The doughnut had been purchased with the anticipation that it was going to be decadent and I was expecting it to blow my socks away, but when I cut into it, I was met with the disappointment that the cream filling inside the doughnut had curdled. The baker had overworked the cream and had added tea – it was supposed to be an earl grey doughnut, that was too hot too quickly. This caused the protein in the cream to separate and clump together.

As I sat in the café, feeling mildly disappointed, and sipping bad coffee that made the experience worse, I wondered if the disciples too experienced a curdling of their Easter joy, especially after Jesus ascended into heaven. To have had Jesus resurrected and in their midst again must have filled the disciples with great joy, yet what were their thoughts as they witnessed Jesus ascending into heaven? Did they think, uh-oh here we go again? Back to square one, back to ground zero? We know that the disciples had been transfixed at the scene for a long time, continuing to stare into the empty sky for a long time, even after Jesus had ascended, almost as if their minds could not compute what they had just seen. Were they expecting Jesus to suddenly appear out of the sky again in full battle regalia?

Scripture tells us that two strangers dressed in white garments had to bring these wide-jawed disciples back to Earth: “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.” (Acts 1:11)

Acts 1:6 documents the question that the disciples asked Jesus before he ascended, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” This question tells us that the disciples despite witnessing the resurrection of Jesus and having had their hearts renewed in the forty days after the resurrection, still held on to a deeply entrenched belief that Jesus was supposed to be a political leader of great clout who was to release them from the oppression of their earthly colonisers and restore Israel in its sovereignty.

Our expectations can sometimes lead to a curdling of Easter joy. Perhaps we are going into Easter festivities with a pre-conceived notion that a particular activity is going to change something about our ministry, or to make us feel a different way. In the end, because we are focusing so much on ourselves, we lose sight of the real reason as to why we were called to celebrate to begin with, and we end up feeling empty and disappointed. We had dictated the ways the Holy Spirit was to act, and we had inevitably closed our minds to the amazing things that the Holy Spirit could do, despite us not being able to see the tangible evidence and proof.

Yet, Jesus had already promised in John 16: 17-24: “So some of his disciples said to one another, “What does this mean that he is saying to us, ‘A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me,’ and ‘Because I am going to the Father’?”

So they said, “What is this ‘little while’ [of which he speaks]? We do not know what he means.”

Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them, “Are you discussing with one another what I said, ‘A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me’?

Amen, amen, I say to you, you will weep and mourn, while the world rejoices; you will grieve, but your grief will become joy.

When a woman is in labour, she is in anguish because her hour has arrived; but when she has given birth to a child, she no longer remembers the pain because of her joy that a child has been born into the world.

So you also are now in anguish. But I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you.”

What this implies is that the season of Easter is a time of waiting, but this waiting is not morose and dour. It is a waiting that is joyful in anticipation of childbirth. In this waiting too, is the invitation to wait as the disciples did. They did not idle and they did not isolate themselves, but they came together as a community to pray in the upper room – “All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.” (Acts 1: 14) The Easter invitation extended to us by the Lord is precisely this, that we are called to act, and to act in faith, and to shift the focus away from ourselves and towards God and the community.

By the Grace of God,

Brian Bartholomew Tan