What is Hope?

by Dr. Rodney Thomas

“Hope” is a word that is commonly used to mean a “wish”: its strength is then invested in the strength of the person’s desire.  But in the Bible, hope is something different, something that has a different focus, a focal point that is outside of our individual selves.  It reflects a confidence in something other than our own abilities, our own intrinsic worth, our wealth, our power, or our personal giftedness.  Biblical hope is the confident expectation, the confident trust, in God and what He has promised and its strength is invested in His faithfulness not in our own personal worth or worthiness.

In the time of Jesus there were many people that hoped for the coming of the Messiah.  Their vision of what that meant was closely aligned to many of the traits that were associated with King David.  David was a warrior.  He fought wars, conquered enemies, and brought justice in a way that was comprehensible and seemed highly logical to the people of his era and even to many today.

Our understanding of what is right, just, and desirable is often hampered by our lack of vision and our lack of understanding.  I recently watched the movie Risen, which is a fictional story telling the story of Jesus from a conceptual Roman perspective, from a pagan perspective, at least from the perspective of a Gentile.  Clavius, a powerful Roman Military Tribune, is tasked with solving the mystery of discovering what happened to the body of Jesus, who he had personally seen after He was crucified, and hanging dead upon the cross.  There is one scene in which Clavius is talking with Pontus Pilate and he asks Pilate what do we do if Jesus is indeed risen from the dead?  Pilate replies, “We kill Him again.”  For many in our world the only solutions that they can hope for are those that they can imagine based upon their experiences and their preconceived notions.

Paul, and others, were challenged with the fact that Jesus changed all the boundaries of what was possible and expanded the horizons of hope beyond what humans, in their own limited abilities, and imaginations, had deemed possible.  Jesus shattered the glass ceiling and opened up new possibilities, new vistas of hope.

In the movie, Clavius does indeed find Jesus alive and when he is confronted with a man that he knew indeed had been dead he turns away from being a Tribune and follows Jesus.  He still had many things in his mind concerning what he believed was possible, but he could not explain what he had seen and so he followed Jesus in the hope of ending the inconceivable turmoil in his soul, created by being confronted with what he had formerly considered impossible.

One of the disciples that Clavius interviewed about the death of Jesus proclaimed to him, that “everything has changed.”  He understood that Jesus had shattered the fabric of what was deemed to be normal reality.  Nothing has ever been the same since the resurrection of Jesus.  Death no longer has the final word: it is no longer the final solution to people or problems that stand in the way of what nations, rulers, or powerful people want.

Pilate never got the chance to see that killing a man that will not stay dead means that you have lost all power over such a person.  No threat, or use of force, can overcome such a person.  Everything has changed and “hope” has taken on new possibilities.  For a person hopes in these new possibilities, that is not afraid of death, threats, or even the use of force; they cannot be deterred from living differently, with values that are centered outside this realm of earth and sky.  Such people are like the heroes of old that looked to something beyond themselves, and beyond their own power and strength.  Such people trust in the wisdom and power of God and not in their own strength.  They have hope that fuels their lives in the face of all adversity and against all odds.

One Response to “What is Hope?”

  1. Gloria Gonzales says:

    Thank you Rodney!

    It reminds me of the lyrics to one of our favorite hymns. “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus Christ, my righteousness; I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.”

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