There isn’t the need for hope in your life when everything is going great. But in this dark world everything isn’t going great very often. The darker your situation the more critical hope becomes.
During the time of Jesus, people’s hope ran high. Messiah fever throbbed in Israel, as they endured the crushing reign of the Roman Empire. As they handed over each taxed coin to the pagans in charge, the Jews longed for the day that the promised Messiah would come to liberate the promised land once again.
When Jesus began his public ministry myriads of Jews thought that Jesus was that expected Christ. No one said the things that Jesus said, and certainly no one did the mighty miracles that Jesus did. It seemed like Jesus popped up on a surfboard and caught the tidal wave of expectations all around him.
Many of the Jews, including most all of the religious leaders were desperately disappointed as they realized that Jesus was not going to be the kind of Messiah to wipe out the Romans at that time. Their dashed desires turned into the animosity that would eventually call for Jesus’ crucifixion.
Other Jews, however, along with a few Gentiles realized that although Jesus wasn’t going to liberate the land at that time, he really was the promised Messiah. After all, Jesus really did teach the ways of God and did all of those miracles. He matched the ancient prophecies about the Christ. They started to truly believe, even though they weren’t sure how the details would work out. When Jesus was tortured and executed upon the cross, though, their hopes were dashed.
As Jesus was mocked, whipped, and fighting for his life hanging on the cross, his followers’ hearts fought for faith. “How could we hope in a dead Savior?” “Even if he wasn’t going to lead a revolution against Rome, at least he ought to keep up the transforming words and works.” “What will happen to us?” “We staked everything on our expectations of Jesus, and now he is dead.” The days when Jesus’ body lay in the grave were the darkest days possible for those who had followed Jesus.
Then on Sunday some of the women reported to the disciples that the tomb was empty. When two of Jesus’ followers heard these words, a gun sounded in their hearts and they started to sprint. Peter and John were the racers, and the tomb was the finish line. Both of the men’s minds raced as they ran with each other through the city of Jerusalem and out of the gates toward Joseph’s tomb where Jesus had been laid.
What possible explanations could there be for an empty tomb? John and the women had seen him die and they all knew right where his dead body had been placed. Peter and John both knew the tomb had been sealed by the Roman governor and that guards had been dispatched to prevent any tampering and theft.
As they ran out of explanations, John ran ahead of Peter. He made it to the tomb and peered inside. Peter, panting, pushed past John and stepped into the niche in the rocky wall to verify the vacancy. It was true. It was as the women had said. But the light had still not penetrated their darkness in their minds (although John started to believe in a miracle).
Later on that same day the light came through a sealed room as Jesus appeared to his followers. As bright light radiates darkness away, fresh hope crowded out the deep darkness of all of their hearts.
Questions continued, but hope swelled. The flicker intensified into a flame and then spread into a wildfire of faith and living hope. As Peter would later write: “Because of his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Pet 1:3).
Because Jesus was alive again, the dead hopes of his followers lived again as well. Jesus really was the Christ. All of those wonderful words and mighty miracles meant what we thought they did. It was all true.
The fact that Jesus had repeated predicted that he would rise from the dead on the third day was not lost on them. Even though they completely missed it ahead of time (otherwise I imagine they would have been camping as close to the tomb as possible!), in hindsight his followers repeatedly highlighted Jesus’ fulfilled predictions of his resurrection.
As much as they along with their fellow Jews wanted to be free from Roman rule, the resurrection of Christ revealed that real salvation involved deliverance from a much more serious foe. While many religions have wishes about life after death, the Lord Jesus actually came back from the dead to validate the situation. His resurrection proves that there is more to life than life––there is a judgment and there is eternal life in a real heaven or a real hell.
The followers of Jesus had stirrings of faith and hope before Jesus died, and when he died they wobbled terribly. When Jesus came back from the grave, everything changed.
Hope was still necessary for them and you today. You aren’t in heaven with Christ yet. But your expectations can be very strong. All that Jesus promised thus far has come to pass. He literally proved himself by the resurrection. Now you await the finale, when you see and experience all of the rest of what Jesus described.
Darkness may appear to be prevailing in the world. It may seem to be prevailing in your life. But if you are a Christian, you have ultimate hope. This tiny lifetime will soon be swallowed up in eternity. Because Jesus lives, you will live. You will be resurrected to eternal life just like he was. You can count on it.