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Mosaic Spokane

Great Hope

Great Hope

Easter 2018

April 1, 2018

Greeting Question(s) of the Morning: 

  • Name one thing you either hope will happen to you or you will get to do this year.
  • What do you hope will be different about life 5 years from now?

INTRO:

[Russian:  Kristos Vaskries!!!]  I'm practicing for preaching at our neighboring Pilgrim Slavic Baptist Church tonight! :)  That's what I get for telling the pastor there a couple of weeks ago that I wanted to visit his church over Easter.  So thanks for letting me try my Russian on you. 

Over these past 8 days of Holy Week, chances are that you’ve experienced some of the same emotions that those around Jesus experienced that very first “Holy Week.”

  • The “great expectations” of Palm Sunday, when Jesus entered Jerusalem to the shouts of people acclaiming him as their national savior…
  • gave way to the dashed expectations on Good Friday when Jesus was so brutally tortured and murdered.
  • Then here we are on Easter Sunday. Just what sort of feelings, what sorts of emotions, is Easter meant to bring.   

            Most of us have lived out a range of emotions this week just as followers of Jesus did 2000 years ago.  We’ve probably experienced feelings of hope and expectations about good things to come.  And we’ve probably felt some feelings of despair or loss or disappointment about things that simply are as they are or certainly are not as we wish they were. 

            One of my favorite stories coming from the Easter account in Scripture is the story known as “The 2 disciples on the Road to Emmaus.”  In fact, I preached from it at Easter last year.  (Don’t worry, I’m not just recycling an old message…though many of you might not remember if I hadn’t told you.)  This story is found in Luke 24:12-35.  My intent today is not to read or even teach from this entire story today.  I want to simply highlight ONE key word that occurs in this passage and develop it as our theme today. 

            First a little background.  Luke 24 is the last chapter of Luke’s Gospel.  This story is the 3rd-to-last story in the book.  It takes place on Easter, on a 7 mile stretch of road between Jerusalem and a little town called Emmaus.  And it revolves around two people, two disciples of Jesus. 

Here is where, I think, most of the classic paintings (like this one pictured) get it wrong.  This two-person duo walking this road was probably the husband-and-wife team of a man named Cleopas and his wife named Mary.  (We can pretty well deduce that from John 19:25 where these two were found at the crucifixion scene in John.)

            They are on their way home, probably on that Sunday afternoon, having just come from one of the worst experiences of their lives.  Not only had they been exposed to the full brutality of the gruesome and horrendous scene of the torture and crucifixion of Jesus three days earlier.  That day, they had been completely confused by reports from a few women and some male disciples who had claimed that Jesus’ body had gone AWOL from his burial site. Even more confusing, others were reporting angelic encounters and a few claimed to have seen Jesus come back to life. 

            But these two had to get home.  It was Sunday, the first day of the week, and perhaps they had missed too much work already to hang around Jerusalem any longer and try to get answers. After all, they were devastated and found no reason to hang around a place of such great disappointment. 

So they left the big city, probably somewhat late in the day, and started making the 2-3 hour walk to Emmaus. We pick it up in Luke 24:14ff.

14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him.

17 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”

They stood still, their faces downcast. 18 One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”

19 “What things?” he asked.

“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. 20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.

            It’s that last phrase I want to concentrate on today.  Remember last Sunday, Palm Sunday, when we celebrated the Triumphal Entry of Christ into Jerusalem?  These two were probably part of that crowd welcoming Jesus into Jerusalem as he rode on that unbroken colt.  They had probably shouted right along with the crowd, “Hosanna…Save!”  They, too, had hoped that Jesus was “THE ONE” who was going to “redeem Israel.”  

            Don’t go all religious and churchy on that term “redeem Israel.”  What kind of “redemption” were they thinking about?  [Redeemed from service and subjugation to Rome.]  Jesus was supposed to be the ‘knight in shining armor.’  He was that new, young, amazing political candidate so many thought would rise to power and finally set wrong right, get rid of Roman government corruption and restore the fortunes of the nation of Israel.  They had hoped! 

But those hopes got dashed a million ways to Sunday!  If you’ve ever suffered the trauma of utterly destroyed hope, you will understand. 

