April 11, 2015
HOPE is like oxygen. You really cannot live without it or you end up miserable and suicidal. But hope is the glimmer at the end of a tunnel of a dark place that frees you from ending there.
In Greek mythology if you remember from high school or college, the Greeks believed that Pandora was the first woman. Today it’s a radio app, but with the Greeks she was first woman and given a box with the instructions to not open it. Of course Pandora could not resist peeking and when she lifted the lid to peek out flew all the evils of mankind… jealously, bitterness, anger, murder…; simply everything that the Greek mythology believers would call sin. When she realized what she had done she tried to slam the lid shut but only captured one thing that didn’t get out of the box; and guess what that was? That was hope. Now some people including me would ask: “what was hope doing in there with all that ugly stuff? And, then the story sorta took a fork in the road when some Greeks told the story that eventually hope somehow got out and salted the earth with a little bit of goodness while some Greeks thought it was locked in the box forever and that everything that mankind did was preordained by the gods and there was no hope.
It’s always you women that get the bad wrap …you got the box, you got the apple, …it all falls back upon you! Hopefully there is some redemption in there somewhere!
This is what the dictionary would describe HOPE as: “The belief that circumstances in the future will be better therefore you cherish in your heart a desired outcome with anticipation.” But most of us have always asked “But what is that hope hung upon?” Well, hope is simply stuck upon the thought that somewhere out there in the future my circumstances will get better if I am not stuck here in this time continuum.
Fortunately, for the Christian Believer HOPE is hung on something much larger than just the belief that somehow, someday things will get better. A lot of people will walk that definition out and if they are honest and logical they’re going to follow it through to the end …for example “my hope is that the stock market will go back up and my portfolio will increase; …or that Iran will sign a nuclear deal with the USA and we won’t blow ourselves into oblivion; …or that the education system will fix our issues in American education.”
None of those situation examples are bad, but we have to ask ourselves “are they trustworthy?” Can you lean on those with all of your life? Can I count on those things to not disappoint me or let me down?” And, more importantly, when I get to the end of my life what bearing will those things have on those last hours and beyond into eternity?
So last week we celebrated Resurrection day, or Easter as most call it. It’s the most Holy Day of Christianity. It far exceeds Christmas. The Gospel writer Luke writes about this morning we celebrated last week and forever will in Luke 24:1-8. “At the crack of dawn on Sunday the women took the spices they had prepared all night and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb so they walked inside but they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they stood puzzled, wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that dazzled like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; He has risen! Remember how He told you, while He was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinful men to be crucified and on the third day be raised again from the dead?” Then they remembered Jesus’ words. (GBB Bible)
Isn’t it interesting that the first people Jesus appeared to and witness the resurrection were the women? That’s significant. Yeah, that’s right …redeeming that whole women thing right? (and all you ladies say: “YEAH, that’s US!) So the angels remind them that look; He’s not here …you remember what He said? This is their story and it happened two thousand years ago and this same story has rippled all the way through time. And, not just that, but this story was predicted for centuries and centuries before it took place …in face all the way back to that other woman, and Eve along with her guy Adam as they were being removed from the garden for their sin of believing that serpent. At that very time God promised that one day there’s going to come someone from your seed that is going to crush his head. So the context here is that for thousands of years the prophesy of HOPE kept alive by Hebrew priests and prophets culminated last Sunday in this weekend called the Holy Week. But in that day way back then the story plays out as Jesus comes to Jerusalem followed by a crowd behind and into a crowd in front as the celebrated hero, the One predicted, the Messiah. But, that doesn’t last long as they turn on Him. As was predicted He was betrayed and sold out by His friends; religion was in bed with politics and they played each other’s strengths and tried to come out on top in the end with a crucified Jew named Jesus and rebel named Barabbas goes free. Everybody seemed to get what they want without knowing they played right into the hands of God Almighty Himself. Jesus told them over and over for three years all this was going to happen exactly as it did. “What are you looking for the Angels said to the women? Don’t you remember?”
