Easter Hope 

“For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” [Rom 15:4]

The hope of faith…is a concrete personal expectation. Despite the “not yet” of the realization of salvation, it looks forward confidently though not without tension. However, Yahweh, for whom it waits, is not like men. Since he knows, promises, and brings to pass what the future holds for his people, hope attains unparalleled assurance in the realm of revelation. Despite everything which at present runs counter to the promise , the one who hopes, trusts God for his faithfulness’ sake not to disappoint the hope he has awakened through his word . [A definition of hope from The New International Dictionary of the New Testament Theology]

Without hope we cannot go on. Disappointment, tragedy, suffering and pain are a part of this life. They happen to everyone. When the pain is stretched out over a long period of time, depression and despair are a real danger. The enemy stands ready to use those moments to rob us of our joy.

That is why the events of Easter are so important to us. In the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, everything has changed. In the Living Lord we have hope. Not “hope so” akin to wishful thinking, but rock solid hope based upon the power of a sovereign God to keep his promise in every circumstance of life. In the Easter event, we see God at work carrying out his plan to glorify himself by creating a people for himself. Those who place their faith in Jesus Christ are adopted into the family of God. Because of the cross and the empty tomb, we now serve a Heavenly Father who works through every circumstance of life to bring joy and satisfaction to his children.

In Luke 24:13-35, we see a great illustration how Easter Hope makes everything new. Two disciples are headed for home. Their dreams have been dashed by the crucifixion of Jesus. Even though they have heard reports that he is alive, those testimonies are not enough to lift their gloom. They are not sticking around to see if the sightings are true. In their despair, they have decided that it is all over. They cannot handle any more disappointments.

Then Jesus comes to walk with them. In their darkness they did not recognize him. When he asked what they were discussing, they responded with some irritation to his ignorance. They told him that Jesus was a prophet and in him they had placed their hope. But, he was delivered to the Romans by the Jews to be crucified. They then reported the sightings and the empty tomb, but at no time did they express any thought that those reports might be true.

Jesus must have floored them with what he said next: “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” [Luke 24:25-27] Jesus did not die by accident nor was this a great tragedy. Neither the Jews nor the Romans were in charge. God, the Father was in charge. The foolishness of the disciples was in their inability to see beyond the circumstances of that day. So, we are told that “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.  [Luke 24:27]

Jesus began to encourage these two distraught disciples by opening up the scriptures. He showed them from the written word that Moses and all of the prophets of the Old Testament had one purpose: to point to his death and resurrection. The death of Jesus was not an accident but the fulfillment of God’s gracious plan. Then, he broke bread with them. He had fellowship with them. It was then that their eyes were opened and they recognized him.

What can we learn about Easter hope from this passage? First, we learn that it is in the Bible, God’s word, that we find the truth that gives us hope. So many of us simply do not know God, his ways, or his promises because we do not study his word. We enter into battle unprepared for the fight. Our faith is weak because our knowledge of God is small.

Second, we learn of the love and care that Jesus has for us. He sought them out. He broke bread with them. He did this in two ways. He fed them His Word. He explained the scriptures to them. As he did so their hearts were warmed inside. Psalm 19:7 describes what happened: “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul.” When we hear the perfect, sufficient word, Christ opens our hearts to the life-giving truth that is there. Faith comes alive and gives rise to hope. A fire was lit in the heart of these discouraged disciples and its warmth birthed joy in their soul. Christ speaks to us in the same way. He comes to us to spark new hope in him.

Then, Jesus literally broke bread with them. He showed them by a living parable that he was the Bread of life. He lives and so we live too, through him. He comes personally to us in our need. Not to remove us from the struggles but to strengthen us for the battle. Christ is doing as He pleases- not apart from the struggles of life, or in spite of them, but through them. Because he lives we can face tomorrow and everything it may throw at us. By his word and by his presence he comes to give us hope; life-giving, Christ-honoring, soul-satisfying hope.