  • Their hopes had been dragged away in the middle of the night by a bunch of religious thugs jealous of Jesus.
  • Their hope had been stripped naked, spit on, beat with rods, flogged with a cat of 9 tails until blood and strips and bits of human flesh were strewn all over the palace of torture.
  • Their hopes were crowned with a crown of vicious thorns.
  • Their face of hope had been marred beyond recognition and then forced to crawl up the execution hill before he was thrown to the ground, nailed to the cross and hoisted into the air for all to stare and jeer at.
  • Their hopes died a horrifically agonizing, thirst-filled death in the brutal Middle Eastern sun, matched only by the withering taunts of his enemies to prove that he was “The One” so many had hoped for. “Just get yourself down off that cross and we’ll believe,” they said mockingly.  But that HOPE of the World chose to embrace the nails rather than answer the taunts. 

Let’s stop for a moment and nail down a few things about HOPE. 

How would you define HOPE? 

  • It has to do with the future, no?
  • It has to do with good in the future, no?
  • It has to do with certainty or uncertainty of a good future.

Def: Hope is a positive expectation or certainty of good that is yet to come. 

Q:  What is the relationship between hope and the character or actions of someone?

ILL:  If I say, “I am absolutely hopeful about staying married to my wife, Sandy, of nearly 36 years,” upon what is that hope built?

  • Sandy and my character and wills.
  • AND, in our case, the promises of God regarding helping us love one another and stay married.

Which part of that equation can potentially fail?  (Either Sandy or me or both of us.)

Which part of that equation of cannot fail?  (God)

So let’s go back to our friends on the Road to Emmaus. 

Q:  Was their “hope” that Jesus would redeem Israel a misplaced hope?  Was their hope pinned on the wrong person?  (No.)

Q:  So what was wrong about their “hope”? 

[It was TOO SMALL!  It didn’t include…

  • Saving the whole world!
  • The Church, the Bride of Christ!
  • Suffering Servant of God (Is. 53)
  • God’s timing of Jesus’ reign

So when it comes to hope, it can be damaged by either the failure of the person/being in whom we choose to put our hope (humans only) OR it can be disappointed because WE are hoping for something that is not God’s plan/will for us.

            In the case of Cleopas & his wife Mary, WHY was their hope dashed…at least temporarily? It wasn’t the object of their hope, Jesus, who had failed them.   It was what they expected Jesus to DO and when

APP:  Is there anyone here who hasn’t yet been disappointed just a little (or maybe a lot) with God? Phillip Yancey has written a whole book on that topic.  Many of you here could probably have done the same. 

Let’s list out for a moment some of the things that we may have been disappointed with God over:

  • What God has permitted in your life?
  • What God hasn’t brought into or blessed your life with?
  • Family—too much or too little? Too close or too far?
  • Marriage? Never been…or wonder why you are?
  • Health: chronic pain, fatigue, declining health, life-threatening, barren, fragile?
  • Relationships? Too many, too few?  Too hard, too superficial? 
  • Career?
  • Schooling?
  • Finances?
  • Ministry?
  • Church?
  • Death of family or friends or business or dream?

In regards to God, when we “lose hope,” it has to be because we have placed our hope in a wrong/incomplete belief about Him OR what we want Him to do and been disappointed when He doesn’t perform to our expectations.

            I’m not saying that our expectations are wrong or evil.  It’s just that His view of life and history and us and everything in this world is SO far greater, wiser and more complete than mine that I sometimes have a hard time conforming my view of life to Him. 

The BIGGER the issue, the harder it can be to recalibrate and refocus my hope.

ILL:  Think of the death of a good friend or family member.  (Maryanne, Jeremy Stanton, Tom Bates, Gary Heater, Steve Gardner, Greg Papst)  Because most people (in America, at least) live into their 70s or 80s, we “hope”…even expect…that everyone will live into their 70s.  And when that hope is crushed, we genuinely feel God has let us down.  Death uniquely brings a very deep sense of loss of hope.  It becomes very hard to see any future let alone a positive future. And it sometimes takes years for that cloud to lift and our soul to regain hope about our future. 

