Just before His crucifixion, at the Last Passover when Jesus was to become the slain Lamb offering for our sin, He instructed His apostles about the coming of the Holy Spirit:
What followed that night were Gethsemane and Jesus' agonizing prayer while His men slept; His trial and horrible crucifixion; His resurrection; and finally, discovery at His tomb by the women who announced it to the apostles that He was risen. Jesus showed Himself alive to many for forty days and then took His intimate cluster to the mountain from which He ascended to heaven as they watched.
But before He rose, He gave them a final instruction:
The disciples knew they were to evangelize the world. Jesus gave them that command on the mountain, as well:
But...before they could go, before they SHOULD go, Jesus drove home His imperative. They must be clothed with power from on high! They were not expected to preach in their own strength. They were NOT to preach in their own strength. He would give them the Spirit of God to clothe them! They were to return to Jerusalem and wait for that Promise, no matter how long it took to arrive.
So, the apostles and disciples, one hundred and twenty of them, went to the city and met together in prayer for ten days until the Holy Spirit exploded on them, setting them on fire to transform the world! He happened to them on the feast of Pentecost, fifty days after Passover, all according to the calendar God had established for the Jewish nation thousands of years prior.
Yet, when Jesus taught His apostles before the crucifixion, He did not tell them the Spirit would come on Pentecost. Nor just before His ascension did He tell them the Spirit's arrival time. Instead, He told His men and women they were to "tarry until..."
"Tarry" is an old-fashioned word found in the King James translation of the Bible that means "wait." It says to us, "Do not be in a hurry." It implores: "Be patient for My coming!" It begs: "Be so hungry for Me that you'll stay as long as necessary to receive Me in My power!"
So, the apostles and disciples sequestered themselves in a room in Jerusalem. Before His death, Jesus also told His apostles that when the Holy Spirit came, He would bring all things to their remembrance that He had taught them during their three-year ministry together. That hadn't happened yet.
One thing was obvious as they waited: whereas they had been twelve in number, Judas Iscariot was no longer a member of the group. In their finite wisdom, the remaining eleven decided they needed to replace Judas. It seemed vitally important to them to have twelve to attest to Jesus' resurrection from the dead. They took the matter into their own hands based on their limited knowledge.
They nominated two men, Joseph called Barabbas, and Matthias from among the disciples of Jesus, men who had followed Him pretty much everywhere He traveled during His ministry days on earth. Little did the apostles know that God had already chosen Judas' replacement: Saul of Tarsus, later known as Paul. They had acted outside the direction of the Holy Spirit, who was yet to come. Jesus' breathing on them to receive the Holy Spirit before His ascension was not sufficient to prepare them for their mission ahead.
How important were Jesus' words: "Tarry until..." How easy it is to grow impatient with circumstances or events and try to find a quick fix. And justify it in our own minds as being necessary and acceptable. Waiting is "to be," while action is "to do." Human nature finds "doing" so much more satisfying than waiting: learning patience.
"Tarry until..." One day passed. The second was well underway. They discussed Jesus' commission for them to go to all the world and preach the Gospel. Nonetheless, here they were in an enclosed room on their knees waiting for the Holy Spirit to come. That was Jesus' instruction.
Some real repenting and confession to each other must have occurred during those days. All the apostles had deserted Jesus during His trial and when He hung on the cross. After His death, Peter and his fishermen brothers had gone back to their boats, so lost and forsaken were they without their beloved Leader! Such instability among the same men who had declared themselves to be so strong only a few days before!
How earnestly they had pledged their faith and loyalty to Jesus when He first called them and during their walking with Him those three years. Yet, they had even fallen asleep in Gethsemane. They had denied knowing Him that dark Passover eve during Jesus' trial! Oh, how they had failed!
Now here they were in the Upper Room, waiting in prayer and perhaps reviewing the words Jesus had spoken to them while He lived and preached. What had He told them about His departure? "Tarry until..."
That was not enough. Jesus said now they must wait for the Promise of the outpouring. They waited on, and, in their patience, as it grew, they became a unified body of hungry seekers and obeyers of Jesus' words. More days passed and they knew the feast of Pentecost was almost on them. Jerusalem was filled with those who by command of God so long ago had come to celebrate it.
Suddenly, a loud rushing sound filled the room. As they looked at each other, the believers saw what looked like tongues of fire resting on the heads of their fellows. As a forest fire or lightning in a storm, the power of God hit them, purging fear and doubt from their hearts. The fire remained; it did not abate, but stood them to their feet and onto the street, where they boldly proclaimed the resurrection of the Christ slain fifty days prior!
They could not contain themselves. They could not be quiet. They had to declare the truth and shout aloud the fulfillment of what those faithful Jewish men were in Jerusalem to observe: and observe they did! They saw men and women, ordinary people, now so transformed by power from on high that their words were like piercing darts penetrating their consciences and severing their connection to Hebrew traditions. They witnessed the fulfillment of what their observances had foreshadowed: the risen Christ fulfilled all of them! The One whom they had crucified only fifty days ago was their living Messiah!
That day three thousand souls were born again and filled with the Holy Spirit under the power of His anointing on those men and women who waited, who tarried...
In numerous places in the epistles, Paul speaks of "putting on Christ," of being "clothed in Him." It is one thing to be filled with the Spirit, but quite another to be clothed in Him. Or, to put it another way, to be baptized in Him.
How different it is to drink a glass of water compared with floating in a pool of water! But that is the comparison! These men and women who waited for the Holy Spirit were already alive by the Holy Spirit. Jesus had breathed on them following His resurrection and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit." John 20:21. When they were baptized in the Holy Spirit, they were immersed IN Him! They did not only contain Him; He contained them! Zechariah 2:5 declares:
The fire within! The fire without! The offering that is not consumed. The burning bush that appeared to Moses in the wilderness! Witnesses to God of His glory!
Like the apostles on Pentecost, are you willing to tarry? Are you willing to sever ties to the things that clutter your mind and consume your time? Will you shed the old garments of the world that clothe you, and allow the Holy Spirit to clothe you in Himself? It means that you must shed the shroud of death in which sin has you dressed and instead put on the white robe of Jesus' righteousness, the Holy Spirit.
You need the fire, my friend. You want the fire, the fire of God on your spirit. Never to be your own again. Only to walk the world in white. Ready to live or die for the sake of the Lord Jesus Christ. John the Baptist said at the Jordan when he saw Jesus approaching:
Ask Him. Seek Him. You will find if you "tarry until..."