Written by Tay Boon Jin
Boon Jin has been a staff with Singapore Youth for Christ for the past 15 years. She now serves in Malaysia—reaching children through the teaching of English.
Whenever it comes to the part of a movie where a disaster unravels or innocent lives are in peril, we grip our chairs in anticipation for the turning point when help would come or the hero would spring into action—a beacon of hope amidst a despondent situation. And when hope comes for a brief moment but eventually goes away, the sense of loss is even more pronounced.
Recent events have shown that these scenarios are not too distant from real life. Almost every day, we hear about individuals in life-threatening situations: some trapped in natural or man-made disasters; others taken as hostages or made prisoners (some simply for being at the wrong place at the wrong time; others because of their nationality, beliefs, or even lifestyle). Similar to how we are at the movies, we sit at the edges of our seats, hoping and praying that things would turn out fine as we watch updates about attempts made to rescue the victims from their unfortunate plights. When rescue efforts have been successful, we pump our fists in the air. And when the converse happens, we shake our heads and cry out in anguish. All hope is lost.
If you think about it, this lack of guarantee of deliverance and rescue from dire straits extends even to daily aspects of life. Perhaps it is a debilitating illness that has been enslaving you for a long time and you’re wondering if the latest drug development could finally be the cure to your condition. Or maybe it’s a broken and messy family situation you’re stuck in and you can’t wait to get married to the one who can lift you out of your sorry state into a new life—happily ever after.
Regardless of what we’re each facing, hope is an important concept in our lives but at times, seems so slippery and elusive. Is there any certain hope we can cling on to—a hope that will stay and not leave?
Some 2,000 years ago this theme was all played out, not in an epic movie, but in real life in the city of Jerusalem.
To the disciples: Jesus’ death meant all hope was lost
Hanging on the cross for sins He did not commit, Jesus Christ was abandoned—His disciples were not there with Him. They had fled not just from the scene of Jesus’ death but from the Master whom they had spent the last three years with in close interaction. Their initial motivation to follow Jesus Christ was simple—He could do what no ordinary men can do. They pinned their hopes on Him being the one sent by God to liberate the Jews from the bondage under men’s (Roman) rule. They followed Him, watched Him perform works of miracles, and listened to Him preach about the kingdom of God. They were amazed by what they were given to witness. Truly, He had the power to restore the kingdom to Israel. Their confidence grew with that hope of a new king. They even argued about who would be the greatest when the kingdom comes and took up arms when the religious leaders confronted Jesus. There was hope for them and for Israel!
But God had a very different plan for how His kingdom will be set up. It would be by blood, not through war, but by the humble sacrifice of one man alone: Jesus Christ. When the authorities took Jesus, fear beset the disciples. Jesus was questioned, flogged, and made to carry the cross through the town and eventually nailed to a cross. He died the death of a criminal, totally unbefitting of a king and savior. If Jesus had been the new king sent by God, He would not be defeated! In the disciples’ eyes, Jesus had failed. Whatever hope they originally had in the Savior was completely extinguished.
If you think about it, all of us have pinned our hope on something or someone to give us confidence in the current situations which we are in. Perhaps it was someone who we thought would love us and take care of us the rest of our lives or something like material acquisition to lift us from deprivation. Or maybe it was some medical cure that would free us from the pain of ill health or death, or from losing a loved one. But when we find ourselves unloved, deprived, and in pain at the end, we start to question if our object of hope is real in the first place. When we conclude that the object of hope brings us nowhere further from the prospects we dread, we give up trusting it, some of us driven to discouragement, some to defeat, and some to despair. We tell ourselves that the way out of these feelings would be to end it all.
To God: Jesus’ death was the ultimate means of hope
But this is not the case when the object of hope is truly of power. Just when the disciples were feeling dejected, Jesus Christ appeared before them. The One who had died had risen from the dead and this was highly significant—it proved that Jesus is truly the Son of God. This miracle was the climax of all the other miracles that the disciples had seen. Jesus had overcome death—this means there is a true hope not just on earth but for eternity.
The resurrection and reappearance of Jesus brought about a new understanding for the disciples. All along, they had identified the wrong issue and placed great value in the wrong thing. They thought that restoration of the kingdom to Israel was what was most important. But the real problem which men faced was sin. As the true hope, Jesus made a way for salvation of the soul. Jesus came, died to pay for our sin’s penalty, and rose again to give us a new life with the new standing before God our Judge.
When we are faced with a hopeless situation, and feel there is just too much discouragement and despair, look at the reason for Jesus’ death and resurrection. If we understand that God has given us His only Son, will He not also journey with us through life’s ups and downs and lead us safely home? With Jesus’ death and resurrection, the light and momentary troubles need not weigh us down to the point of despair but should drive us to look forward to the day when Jesus shall come again and perfect all things.