JESUS OUR HOPE
I was returning home to the United States from Bangkok, Thailand, in May this year, after a successful stewardship convention for the Southern Asia Pacific Division. Yet on this long flight back to Washington DC, my heart was aching. I had just lost my first sibling, my brother, Enesi, to cancer. He lived in New Zealand and I was away when he died. But somehow in my tired and heart-broken state, these words of Edward Mote (1797-1874) in song came to me as a revelation of God’s grace: “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness; When darkness seems to veil His face, I rest on His unchanging grace; When all around my soul gives way, He then is all my hope and stay; On Christ the solid rock I stand; all other ground is sinking sand.” In my Christian context, hope cannot be isolated from Jesus Christ, and it cannot exist without His presence. Let me illustrate this thought by reflecting on the experience of Jesus’ disciples on that Thursday night, the night just prior to His death on the dark and gloomy Friday afternoon.
My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come”
HOPE IN THE MIDST OF HOPELESSNESS
Hopelessness is living life without the presence of Jesus Christ. After He had washed and dried their feet, and after they had shared bread together, Jesus spoke words of assurance to His disciples. These words cut like a razor into the very core of their being. “My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come” (John 13:33, NIV). For this group of young men, this was a set back. For three years they had waitied with anticipation that He, their leader, would establish a new world order that would rescue them from Roman domination. This was an overwhelming disappointment.
How could He do this to them? Where would they go now? To these and other questions spinning around in their heads, Jesus responded, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me” (John 14:3, NIV). Jesus’ answer to His disciples’ sense of hopelessness and loss brought them assurance of His eternal presence. In our world today, where we’re constantly faced with all kinds of trials, challenges, human disappointments, emptiness and hopelessness, Jesus is the answer. Jesus’s presence brings encouragement, meaning, value, contentment, certainty, security and hope. It is this Jesus who has the capacity to calm any of life’s storms, bring comfort to the bereaved and hope to the forsaken and despised of society.
But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid”
CHRIST IS PRESENT THROUGH HIS SPIRIT
Recognizing His human limitations to be physically present everywhere, Jesus introduced His disciples to the concept of His omnipresence through the Holy Sprit. “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept Him, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you know Him, for He lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:16-18, NIV). To the twelve disciples, these words of their Master lifted their spirits from the depths of hopelessness to new heights riding on His promise and personal assurance. So while He would not be physically available for them, through His Sprit they could experience His presence as a present reality. Today, God’s Spirit still fills the void in his disciple’s empty and lonely hearts. God’s Spirit can turn the nights of darkness into mornings of joy. This presence of Christ in us—through His Spirit—gives us hope both in the here and now and also in the future.
GOD’S PEACE IN THE PRESENT
Whether they recognize it or not, the disciples needed something permanent to satisfy their yearning for companionship and community. And again, Jesus came to them with these comforting words. “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:26,27, NIV).
As Christian stewards, we know that only Jesus can satisfy the desires of our hearts and breathe hope into our own questionings. More importantly, He expects us, as His followers, to consistently live out this hope by sharing our hope in Him, with everyone we meet.