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Hope

December 23rd, 2012 by Vic

“Hope”

Luke 24:13-35

December 23, 2012

 

The tragedy in the Connecticut grade school reminds us that every heart has the potential for murder.  Every heart needs a redeemer. That is the message of Christmas.  A Savior is born.  We can have our hearts cleansed by faith in the blood of Jesus.  Political leaders tried to kill the Christmas baby.  Religious leaders crucified the One who was doing good.  But God had a plan.  The child was the Lamb of God who became our peace offering and sin offering.  He offers life to our dead hearts. The angels announced to us a child is born and He shall save us from our sins.

 

I was surprised this week when I started looking at the word ‘hope’.  It is used 133 times in the KJV, 21 in Psalms, 13 in Job, 12 in Romans, 9 in Acts, 8 in Proverbs, 6 in Isaiah.  The Christmas story is filled with hope, but that word is never used.  It is used at the end of Luke’s gospel when the 2 men going home to Emmaus said, “We had hoped that He was the one who was going to redeem Israel.”  Their hopes were tied to a visible Jesus and they found that the things of this world are temporal.

For the Christian, Jesus’ resurrection gives us a hope for a future world which gives us a hope for the present world.  We believe the kingdom of God has come and will come.  Jesus rules in the heart of every Christian today and will rule in the new creation of this world.  Our hope for the future is a physical resurrection.  Herod thought Jesus might be John the Baptist, not a ghost of John the Baptist.  We have a hope beyond death based on Scripture and the promises of God, not the unbiblical folklore that is common today.

 

Plato said, “Man’s own being thus determines what he hopes and how he hopes.  Expectations and hopes are man’s own projections of his future.”  The Stoics had more interest in the concept of endurance than the concept of hope.  The majority of Greek writers did not regard hope as a virtue, but merely as a temporary illusion.  The Jews said hope was the expectation of good and fear was the expectation of bad.  The life of the righteous Jew is grounded in hope.  His hope is directed to God and is closely related to trust and patiently waiting.  For the Christian, hope is built on God’s new covenant announced in a manger.

 

Christian hope does not depend on man’s possessions, abilities, family or friends.  It is based on ‘the God of hope’ who keeps His promises.  Hope is related to faith and love.  The heroes of faith in Hebrews 11 are beacons of hope.  The word combination of faith, hope and love is found in 1 Cor. 13:13; 1 Thes. 1:3; 5:8; Gal. 5:5-6; Heb. 6:10-12; 1 Pet. 1:21-22.

 

Reflect back in time 2,618 years ago.  Jeremiah, the prophet is in jail because he told the king that Israel was doomed.  The people had turned their backs to God and God was going to punish them for their sin.  The armies of Babylon had the city under siege.  It was a dark time.  People in the city were trying to repair the walls with materials from their homes.  They had forgotten that God was their hedge of protection and not stones.  There seemed to be no hope.  From prison, Jeremiah dictated to Baruch, his scribe, “Behold, days are coming.” declares the Lord, “when the city shall be rebuilt for the Lord (31:38).”  “The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will fulfill the good promise I made to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah (33:14).”

 

The political circumstances left no room for optimism or hope.  The stock market had crashed.  Money had no value.  The bad guys were winning.  The light at the end of the tunnel was an oncoming train.  But for those who would listen to God’s word, there was hope.

 

During these dark days of siege, Jeremiah, from a jail cell, speaks of good days coming.  He reminds the listeners that God is in control and keeps His promises.  God will make a branch sprout from a dead stump.  He will give life to dry bones.  God is going to act for good.  The future was not directed by the politicians or other powerful nations.

 

After Jeremiah spoke these words, nothing changed.  Jeremiah remained in jail.  The Babylonians still surrounded the city.  The people went into captivity.  But Jeremiah proclaimed hope.  It was not a hope that wishes things would get better, but a hope that all is well because God is God and Jesus is Lord.

 

Many today are at the end of their rope.  Moms and dads are short of cash to provide for their families this Christmas.  Businesses have no cash to pay overhead expenses.  The media tells us that things are looking better, but hope in an improved economy will not bring lasting joy.  Hope in our leaders, our reputation, or anything visible is like building on the sand.  Paul says, “If we have only hoped in Christ for this physical life, we are of all men most to be pitied.  But now Christ has been raised from the dead” (1 Cor. 19-20).  Our hope is built on the God of hope.

