Week 7: Wait


A Journey Toward Spiritual Surrender
Week 7: Wait

Contributed by Rev. Roger Short
Retired Elder

Scripture—John 18:1-19:42

When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was a garden, and he and his disciples went into it. Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples. So Judas came to the garden, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and the Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons.
Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?”
“Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied.
“I am he,” Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.)

When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground.
Again he asked them, “Who is it you want?”
“Jesus of Nazareth,” they said.
Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. If you are looking for me, then let these men go.”

This happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled: “I have not lost one of those you gave me.”[
Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.)
Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?”

Then the detachment of soldiers with its commander and the Jewish officials arrested Jesus. They bound him and brought him first to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jewish leaders that it would be good if one man died for the people.
Simon Peter and another disciple were following Jesus. Because this disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the high priest’s courtyard, but Peter had to wait outside at the door. The other disciple, who was known to the high priest, came back, spoke to the servant girl on duty there and brought Peter in.
“You aren’t one of this man’s disciples too, are you?” she asked Peter.
He replied, “I am not.”
It was cold, and the servants and officials stood around a fire they had made to keep warm. Peter also was standing with them, warming himself.
Meanwhile, the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching.
“I have spoken openly to the world,” Jesus replied. “I always taught in synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret. Why question me? Ask those who heard me. Surely they know what I said.”
When Jesus said this, one of the officials nearby slapped him in the face. “Is this the way you answer the high priest?” he demanded.
“If I said something wrong,” Jesus replied, “testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?” 

Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.
Meanwhile, Simon Peter was still standing there warming himself. So they asked him, “You aren’t one of his disciples too, are you?”
He denied it, saying, “I am not.”
One of the high priest’s servants, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, challenged him, “Didn’t I see you with him in the garden?” Again Peter denied it, and at that moment a rooster began to crow.
Then the Jewish leaders took Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness they did not enter the palace, because they wanted to be able to eat the Passover. So Pilate came out to them and asked, “What charges are you bringing against this man?”
“If he were not a criminal,” they replied, “we would not have handed him over to you.”
Pilate said, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.
“But we have no right to execute anyone,” they objected. This took place to fulfill what Jesus had said about the kind of death he was going to die.
Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
“Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”
“Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”
Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”
“You are a king, then!” said Pilate.
Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
“What is truth?” retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him. But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release ‘the king of the Jews’?”
They shouted back, “No, not him! Give us Barabbas!” Now Barabbas had taken part in an uprising.

Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe and went up to him again and again, saying, “Hail, king of the Jews!” And they slapped him in the face. Once more Pilate came out and said to the Jews gathered there, “Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against him.” When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!” As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw him, they shouted, “Crucify! Crucify!” But Pilate answered, “You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him.”
The Jewish leaders insisted, “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.”

When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid, and he went back inside the palace. “Where do you come from?” he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer. “Do you refuse to speak to me?” Pilate said. “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?”

Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.” From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jewish leaders kept shouting, “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.”
When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge’s seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement (which in Aramaic is Gabbatha). It was the day of Preparation of the Passover; it was about noon.

“Here is your king,” Pilate said to the Jews.
But they shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!”
“Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate asked.
“We have no king but Caesar,” the chief priests answered.
Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified.

So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). There they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle. Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: Jesus of Nazareth, the king of the Jews. Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews.”
Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.”

When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom. “Let’s not tear it,” they said to one another. “Let’s decide by lot who will get it.”
This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled that said,
“They divided my clothes among them
    and cast lots for my garment.”
So this is what the soldiers did.

Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.

Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jewish leaders did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken,” and, as another scripture says, “They will look on the one they have pierced.”

Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

Bible Study

My wife, Jeri, and I have two grown sons. Recently, the older one sent a text to his mother: “Do all children test the limits of what they can get into? Ours seems to attempt multiple times. Like she’s probing for weaknesses.”

Jeri replied, “Like father, like daughter,” and I, “It’s just beginning.”

Since he was his daughter’s age, not quite one year old, we have waited to savor a perverse pleasure. With appropriate humor now we delight to see his parenting a rambunctious child, remembering our efforts then to parent him well. Old-timers might say, “He’s paying for his raising!” It’s been a long, light wait for us to see this proverbial wisdom unfold.
In addition to many lighthearted times spent with our younger son, we endured at least one short, heavy wait, as I recall. He was born with a birth defect that demanded immediate surgical intervention. Thank God, our pediatrician noted the defect on first inspection. We were given the news gently, but firmly. Referral to a pediatric neurosurgeon was imperative, and quickly it was done. The sooner a surgery could be performed, the better the outcome would be for our newborn. The longer surgery was delayed, the greater a possibility of harm would become for him. Two months after his birth, Jeri and I handed our baby over to a neurosurgical team at Children’s Hospital of Alabama, and the short, heavy wait began.

