Relevant Biblical Passages: Matthew 24, John 14:1-14; Acts 1:1-11
The Jesus Hope: Part 1. For those of us who live in the light of the resurrection, hope in Jesus seems much clearer than it did to those who first listened to Jesus and watched him suffer and die. In A Grief Observed, C. S. Lewis’s narrative journal written after his wife died from cancer, Lewis reminds us that often our expectations need to be transformed in the light of reality: “My idea of God is not a divine idea. It has to be shattered time after time. He shatters it Himself. He is the great iconoclast. Could we not almost say that this shattering is one of the marks of His presence? The Incarnation is the supreme example; it leaves all previous ideas of the Messiah in ruins” (p. 51f). Our reflections on the “Jesus Hope” need to be tempered by these sobering words.
- Luke 24:21: “We had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.” During his public ministry, Jesus’ view of the “hope” differed significantly from that of his hearers. When the truth of what Jesus was saying began to sink in, many of his erstwhile eager followers turned away (cf. John 6:66). To what extent is the “disappointment” of the first coming likely to be paralleled by the second? The shattering of hope is reflected in the words of the disciples on the road to Emmaus: “We had hoped…” Is such shattering inevitable? If so, what does that mean for hope?
- Matthew 24: Signs and surprises. When the disciples asked Jesus about the end, his response ended up being more tantalizing than clear. How does one reconcile the tension in Matthew 24 between the signs of the end – but an end which comes as a surprise? If one were hearing Matthew 24 in the first century, wouldn’t one be inclined to think that the end could come very soon, not 1900 years or more later? How does one develop a hope which is both eager but steady – like the hope portrayed in the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30?
- Acts 1:1-11: “It is not for you to know the times.” Whatever the disciples heard from Jesus and from the two angels who spoke with them at the ascension, the results were lives lived with passion and eagerness for their Lord. But their question about the “when” was turned aside. I once had a student who had actually belonged to a date-setting movement for a time. He told me: “Thompson, you have no idea how powerful such an experience can be.” I agreed, adding that I also had no idea of the intensity of the disappointment which inevitably follows a concern with times and dates. How did the disciples retain a vivid hope without setting dates? Can we do the same almost 2000 years later?
- Romans 8:24-25: “Hope that is seen is not hope.” In Romans 8, Paul’s great chapter on the Christian’s hope, he reminds us that hope is not something which can be “proven” or even seen. Why then do Christians seek so eagerly to “prove” their hope? What are the factors which keep hope alive – in the absence of “proof”?
- Romans 8:32: Promises from a God who gives everything. To what extent is God’s gift of His Son the crucial element in securing the Christian’s hope?
- John 14:1-14; 1 Thessalonians 4, Revelation 21-22 – and more: favorite passages of hope. When it comes to affirming the Christian’s hope, what have proven to be the most significant New Testament passages for believers?