So, how should we apply what we have learned about Easter hope? We must…

1. Study God’s Word so that we understand His ways: Every battle is won in the preparation. God has given us his Word to enable us to glorify Him in battle. Paul wrote, “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” [Rom 15:4] To be powerful in battle we must study, pray and think over the Word so that we can defeat the lies of the enemy. The Word is not magic. Simply reading or memorizing the scriptures does not bring victory. We must pray and think and meditate on it until we understand its truth and learn how to use it effectively as a weapon in battle. James says that it is the one “who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it — he will be blessed in what he does.” [James 1:25]

Before you can do the Word you must understand it by “intently” abiding in it. Freedom comes as we come to know God through His Word. If we don’t know and understand God’s ways, we will be as foolish and vulnerable to despair as these two disciples. Daniel put it like this: “The people who know their God will display strength.” [Daniel 11:32]

Here we are not left to our own reasoning. Christ comes to walk beside us to challenge our faulty thinking. J. I.  Packer puts it like this: “God made us thinking beings, and he guides our minds as we think out in his presence.” Just like the discouraged disciples, Jesus comes to reason with us. “He asks what are you thinking?” And then by making his Word clear, he corrects our foolishness by disclosing His loving purposes to our hearts and minds. So, think and meditate upon God’s Word.

See beyond your dark circumstances to the greater plans of God: The death and resurrection has implications that go way beyond our present struggles. God is working his awesome plan to glorify himself in our lives. What is happening in us is much more important than our immediate comfort. God is magnifying himself through our pain. He uses suffering to shape his soldiers. He is displaying His manifold wisdom to “rulers and authorities in heavenly realms.” [Eph. 3:10] So, the resurrection of Jesus Christ has given purpose to every painful circumstance. That is why Paul wrote: “And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”

In Easter hope, God is revealed as sovereign, wise and good. God is completely in control over every event, even those we call a “tragedy”.  God has infinite wisdom about all things, even the smallest details of our lives. And, God’s love is perfect in all of his actions toward us. So we can say with Jerry Bridges, “God in His love always wills what is best for us. In His wisdom He always knows what is best, and in His sovereignty He has the power to bring it about.”

Stand confidently and wait for God’s deliverance:  “I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord. Be strong, take heart and wait for the Lord.” [Psalm 27] Hope is faith stretched out. It is belief in God’s faithfulness when circumstances seem to deny it over a long period of time. If God would bring deliverance immediately, hope would not be needed. But God often chooses to reveal His glory to our lives through time as well as pressure.  

But because of what Jesus has accomplished, we can wait patiently until the storm is over. “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf.” [Hebrews 6:19] Our lives are anchored in God. Jesus has gone before us and in Him we live in the very presence of our God. He is our Father. He is our Anchor. So, we can say with Paul, “We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ”. [1 Thess. 1:2-3]. So, be strong, take heart, and with bold expectation, wait for the Lord.

Set your hope on God and His promises. Where we place our hope is a choice that we make. Peter writes, “Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.” [Peter 1:13] We are commanded to order our lives by the certainty of Jesus Christ and his final victory. The certainty of the consummation of all things comes back in time to give us complete certainty here and now. The Lord has won the decisive victory at the cross and tomb. He has given us his written Word to guide us. The Spirit has been sent to open our eyes and soften our hearts. But we must choose to place our hope fully upon Jesus Christ in the midst of battle.   

We are engaged in an ongoing struggle that won’t end until Jesus returns. It demands that we prepare our minds for battle. God’s truth must rule over our feelings. Margaret Clarkson says it well: “I realize anew that, just as we must learn to obey God one choice at a time, we must also learn to trust God one circumstance at a time. Trusting God is not a matter of my feelings but of my will. I never feel like trusting God when adversity strikes, but I can choose to do so even when I don’t feel like it. That act of the will, though, must be based on belief, and belief must be based on truth.”

Hope is initiated by an act of the will on our part. Trust in God is not a passive state of mind. It is vigorous act of the soul by which we choose to lay hold to the promises of God and cling to them despite the adversity that at times seeks to overwhelm us. We set ourselves to believe in the overruling goodness, providence, and sovereignty of God and refuse to turn aside no matter what may come, no matter how we feel. When we do that, Jesus Christ will be glorified in our lives. He will be honored and we will blessed.

“The sovereignty of God is the one impregnable rock to which the suffering human heart must cling. The circumstances surrounding our lives are no accident: they may be the work of evil, but the evil is held firmly within the mighty hand of our sovereign God….All evil is subject to Him, and evil cannot touch his children unless he permits it. God is the Lord of human history and of personal history of every member of his redeemed family.” Margaret Clarkson