This is the exact position these two on the road to Emmaus found themselves in.  It wasn’t just a passing disappointment.  It was deep.  And it was about death.

            They, however, were one of the few people in human history for whom the resurrection of Jesus had a rather immediate effect.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every loved one and every friend who died just came back to life in 3 days?!!!  J 

            Which leads us to the next question:  Does the RESURRECTION of Jesus from the dead have any real, practical impact on living a life filled with HOPE or vacant of hope? 

HOPE is no small thing when it comes to having a quality life or to just staying alive.

ILL:  Victor Frankel, an Austrian psychiatrist and neurologist during the Nazi occupation of Austria during WWII, would purposely misdiagnose patients with mental illnesses in order to spare them from euthanasia at the hands of the Nazis. 

He married his first wife, Tilly, in 1941.  When she soon became pregnant, the Nazis forced her to have an abortion.  In 1944, Victor and Tilly along with other family members would be sent to Auschwitz concentration camp.  Before the end of the war in 1945, he would lose his wife, father, mother and brother at the hands of the Nazis. 

Early on in his career, Frankel developed his theory on the importance of meaning to the survival and flourishing of people.  Even in the prison camps, he observed that the difference between many of the prisoners who survived and many who died was one thing:  they either maintained a clear sense of purpose and hope OR they lost all hope and any sense of purpose even in the camps. 

Most of us will hopefully never have to face such brutal opposition to hope in our lives.  But even with our relatively comfortable lives, consider just a few of the various benefits researchers have found that living in HOPE brings to any individual. 

  • It boosts your immune system and improves your general health
  • It reduce stress and even joint pain
  • It improves respiration

Psychologically, it…

  • improves self worth
  • reduces anxiety
  • It improves social relationships (You’ll get more friends being an optimist!)
  • Hope makes you happy
  • Hope broadens and builds your mind

In one study, researchers looked into the affect that hope had on college students.  The research showed that hope is imperative to academic achievement. Students with high levels of hope are more likely to succeed at school, more likely to have high quality friendships, and less likely to suffer anxiety and depression.

 It’s easy to see why. When you are hopeful that hard work will pay off, you are more likely to go the extra mile to succeed. Hopeful students put more time into studies because they believe they can succeed. And because of this, they achieve higher results than students with low levels of hope.

But this is not “new” truth.  God revealed the power and importance of hope thousands of years ago in the midst of a 1st century church that was facing deadly persecution.  Just listen to what God says HOPE will do for you in this life:

  • Confident expectation (hope) for your future righteousness in Christ will give you an “eager,” patient, expectant grace-filled faith experience with Christ :
    • Galatians 5:4,5-- You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope.
  • Real HOPE will produce more faith & love in our lives:
    • Colossians 1:4-5“…we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the loveyou have for all God’s people— the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven….”  God doesn’t have rooms full of hope in heaven.  What He has promised us in the experience of life with Him forever…heaven …is what provides this life-soil from which grow more faith in Christ and more love for each other. 

ILL:  It’s as if you had a Swiss Bank account worth millions of dollars in gold coins, waiting for you when you choose to move to Switzerland.  It isn’t the gold itself that IS the hope; it is the knowledge that it is there, waiting for you to access and enjoy and use for wonderful things that gives you a life of hope here and now.     

  • Real Christ-grounded HOPE produces an ENDURANCE in laboring and working for Christ in this life.

I Thess. 1:3-- We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.  NOTICE again where this hope comes from:  “in our Lord Jesus Christ.”

We must choose the RIGHT OBJECT of our hope in this life or we will forever be despairing and disappointed in this life.  But if our very “life is now hidden with Christ in God,” as the Scripture says (Col. 3:3), EVERY part, EVERY piece, EVERY joy and EVERY sorrow is the hand of God inviting us to put our hope in Him, nothing else. 

ILL:  My favorite scene from Andrew’s movie, Paul, Apostle of Christ, is when men, women and children are calmly and confidently walking into Nero’s “circus,” the Coliseum in Rome that still stands today, to be torn apart by wild beasts because of their faith in Christ.  Calmly…confidently…not looking forward to death but looking forward to Christ who surely met them in death and God himself who had promised to them (and us) more LIFE than we shall ever fathom in this life.

