“Tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.” – Luke 24:49
These words were spoken to the eleven just before the Lord’s ascension. After the Resurrection the Lord had appeared to them several times. At first they were frightened, but now this fear had been overcome, and faith and joy filled their hearts. Now they knew that their Lord was alive and, obedient to the command, they remained in the city of Jerusalem, until, on the day of Pentecost, “Suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind… and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost.”
Several times in the Word we find the command to “tarry.” We recall that after Israel had been brought forth from Egypt in haste, they hoped soon to reach their homes in the land of Canaan and dwell in security and plenty, free from bondage. But it was forty years before they reached their homes. They were led by a pillar of cloud by day and of fire by night. When the cloud tarried, they must pitch camp and rest, whether it be for two days or a month or a year.
The history of the Israelites is a dramatic story of the states through which we must pass in our regeneration. It was for this reason that Israel was led out of Egypt, the Holy Land conquered and divided among the twelve tribes, and Jerusalem built, with its temple to which all should come at stated times for worship.
So Jerusalem has come to be the symbol of heavenly life, and of heaven itself. And so John writes, “And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God.” In the Scriptures a city stands for a system of truth.
Our text reveals to us a universal law. It means that we should tarry in the principles for which Jerusalem stands, tarry in the teachings of the Lord until their truth appears, until they have time to reveal their power. We are prone to be impatient; we want immediate results, immediate success.
“Tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem until ye be endued with power from on high” is in accord with natural law, for natural law is but the working out of spiritual law in ultimates. Truths are seeds, seeds of a new life, seeds out of which come from on high heavenly and blessed states of life when the seeds are planted in good ground and are cultivated. We are told that the Lord is the sower, His Word is the seed, and the good ground are those that hear the Word and do it.
We do not plant seed in the ground and expect a harvest immediately. Some seeds bear their fruit in a season, others require years for the harvest. Must it not then require time for the seeds of truth to bring forth the ripened fruit? A man is a tree, a tree of life, a tree of heavenly life. And do we not know that it takes time for our highest possibilities to mature? We must tarry in the doctrine of character building while character grows. A mushroom grows up in a night, but when the sun is up it withers away. It takes a long time to develop even our natural abilities. The youth tarries in school until his mind has developed in strength. The apprentice tarries with his instructor until he has mastered the elements of his occupation. Children tarry with their parents until they grow to self-reliance. And the Christian must tarry in the Jerusalem of spiritual doctrine until he is endued with the power that inflows from on high.
Surely we accept this fact. Nothing is more clear or evident than that the kingdom of heaven is a seed sown in the ground, and men sleep and rise night and day, and the seed springs and grows up, first the blade, then the ear, then the full corn in the ear. No question can arise as to this truth; yet in applying the principle to ourselves, how seriously we doubt the descent of the mighty power from on high as a result of simple obedience to the truth!
There are very practical applications of this law. One may have a tendency to dislike a person and see only evil in him. Does he believe that if he does good to that person, power from on high will inflow that will in time make him a friend? Or one has an irritable, complaining disposition. Does he realize that if he seeks peace and pursues it and remains steadfast in those Christian ways which will being peace, he will be endued with power from on high that will bring him eternal peace? We know what it is to be rebellious, dissatisfied with our lot; yet we should know that if we tarry in the truths that teach patience, kindliness, and trust, the power of happy and harmonious action will be given.
One says, “I do not understand; I hope, but I do not know.” Learn the truths of the Word; keep them. Then by all the powers that be, in due time – as soon as is possible for us – into the life will come flame and fire, light and truth, convincing beyond all possible doubt. The two on the way to Emmaus who were in the depths of doubt and despair, after they had seen the Lord said, “Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?” Truth reveals its power only as it is worked out in life.
And on still higher planes in the acquisition of distinctly spiritual powers it is the same. It may seem that life is a confusing puzzle, its meaning not understood. Life may be so unhappy, so devoid of that which satisfies us that no interest is taken in anything, and one labors on in the spirit “O, I do not care for anybody or anything, or care what becomes of me.” Doubtless we are each sometimes touched with that despair that makes us wonder if life is worth the living. These states come upon us to make us realize more acutely the contrast between the “joy of gladness” and the gloom of despair. It is then that the words of our text apply: “Tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem until ye be endued with power from on high.” Therein is our only real salvation. In those states of depression we must abide in the city of doctrine until power from the Lord flows in and gives us life. “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” And again, “Whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” The natural man – our merely natural aspirations – must die, that out of this death there may come the resurrection to a new life, a more vigorous and more satisfying life.
The text tells us that when the Lord seems to have withdrawn from us, we should abide in the city of His truth. Do not go out of the city of God. Believe in its divinely revealed truths with the sure knowledge that in time, at just the right time for us, the light and power will be given from on high which will show us clearly the path of life and the wisdom of the Lord’s providence over us.
So our text says to us, “Do not be discouraged.” The Lord sees us as we are today; He sees our problems, our discouragements, and our fears, and He sees what stands in the way of making our lives true, fruitful, and happy. It takes time for the sun to warm the earth so that seeds sown in it can spring up and bear fruit. It takes time for truth to enlighten the mind and warm the soul so that it can bring forth the manifold. We should keep before us the record of the Lord’s life on earth, with its triumphant close. He lived out the Word. Let us then learn the truths of the New Jerusalem that we may tarry in them, never doubting that as we faithfully live them, the Lord will inflow with His power to gift us with that happiness for which He created us.