Tom Petty famously penned and sang the line ‘the waiting is the hardest part’ – and I think in most cases, I’d have to agree with him. When we were young kids, my parents used to drive us down to my grandparents farm on all the major holidays and at least a few times each summer. Grandma’s house was a magical land filled with the best of all worlds. Grandma loved to cook, and we loved food, so that lined up nicely. Grandpa loved to take us for rides and let us explore the farm land while he told us stories of old. I love history so that was a blast. They both loved to spoil us, and we were ripe for the picking in that regard, so spoiled we were. But knowing all the fun and excitement that was to come, truly made the 4 hour car ride there seem like torture.
Most of the ride was spent on the interstate, which made for endless miles of farmland and the counting of mile markers and exit signs. But then there was the last hour of the drive. Its on a few state highways that seem like back roads, and there were all sorts of markers along the way. The last station we always stopped at to get drinks and cheese curds. The waterfall where you take a right turn, just after having viewed the rather unimpressive ‘largest tree in Wisconsin.’ The bridge that was actually a dam, and the electrical building that signaled the waiting was almost complete. All of these things became etched in my memory as points along the journey that seemed like I would take for the rest of my life. But then, as they always do, things changed. Grandma got cancer and passed away. Grandpa got old and moved up by us. And suddenly the trip I’d wished away all those years, became something that I longed for.
Wednesday marks the final time Jesus will walk the less than two mile trip from Bethany to Jerusalem and then back again. These are the last 4 miles He will spend walking and talking with His friends, sharing stories, feeling the wind on his face and the dirt underneath His feet. This is the last day of ‘normal’ for a man who’s life has been anything but. While at all other times you would expect Jesus’ mind to be on why He was headed to Jerusalem, who He would see, and what He would do – I’d like to think that for these last 4 miles – He paused, and enjoyed the beauty of all that He had a part in creating. The sight of the first ray of sun over the hills in the morning. The noise the trees make in the wind. The songs that birds sing in the evening, right after the sun goes down. These are things that are worth being in ‘the wait.’
These are also the last four miles He will walk as just a man to them. Tomorrow starts in motion the long awaited series of events that will reveal to everyone, just who He really is. Tomorrow starts the pain, both physical and emotional. Tomorrow starts the suffering, from the betrayal of friends and the nails through both His hands. Tomorrow, is when the world will change, both for Him and for everyone else. But for these four miles, He is still the only one who knows – and so He is waiting.
You and I are waiting too. Waiting for a cure for cancer. For an end to poverty, racism, sexism and all the rest. For our ‘sin’ problem to become a thing of the past. We are waiting for Jesus to come back and make all that is wrong in our world, right again. I wonder though, if as we wait, we truly look around and take in the beauty of all the we have in the meantime. It’s something I wish I had done on all those trips to Grandma’s house those many years ago. It’s something I’m sure Jesus did on that last two-way trip. It’s something that would make the waiting seem a little more bearable – and a whole lot less, like the hardest part.