From morning to afternoon is not a long period of time when compared to a lifetime, yet our short, heavy wait seemed to pass at the breakneck pace of an inchworm’s locomotion— “breakneck,” because anticipatory thoughts spun through our heads with dizzying speed and “inchworm,” because alertness to the circumstance focused our attention keenly on every … passing … moment. Words fail to describe the gravity of the situation. What can I say? It was a short, heavy wait.

Pause and Reflect

How have you experienced life’s waiting, both long and short, light and heavy? Participants in a group may be invited to share, as the Spirit leads.

The Bible’s book of John omits certain details of the short, heavy wait before Jesus’ arrest. His encouragement to the sleepy disciples, for example, his anguished prayer for the possibility of release, and his surrender in the opacity, darkness, or mystery of the Heavenly Father’s will are reported in the Bible’s books of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. But as the story of Jesus’ capture unfolds, John states an astonishing fact not recorded in the other gospels: The men sent to take charge of Jesus did not rush forward immediately. When Jesus first identified himself they fell back to the ground! (John 18:6) The Son of Man waited while his betrayer, a detachment of soldiers, and some religious officials regained their composure and summoned enough courage to complete their mission! He waited patiently and actively, as this artwork depicts…

Master of the Karlsruhe Passion. Capture of Christ, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=54954 [retrieved November 5, 2020]. Original source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Master_of_the_Karlsruhe_Passion_001.jpg.

Pause and Reflect

What do you notice in the picture? In what ways did Jesus’ patient, active waiting confront the personal betrayal, religious hypocrisy, and political oppression of his day? Participants in a group may want to discuss how patient, active waiting changes (or fails to change) violent culture, systemic racism, or economic injustice today.

In 2006 singer-songwriter John Mayer released a hit song, “Waiting on the World to Change.” (Official video here) Its lyrics seem to say Mayer’s generation is entangled in an impatient, passive waiting game:
   Me and all my friends
   We're all misunderstood.
   They say we stand for nothing, and
   There's no way we ever could.
   Now we see everything that's going wrong
   With the world and those who lead it.
   We just feel like we don't have the means
   To rise above and beat it.

   So we keep waiting,
   Waiting on the world to change.
   We keep on waiting,
   Waiting on the world to change.
   It's hard to beat the system
   When we're standing at a distance.
   So we keep waiting,
   Waiting on the world to change.

If Mayer’s generation does wait impatiently and passively, as his lyrics seem to suggest, that form of waiting stands in contrast with Jesus’ practice of patient, active waiting. Despite the differences, however, the lyrics do hint at a kind of hope. In the song’s coda Mayer writes:
   One day our generation
   Is gonna rule the population.
   So we keep on waiting,
   Waiting on the world to change.
I marvel that the bewildering narrative of Jesus’ passion and death holds out hope for his followers. I wonder if the apostles held onto any shred of hope then, as he was dragged to the home of the high priest, tried before the governor, condemned by his own people, tortured by soldiers, shamefully marched through the streets, and put to death by crucifixion. Was Jesus enticed to give up, to despair? Was Abba Father tempted to rescue the Only-Begotten? Tremendous forces were at work in the midst of the ignorance, chaos, intrigue, greed, and cruelty leading up to Jesus’ execution and burial, but none as mighty as the power of God.

The apostles may or may not have dared to hope, as one by one, they denied Jesus then. But now I cling to hope by the grace of God, and I claim him to the best of my ability in my thinking, speaking, and doing.

Pause and Reflect

When and how has hope entered the most bewildering, disappointing, and crushing experiences of your life? Participants in a group may be given time to talk about their experiences of receiving the unlikeliest of hopes.

So the neurosurgeon removed our younger son’s birth defect; and his God-given growth did the rest. He ate and drank. His wounds healed. He slept and cried. The stitches came out. Today, he is a healthy thirty-plus-year-old man, somewhat as Jeri and I once weakly and darkly hoped. Our older son and his wife are expecting their second (rambunctious?) baby. We are blessed.
I know that some surgeries do not turn out as expected. A marriage ends in divorce. The career-altering promotion is given to another employee. This illness leads to that death. I get it. Life is hard. Death is certain. What to do? How to be?
   Tolerate, activate,
It’s just beginning.

Pause and Reflect

What about the waiting in Jesus’ story can you savor and cherish? Concerning the waiting periods of your life, what can you treasure? Participants in a group may be invited to describe in writing the ways they are presently waiting, together with any hopes they are harboring. Envelopes may be provided in which to seal and store their writing for future reference. It may be suggested that they unseal and read what they have written after a month, a year, or more.


Warm and wise God, dismiss us with the blessing that in you “weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5b)

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