Luke 24: 9-12: “When the women came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the eleven disciples and all the others present. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the Apostles. But the men did not believe the women, because their words seemed like nonsense to them.” (and that’s been like that for centuries too!)
Put yourself in their shoes: they had been with this Jesus rabbi for three years and a half years, seen the miracles, the loaves, the fishes, water turned to wine, the dead raised to life, demons cast out, …and now it’s crazy because everything they believed and hoped for actually happens …and they don’t believe it!
But all of us are just like this also. It’s our story as well. We get it in our head, we believe it, we read it, I agree with it, I say yes, I think I am rock solid …then as soon as something upsets me these words seem like nonsense. All too often this is the story from the transition from kid to adult. There is a cliché that says it all: “You will never know that Jesus is all you have until you get to a place in your life where Jesus is all you have.” We don’t see a lot of need in our life for anything like a resurrection (or that Revival I talked about last time) when we are fully alive and doing well; but boy, when we are in a place where something is dying, us, our marriage, someone around us, our business, our dreams, our joy, ourselves; …that’s when you start looking for something that smells like resurrection, looks like resurrection.
There is a metaphor that describes the community of believers …like our home church, those of us out here at this racetrack church, and if you have a home church that you are part of when it’s not a race event weekend. But this community of believers is not just us, but all over the country, and the world that were gathered together on Easter and every Sunday or every time church meets. Here’s the metaphor: we are a resurrection community. The thing that binds us together is not that we have it all together, not that we haven’t blown it, …but in reality we are a group of really messed up people. Yeah, we can all say “yep, that’s me.” That’s not what we have in common though. What we have in common is that we are hoping in something called the resurrection and we become a resurrection community. That’s what marks us! Isn’t that amazing?
But sometimes it’s cloudy. It’s like: …what? As we pick the story back up they’re walking along the road and it says the disciples are coming back from the tomb thinking about all what has transpired and what the women said that sounds like nonsense. Luke 24:9-12 “Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over and looking inside, he saw the strips of linen used to bind Jesus’ body lying by themselves in an orderly fashion; and he went away, wondering to himself: … what the heck???” (GBB Bible)
These guys who were smart guys and savvy of that day and times and were witnesses were saying: “What? What’s going on?” It’s almost as if they’re blind to it. And then jus a few verses later two of Jesus’ followers were walking along the road to a place called Emmaus, talking and discussing with each other about everything that had happened. And as they walk and discuss, debate, and question these things, Jesus Himself walks among them. Luke 24:13-24: “Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus Himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him.
He asked them, “What are you discussing so intently together as you walk along?”
They stood still, their faces sad. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these last three days?”
“What things?” he asked.
“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, dynamically powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers betrayed Him and handed Him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified Him; but we had hoped that He was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women both confused and amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find His body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said He was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.” (GBB Bible)
Now this would be the coolest thing in the world to come back from your own funeral and …”Hey, what was the big thing going on over there? What did they say about me?” Hahaha, ya just gotta love it!
So these guys are dealing with the story that lines up with everything Jesus said, and everything written about Him, and everything the women said but…??? This is where this story comes to us today. This is our story also. This story happened two thousand years ago but it continues to ripple through time and every generation has to pick it up as their own, …or not. This is our story as well because we have heard this but we were not eye witnesses to it, but it’s been passed down to us and it has impacted the entire world around us so we have to decide: Is this thing, this resurrection thing, fit into my story?
HOPE is not just a cliché. It’s not always a neat and tidy package, and it’s not something that hangs in thin air either. This hope, and this resurrection hope we have is based on several things. Let me give them to you real quick:
- It’s based upon a believable story. This story is even been tapped into by a godless world. The trilogy waiting for the matrix waiting for the one …”are you the one?” I guess we need another movie and the question; “are you the one?’ All these movies in our culture today that deals with something coming from outside of us that’s been predicted to save us …like Superman that’s come from Krypton or something. He’s gonna come and going to have a greater power than human evil and he’s going to redeem us. We need him. Batman returns. The Jedi. All these things are based upon a believable story that resonates with us since we are not as together or as awesome as the billboard says. I actually think we do need a Redeemer so it’s a believable story. Is there something that can save us from outside of ourselves?
