Wait a minute

Published 4:43 pm Tuesday, April 30, 2019

By Charles Qualls

What is the biggest surprise you’ve ever had in your life?

I don’t know if it’s the biggest surprise I’ve ever had, but the most memorable one was probably when Elizabeth helped a friend in our church surprise me for my birthday.

My 30th was rolling around, and she told me that for my birthday we were going to have dinner with our friends at their house. That sounded plausible enough for me that I didn’t think twice about it. They were a couple we did stuff with.

That night, I walked into their house. Somewhere we’ve got a picture of my face from that very minute. There were about 30 people in one room yelling, “SURPRISE!” Well, I was! It was overwhelming and of course incredible.

Jesus’ victory at the tomb was plenty surprising. It is the very basis of our faith. But, on the ground level and in that time — it was all a big surprise. Both for those who doubted in him and for those who had placed their hopes in him.

One morning in John’s gospel, the disciples are fishing and gathered at the shore. A risen Jesus calls to them with some fishing advice. Then, invites them ashore where he already has breakfast cooking for them. Jesus was always surprising them, but never more so of course than after His resurrection.

Peter and the disciples had the weight of the Kingdom lifted up and placed squarely on their shoulders. Judas had thought he knew better than Jesus just what the Kingdom of God needed. Some of them, James and John, had asked Jesus if they couldn’t sit one on his left and one on his right when he came into his glory.

Now, there was no left or right. Only a reality that they were squarely in the middle of all there was to do.

I have had a few moments in my career when something would be going on that I felt stretched by, or ill-equipped for in church life. Usually, during one of those moments I will look at Elizabeth and say, “I don’t think I took THIS class in seminary.” Obviously, my personal life has brought those moments, too.

Watching a parent age, and understanding that no matter how old you yourself are, and no matter how independent you may be, that with their loss, life seems to have a degree that feels a little like being orphaned. These moments push us and make us wonder if we’re ready.

Earlier in chapter 5, these same disciples had been locked up for preaching. But, an angel of the Lord had opened their cell and freed them. They went right back up to the same place and began teaching and preaching again. The Temple police came and got them again. That’s where Peter and his fellow disciples were in time as they now testified.

There is one line in this story that jumps out. “We must obey God rather than any human authority.” A line like this one from the Bible would beckon to people who are selfish, people who have no regard for the overall body of believers we call the church. It would bless them to do whatever they wanted without regard for the church body. I think we depend on each other to be more mature and caring than that in the church.

Still, there is something powerful for us here in the story. So, what could we take away from this if not that we should just rebel anytime someone cautions us about a church or faith-related notion we have?

God will take what we have been gifted with and combine that with our willingness. God will add that to what little courage we can muster and make that be enough. This is the story of the gospel.

How did Peter get from where we had last seen him in the Gospels to where he is in this story? We don’t altogether know. But, Christ knew. To the stumbling and sometimes bumbling Peter, you remember he had once said, “You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church.”

The callings of God may cause us surprise. We may say, “Wait a minute” as we mull over our own ill-preparedness. But, God may know some things about us we don’t yet know!

THE REV. DR. CHARLES QUALLS is senior pastor at Franklin Baptist Church. Contact him at 562-5135.