Hope In A Hopeless World
It is not news to anyone that the world has changed dramatically in the past few months. The coronavirus has changed how society operates, how the economy operates, and how the workplace operates. Entire states have shut down and restricted citizens to their homes and allowing them out only for ‘essential’ trips. [I find it highly telling that government leaders have declared churches non-essential and assemblies dangerous, but liquor stores are ‘essential’ and remain open.]
The sad result of the panic and, some say, overreaction to the spread of this virus has resulted in literally millions of people losing their jobs and without any source of income, schools shut down and many parents left to do the teaching [or at least assisting], and increased stress at home, which has resulted in an increase of domestic violence calls and an increase in suicides. Truly, many see no end in sight [not just the experts] and life is beginning to look dark and, for many, hopeless.
Many Christians are just as much affected by the fallout from the reaction to the spread of this virus, and since life has changed and we cannot do the things we used to do, are wondering what they can do, and how they might be able to help those around them in some way. Some feel confined to the point they feel like there is not much they can do, but know there are many who could use some encouragement, help, and hope. And there is where we can help; here is where we can give them something this world cannot.
It is no coincidence that many in the world recognize that this day commonly called Easter is a remembrance of the day of our Lord’s resurrection, but it just may be that the deeper message is sometimes mocked, overlooked, ignored, or just unknown. The deeper message to which I refer you today is that of hope.
When the mob came for Jesus in the middle of the night, the disciples at first resisted (Matt. 26:51), but they eventually fled and left Him to be taken (Matt. 26:56). Jesus had to face the accusers by Himself and even Peter followed Him from afar and denied knowing Him three times when it came down to it (Matt. 26:58-75). Jesus would be alone when they compelled Him to carry His own cross to the hill of Golgotha to be crucified there (Matt. 27:32-35). Jesus was alone when He hung on the cross, and what disciples did watch, did so from afar (Matt. 27:55, 56). Though He hung between two thieves, Jesus died that cruel death alone, as an innocent man. He had committed no sin (1 John 3:5), and even Pilate recognized this (Matt. 27:24; Luke 23:4). It didn’t stop Pilate from sending Him to the cross, however.
As expected of those crucified, the event was tortuous and would inevitably lead to death. If they did not die quickly enough, they would break the legs of those crucified (John 19:31-34), so they could not have any means to hold up their bodies and be able to breathe. Jesus had died before that could happen, but a soldier pierced His side with a spear just to make sure. His disciples were allowed to take the body, and they prepared it for burial and, that finished, they laid His body in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. (John 19:38-42).
To say that the disciples of Jesus were disappointed would be an understatement. Some whom Jesus met after His resurrection spoke of Him, saying, “But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel” (Luke 24:21). Their hope was based on a misunderstanding of what the Christ would do, but they were disappointed by His death, whatever the case. And when the remaining disciples gathered together following His crucifixion, they did so hidden from the Jewish leaders (John 20:19), fearful — and rightly so. They were probably wondering if they would be next!
But, of course, we know Jesus was raised up to live again. We know those who mourned His death and were afraid of what might follow rejoiced again (Matt. 28:8) and they would no longer fear the religious leaders, but would boldly speak of Jesus just a few days later, openly and with conviction that He was, indeed, the Christ and Son of God (Acts 2:11-36). They would go on to confront the very ones who had put Jesus to death, pointedly noting their part in His death (Acts 4:10; Acts 5:30; Acts 7:52). It would cost some of them their lives (Acts 7:54-60; Acts 12:1, 2), but they did not cease preaching and teaching Jesus as the Christ. They had seen the proof and they were convinced. They did not count their lives dear, and were ready to die for His sake, if need be (Acts 20:24). They were willing because they now had hope of something greater than the praise of men or great riches.
The apostle Paul would stand before King Agrippa for charges supposedly worthy of death, made by these same religious leaders who had handed Jesus over to Pilate to be put to death, and he would boldly reply, “And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers. To this promise our twelve tribes, earnestly serving God night and day, hope to attain. For this hope’s sake, King Agrippa, I am accused by the Jews. Why should it be thought incredible by you that God raises the dead?” (Acts 26:6-8). He knew that his accusers [with whom he had once worked against Jesus and His disciples] did not want the message of Jesus as the Christ and Son of God to be taught to anyone, and would do anything to silence him, but he also knew that Jesus was who He claimed to be, and that His resurrection proved it (Rom. 1:4).
Paul also knew that the resurrection of Jesus was much more than proof of the claim to be the Christ and Son of God; he knew it was the very foundation of the hope of His disciples. He pointed this fact out to the Corinthian disciples, reminding them of some truths that must not be overlooked: “Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming” (1 Cor. 15:20-23). Simply put: Since Christ was raised, we know we will, too, be raised up when He comes again. We have a hope of resurrection from the dead!
The writer of Hebrews points to another hope made possible by Jesus when he wrote of how God had confirmed His promise to Abraham, and that those who believe Him “have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus” (Heb. 6;18-20). You see, this Jesus who was raised from the dead has now entered into heaven, where we hope to be. And, like His resurrection gives us hope of resurrection, His entrance into heaven gives us hope of also entering heaven!
Paul said he lived “in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began” (Titus 1:2), and that those who have “been justified by His grace” have “become heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:7).
Hope! — Steven Harper