- It is based upon eyewitness accounts. In the Old Testament ladies, and still in many places unfortunately today; you were such second class citizens, …if even that high, …that you couldn’t even testify in court. Your testimony was invalid because you were a woman. The last thing in the world was call a woman to try to testify. Isn’t it amazing that in the Gospel that the first people and eye witnesses who saw it was the ladies? John would later write: “ We were eye witnesses of His majesty and our hands have handled Him and our eyes saw Him. What do you do with all those people? Those eyewitnesses in court in the Old Testament days you had to have two or three for truth to be established. There were over a hundred there! What do we do with that??? Do we just discount all that?
- There is historical impact. What other religion …modern or old, in the world has built more hospitals and more schools that have affected more nations and more families then Christianity? Just consider it on that level alone. Consider throughout history and just a few weeks ago when 140 Kenyans were singled out to either die or deny their Christianity. All of them said “no way, Jesus is Lord,” and were slaughtered for their faith. So goes it in Somalia, Iran, Iraq, China, Senegal, and on and on. What is behind all that? Christians are picked out simply because of what they believe to be true, and have their faith and HOPE set upon in their life. What is behind all that? Is it a random picking op people or is it a deliberate thing?
- Credible evidence: The Jewish historian, a non believer named Josephus, …even he recorded and it is there in the history books that a rabbi names Jesus rose up with a bunch of other rabbis, and a bunch of other seemingly messiahs and was murdered by the Roman government for insurrection and jealousy. But it is there in the history books today still.
- The last one is us. It’s OUR story. The story you carry is a testimony. For me? Well, I was lost, my life was really dark and I thought I would die and was ready to just give up on life because I was in such a gutter…
Listen, HOPE has two facets, or two faces to it. There is the hope and anticipation of a woman waiting for her wedding day. The day is out there, the man is out there, and there is that kind of beautiful hope and joyful hope. And there is also a very painful hope of a barren woman waiting for a child. Or there is the family like Kathy & mine when our daughter Sarah & Joe were doing over 100mph to the hospital with Kathy & me right on the ambulance bumper getting to Portland with an unborn baby boy at only 27 weeks. Born but then given only a 40% chance to survive and months in ICU, not knowing when or if Taren would come home. Will he be normal or not …IF he lives? (He did and is about to turn 7 on April 10th).
As believers, we don’t have it all tied up in a neat package, but also our hope is not hanging in thin air either. It is based upon the person of Jesus Christ, …that He is risen. And the Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians: “If He is not risen from the dead then we, of all people, are the most miserable people, and I would add …the most foolish.” This church service, this message, you being here in this service, you reading this on the airplane while travelling home, …is a joke. It’s a farce. It’s a façade. We are all just trying to feel better about life. It’s a big cry session if He’s not risen from the dead. BUT, …HE IS! Yes, we walk into a dark world every single day of life into a really screwed up and confusing world and one which we don’t know what our daily circumstances are going to look like. We put one foot in front of the other because we believe something: that this Messiah is who and what He said He was, and He lives to make intercession for us before the Father, Creator, God. And, one day He will make all things new. That is OUR story. Its amazing. If you have a better one, that explains it, then I want you to come tell me!
I’m sorry about the world, the daily news, that the stock markets down, the horrible diseases, that people and authority figures, politicians, governments, have let you down, that even churches and pastors have failed and hurt you, all these things, but we cannot live without our heart. You can’t live without faith …in something or someone. You cannot live in limbo, pretending that you are going to ignore the story and that you got to something with this Jesus. The choices are only: either crucify Him or embrace Him. But to attempt to live in the middle is just awful. You and I can’t live there.
So what is you HOPE today? Is it fixed upon circumstances? I warn you that those circumstances are fickle. They sure don’t love you! Or, is it fixed in a person who claims to have risen from the dead?
Where is your HOPE?
By permission of Pastor Bruce Stefanik
Church on the Hill, Salem, OR
Bible Version: GBB (Gospel by Bob)