they were staying” (Acts 1:13, CEB). There’s no way to be certain, but many have speculated that this may have been the very same room where Jesus had earlier celebrated the Passover with his disciples. If that is so, then the room held memories of their past confusion and grief. Imagine the shift in their emotions and perspective; it was now a place of joyous anticipation.

Moreover, consider the list Luke gives of those who were present. There are, of course, the Eleven; but with them are “some women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers” (vs. 14). The presence of the women, including Mary, shouldn’t be surprising to readers of the gospels; the women play a prominent role in the stories of Jesus’ death and resurrection.

But Jesus’ brothers?

We hear little about them in the gospels. Luke’s only mention of them is in 8:19-21; there, they play a passive role. John 7:1-5 is more telling. Jesus’ brothers don’t believe in him. They even go to the extent of mocking him and pressuring him to show his face at the festival in Jerusalem, where people are looking to kill him.

But much later, after his resurrection, Jesus appears specifically to his brother James (1 Cor 15:7). As we’ll see in the pages of Acts, James became a prominent leader in the Jerusalem church. It would be difficult, after all, to stubbornly maintain your unbelief when your resurrected brother is standing in front of you. And that loving confrontation (for so I imagine it to have been) was likely the catalyst for the conversion of Jesus’ other brothers.

Luke, of course, doesn’t tell us the story of that meeting, nor does anyone else. Many of Luke’s readers would already have known that Jesus’ brothers believed.

But we shouldn’t miss the point. The gospels give us no reason to think that these men were anything but hard-headed and intractable skeptics, who were probably jealous of the attention Jesus was receiving.

Yet there they were, after the resurrection, in that upper room.

You may know what it’s like to feel that all is lost. Or perhaps there are people in your life for whom you’ve given up hope. Will they ever believe?

All I can tell you is this: we’re part of something bigger than we can imagine, and the one in charge can do the impossible.