  • The Apostle Paul echoes the power of this hope to help him “labor and strive” in the work of the kingdom when he says in I Timothy 4:10“…we labor and strive, because we have put our hopein the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe.”  NOTICE it is the “living God, who is THE Savior” who gave Paul hope.  The “living and only Savior” is whom?  The RESURRECTED Christ!  Had Jesus not been raised, we would have NO HOPE in this world of a Christ-filled life NOW nor a God-filled eternity LATER.  As Paul said in I Corinthians 15 (vss. 14, 17, 18), if Jesus did not rise from the dead, we are really in trouble…the most miserable, deluded people in the world.  If Christ did not rise...
    • …all his and all our “preaching is useless” “and so is your faith,” your entire Christian faith! (vs. 14)
    • We’re all a pack of liars (vs 15) telling each other invented stories… fables of the worst kind… IF Christ did not rise bodily from the dead on Easter morning.
    • Our “faith is futile; you are still in your sins” (vs. 17).
    • And those who have died believing in Christ “are lost,” utterly, eternally and completely LOST!!! (vs. 18)

Do you see why the resurrection of Christ matters to everything we hold dear in this life and in God? 

The great Apostle Peter put it this way in I Peter 1:3-4

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. 

Q:  What do “living” things do?  GROW!  If you feel like your “hope-factor” is rather small or weak right now, don’t despair.  God is in the business of growing it.  He’s going to do all he can to wean our hope-factor from lesser things in life so He can GROW our hope in Him for things that will never fade like a car paintjob, never spoil like good gourmet food…and never cease to exist/perish like everything in this universe we can see, touch, discover and know exists.   

  So, HOPE…

  • gives us a patient, expectant, grace-filled journey with God. That’s plenty in itself! But it also…
  • It produces both faith and love.
  • It gives us endurance in the journey and in ministry for Christ in this world.

And here’s one more amazing thing spiritual hope in Christ does:

Hebrews 6:16-19--

16 People swear by someone greater than themselves, and the oath confirms what is said and puts an end to all argument. 17 Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. 18 God did this so that, by two unchangeable things [His nature & His word] in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. 19 We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. 

            HOPE is an “anchor for the soul”! 

Q:  When do you need an anchor in boating?  Well, when you don’t want to drift.  When you’re in a storm and need to hold fast so you don’t get carried farther out to sea or into dangerous rocks.

ILL: How many of us have been on a boat…fishing or pleasure craft…where you threw out an anchor, settled back, maybe fell asleep only to wake up or look up to find that you’re drifting badly?  That can be inconvenient…or disastrous.

Q:  When do you need an anchor for your soul? 

When life shifting and moving around you.  When you don’t want to just “go with the flow” of the culture around you. When the storms of disappointment of loss or crisis are threatening to drive you onto the rocks of despair.  Those may be the more evident times we realize we need an anchor for our souls. 

ILL:  1st term on the mission field as church planters in Spain.  It was a time of God showing me how much Christ was not my anchor.  My past performance was.  My ministry successes were.  The accolades of others, the recognition of gifts and abilities was.  Until God chiseled away at those dry-rot foundations until I had to decide:  was Christ himself enough for me to anchor my soul to… or would I fight with God and demand that he give me a life of Christ plus something else.  “AM I ENOUGH?” was the question God confronted me with. 

            But times of success can be times we need an anchor for our souls as much as any other.  Most of us handle failure better than success.  Whether financial wealth or relational abundance or career successes or family tranquility…we need an anchor then to keep us from slowly, almost imperceptibly, drifting away from an ever deepening life in Christ.  It is SO easy to make our successes what we look to for a “soul-anchor that is firm.”   

APP:  What part of your life…or what person or thing in your life…needs a firm, secure “anchor” right now?  I’m not asking what part of your life you just want to “get better” or “be solved.”  The question is more, “What in your life needs to be grounded more in Jesus?”