 

Luke 24:13-35 tells the story of 2 people whom we may be able to identify with.  Their leader and best friend had died, crucified in a most shameful way.  They were on the 7 mile walk back home to Emmaus.  For a couple days they had been with the other disciples trying to understand the tragedy… trying to find any rhyme or reason in the events of the past week.  The Master they had revered, loved and followed had been horribly put to death – a cruel death of the most degrading kind.

 

On Palm Sunday the disciples’ hopes had risen to fever pitch when the excited crowds had hailed their Master as the longed-for deliverer, but now He was dead in a sealed tomb.  Their hopes were dashed; their dream was over.  Unverified reports that the tomb was empty did nothing to encourage them; it only confused them.  Their world had come apart.

 

When our hearts are broken, we don’t have the strength to process all the facts very well.  “We were hoping that He was going to redeem Israel (21).”  Human hope is a fragile thing, and when it withers it is difficult to see all the facts.  Hopelessness is like a disease of the human spirit.  It is hard to cure.  When someone you love is tragically killed or has an incurable disease, despair can set in and rob us of our hope.

 

The 2 people on the road were trapped in their misery.  They once had hope, but now their hope was gone.  When Jesus was with them they had hope.  Now Jesus was with them and they could not see.  The travelers were joined by a stranger.  It was the resurrected Jesus, but “they were kept from recognizing Him.”

 

Let me note that in all His appearances after His resurrection, Jesus was trying to teach his disciples how to live without having His physical presence.  Like the two on the road we have to make do with other people’s testimony that Jesus has risen from the dead and the witness of His Spirit.  We live by faith!  Jesus wants us to believe in Him without seeing Him with our eyes.

 

Jesus asked them, “What are you discussing?”  They poured out their sad story to someone who would listen.  Jesus could have scolded them for their lack of faith, their lack of understanding, their lack of insight.  Jesus did not berate them.

 

Here’s a lesson for us.  Those who have lost hope don’t need good advice.  They need a friend who will listen.  They don’t need to ‘cheer up’ or ‘snap out of it’.  They need to see Jesus in you.

 

With a question Jesus got them to state the reason for their hopelessness.  The person they had hoped in was (past tense) a prophet, a miracle worker and very popular, but now he is dead.  Is this a reminder that Jesus is walking with us and we fail to live like it?  Is our experience of Jesus only in past tense?

 

Life has many distractions and difficulties and we don’t always take time to look up.  We fail to see the glory around us and give thanks.

 

The greatest Bible study ever given only had 2 people attending.  Jesus brought together all the prophecy teachings in the Old Testament and put them together like pieces in a puzzle.  He reminded them what the Bible said about the Messiah and how Jesus fulfilled every word of prophecy.  He showed them the big picture of God’s plan.

 

The cross did not make sense until they saw the big picture.  The disciples like all Jews were expecting a political leader and military conqueror like David.  The cross had not been part of their picture.

 

Jesus rebuked them because they had failed to believe all that the prophets had spoken.  They had accepted part of it, but had neglected other parts.  They had regularly heard sermons on the triumphant Messiah, but not so many on the suffering servant.  We like to hear sermons on the love of God that encourage us, but don’t like those that confront our sin or promise suffering.

 

Jesus was willing to walk on and leave them.  He waited for them to invite Him into their home.  Jesus respected the free will of man.  We can invite Him into our lives or let Him pass on by.  He stands at the door of our hearts and knocks.

 

They sat down to eat and Jesus used this opportunity to get their attention face to face.  “He took the bread, broke it and began to give thanks.”  Somewhere in that routine they saw the scars on His hands.  They recognized Him and He vanished from their sight.  They would have to continue living without His physical presence.

 

They immediately ran back to Jerusalem to share the good news.  While they were giving their report Jesus stood with them again.

 

Their hope was no longer based on a physical Jesus, but a resurrected Lord.  Because they had hoped on a prophet in this world, their hope was destroyed by death.  Job says, “the hope of the godless will perish (8:13).  The Psalmist says, “The Lord preserves the faithful…who hope in the Lord” (31:23-24).  “Hope in God!” (Ps 42:5, 11).

 

A German phrase that can be used when speaking to a pregnant mother is “in gutter hoffnung”.  It can be translated to ‘be in good hope’.  Like the pregnant mother, your hope will be based on an undeniable fact.  God is God and Jesus is Lord of All.  There has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord, the hope of the world. (Luke 2:11)

 

 

 

Note:  many of these thoughts I read in a sermon by Owen Bourgaise

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