The world around us is wrought with pain and suffering. Amidst this reality it can often be difficult to find a sense of hope. To fully appreciate the incomprehensible glory that is going to be revealed to us, we first need to appreciate the full magnitude of the sufferings of this present age. As we engage with the painful news of our world, we turn our eyes to the coming hope that is grounded in the resurrected Christ.
*Please note that due to Greg being sick on Easter, we re-used his message from 2018 for this year’s service.
Life is full of pain, suffering, injustice, violence and hatred. Where is our hope? In Romans chapter eight, Paul tells us that “our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed is us.” But what about the present time, the space and reality that is full of suffering?
Day in and day out we hear reports of tragedy. Even changes in mother nature fill the news. The climate continues to heat at alarming rates. The ice sheets in the northern hemisphere are melting at nearly twice the pace than what scientists predicted they would only three years ago. With the rapid melting of the ice, ocean levels are rising at equally alarming rates. More and more severe weather patterns leave paths of destruction around the globe. Furthermore, school shootings are an unfortunate regularity, terrorist reports are growing more common, civil war leaves millions of children caught in the crossfire and racial tensions are on the rise. Some social scientists say that “America is in the process of coming undone at the seams.” Democracy depends on two things: The general population has to have some shared trusted source of information and a shared trust in foundational institutions (FBI, presidency, CIA, Department of Justice, etc.) We seemed to have lost that common trust and it is in question whether or not we could ever get it back. And so, with this disunity, the future of America looks rather dim. In addition to national and global tragedies we struggle with our own personal sufferings. Where do we find hope? Where is our hope?
The early disciples knew all too well what it was to lose all hope. At the time of Jesus, the Jewish people were suffocating under the power of the oppressive regime of Rome. Rome ruled with terror—terror was their method of keeping peace in Rome. But the Jewish people had read about a messiah who was coming to liberate Israel and bring them back to their original glory. They had a deeply embedded hope that carried through generations, but with each passing generation and no sign of the coming Messiah, hopelessness was setting in.
Then Jesus comes along. Jesus had convinced his early disciples and others that he was the long-awaited Messiah. He made incredible claims for divinity about himself. These claims, combined with his supernatural powers, had convinced the disciples that in some mysterious way, God himself was present in Jesus. After three years of ministry with Jesus, the disciples were utterly convinced that he was about to inaugurate a new change, a work of God to liberate Israel and bring peace on earth. The disciples were euphoric with hope! On Palm Sunday his followers assumed Jesus was on his way to kick out the Roman regime. But that didn’t happen at all. Instead, Jesus was executed by the very people he was supposed to overrule! This was the worst way the Messiah was supposed to die. The disciples had lost all hope, they were left in a state of despair.
Three days after the execution, some brave women had gone to the tomb where Jesus was laid and they found the tomb empty. The women ran to tell the disciples and everybody assumed someone had stolen the body of Jesus. Until Jesus started appearing to people; first to Mary, then Peter, then the disciples on the Road to Emmaus and to all the apostles. For 40 days after the resurrection Jesus appeared to people.
The reason why the tomb was empty is because God had raised Jesus from the dead! The disciples didn’t understand the magnitude of the crucifixion and resurrection right away, but they would when Jesus sent the Holy Spirit. Before too long, the disciples came to understand that Jesus brought a different kind of hope, unlike anything the world could ever give. The disciples were no longer anchoring their hope in seeing their enemies defeated and killed. This new hope made them love their enemies! It was a different kind of hope. They had a hope that didn’t depend on things going well in the world, nor did this hope diminish because things weren’t going well in the world. God used the cross to ultimately defeat evil! We live in a Good Friday world, but Easter Sunday has come and is coming. Jesus’ resurrection means that Jesus defeated death, sin and the enemy and all who trust in Jesus will also defeat death, sin and the enemy!
While it looks like sin, death and evil may appear to have the upper hand, they will never have the last word. God has the last word! Keep your eyes fixed on the resurrected Lord, then you can be confident that death is going to be replaced by everlasting life, sin will be transformed into holiness and the reign of evil will give way to the glorious reign of Jesus Christ that will last for all eternity.
Under this glorious reign, we and the whole creation will be transformed and glorified in the same way that Jesus’ body was transformed. When Jesus is enthroned then God’s love is going to define every inch of the cosmos and everything that is inconsistent with that love will be eradicated. When Jesus reigns, we and the whole creation will be participating in the perfect love, joy and peace of the triune God. That dance will never be threated and it will never end! It’s a Good Friday world, but Easter Sunday is coming. Our hope is not contingent upon the realities of the world around us. Our only hope is in Christ crucified and resurrected! This hope is King of all Kings, Lord of all Lords, the Alpha and Omega, liberator, redeemer and reconciler. This is our assurance and firm foundation! The resurrection proves that God has reconciled humanity to himself and with each other. Every wall of hostility has been crushed! The tombstone of oppression is going to be rolled aside. Joy is going to outrun the sorrow. All shame is going to be eradicated. The sufferings of this present age are not worth comparing to the glory that God has in store for all who hope in him.
But we are not to just sit back, give up on this Good Friday world, and passively wait for the Easter Sunday world to come to fullness. Instead, we as kingdom people are to participate in advancing all creation into her resurrected glory, here and now. The cross reveals the character that the children of God are called to live. We are to put the character of Abba on display for the world to see! We are peacemakers, who enter into solidarity with victims of injustice; we’re called to love all people for all time. The cross is something that God does for us and something that God calls us to. We are to pattern our life after the crucified Christ and put all our hope in the resurrected Christ.
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