  • What relationship do you need to hope more in Christ about? Find more of Him in order to find real hope?
  • In what issue do you need to look more to Jesus for hope, meaning and purpose? Finances?  Health?  Work life?  School life?   
  • What good, enjoyable and successful thing in my life must I anchor in Jesus?

I do not want to assume that everyone understands what “anchoring” your life in Jesus means.  Finding hope in life really must start with finding Jesus Christ.  God’s word consistently refers to people without Jesus Christ as “without hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12).

That doesn’t mean that you can’t try filling your life with hope apart from Christ.  Many people manage to do so.  Many non-believers are hopeful people about their families or careers or life in general.  But those hopes are all temporary, very changeable hopes.

But God says that without Christ we are “without hope” in terms of the most important issues of life:

  • We are without hope in terms of our eternity. Without Christ, we are doomed to eternal separation from all our hearts were made to long for:  perfect life with the only God of perfection.
  • We are without hope in terms of ultimate meaning in this life whether we’re experiencing suffering or success. That is why so many very successful Hollywood types who “have it all” at sometime in their life take their own lives.  And it is why some who find life filled with pain and suffering without embracing the life of Jesus in that suffering, sometimes take their lives in suicide. 
  • Without Jesus we are without hope in terms of forgiveness when we sin and fail.
  • We are without hope of ever being at peace with God instead of His enemies.
  • Apart from Christ, we are without hope of ever really experiencing His daily peace in life’s storms…or His daily comfort in the midst of loss…or His amazing character which is gracious, loving, kind and patient when life and people are rubbing us the wrong way.

In the book of Ephesians, Paul repeatedly talks about HOPE.  He prays for the Ephesian Christians in chapter 1:18 that they may know the hope to which he [God] has called them….” Then in 4:4 he tells us that in terms of God’s people, “There is [just] one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called….”  Just ONE hope?  What do you suppose that is? 

Well, in Ephesians 1:12, Paul already began this letter talking about being a first-century believer along with the Ephesians “…who were the first to put our hope in Christ….: so that we “might be for the praise of his glory.”  What’s that “one hope” to which we have been called as people of God? It is Jesus Christ, in whom we have “put our hope.”  It is Jesus in whom we must continue to put our hope. 

If you and I want to live a hope-filled life, there are two things we must be sure about:

1.)  That we have made Jesus Christ the person/Being in whom we are actually hoping and looking to for hope more than anything else in life, and

2.)  That WHAT we are hoping He will do in life…be to us… is actually what He has promised to be and do. 

If we get those two things right, our lives will have more hope than 95% of everyone we know and love. Because no matter what life throws at us, we will find, experience and grow in Christ!

The O.T. book of Proverbs 13:12 has a word of counsel about hope when it says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” 

Life for most people has its shares of “deferred hope” or “disappointed dreams.”  But if our deepest hopes and most fervent desires are pinned on Jesus Christ the Lord, every one of those disappointed dreams and deferred hopes will lead us deeper into hopes that will never fail to be anchored in our Lord God, our Savior who will somehow come through with what is best for us… every time. 

            This is the “living hope” that we, who have put our faith and trust in the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ, have as an anchor of our souls.  This is the hope that Paul prayed for every believer he ever knew and which we find in Romans 15:13 when Paul prays, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

            Do we want more joy and peace in this life?  Then we will need to learn to trust in the God of hope—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—so that our lives will “overflow with hope” in every situation, every challenge, every loss and every gain.  Trusting the resurrected Christ is the critical component to overflowing with hope in this life. 

APP:  So here are my final questions:

1.)  Have you/are you trusting Jesus Christ with your life?  Have you put your faith in Him and entrusted your life to Him.  Without that initial critical step of trust, there will be little God-given hope let alone an abundance of hope in your soul.  Trust Christ today!

2.)  What area or situation of your life are you feeling a lack of hope in…a lack of joy and peace? 

  • Is it possible that you are looking to the wrong person or the wrong thing to give you hope right now? Take a look at how much you may not actually be trusting in Christ to manage that situation…to watch out for you…to do what is in your best interest. 
  • Ask God to teach you HOW to really trust Jesus in/with that. When we learn to walk in trust with Jesus, we will discover hope about every part of our future that we never imagined we could have. 
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