When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb. The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’ Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.” Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.” So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard. . Matthew 27:57-66
We’ve all experienced times of hopelessness. ALL of us.
Times when our plans were thwarted, our path obstructed, our strength overwhelmed, and our resources depleted. Times the outcome appeared final. Situations when absolutely nothing we said or did could possibly affect the outcome of the issue that faced us. If we are honest, times when death seemed like the best, if not the only, solution.
“The day after.” It always looks dark. Desperate. Irretrievable. Unrecoverable. Unredeemable.
I remember a time some years ago when my wife and I were moving a heavy wooden bureau down into the cellar of our home. I was walking backwards down the dozen or so wooden steps, both hands balancing the bottom of the bureau; my wife was at the top of the steps holding the other end. I was about halfway down the steps when it happened. My heel somehow caught the edge of the step. In an instant I was falling backwards. In my mind’s eye I could clearly see what was coming next. The back of my head would smash onto the concrete floor just before the heavy piece of furniture crushed my chest. I was falling. Backwards. And there was nothing to grab, nor anything I could do.
That’s pretty much where the disciples found themselves on “the day after.” None of the promises Jesus had given them made any sense on “the day after.” It appeared that none of the training they had received with Him during the last three years had any applicability on “the day after.” No matter how much money they could amass, it wouldn’t make any difference on “the day after.” Even prayer seemed worthless on “the day after.”
Yet even on “the day after,” God knew what He intended to do. Peter didn’t know. Neither did James, nor John. But God did.
Interesting, is it not, that the only people who remembered Christ’s prediction of victory over death were the staunchest of unbelievers. “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’ Not that they believed it, mind you. But they feared that those scheming disciples might come and snatch the body! If they only knew! The disciples they were concerned about were the least of their worries.
God’s love had already determined the perfect outcome. It didn’t look perfect from their perspective. In fact, it looked like an utter failure. But the issue was their perspective, not God’s plan.
They simply didn’t have a sufficient understanding … yet.
They hadn’t seen all that God intended to do … yet.
It was still dark. Blindingly dark. But God’s love was already moving.
What happened to me as I was falling backwards down the cellar steps with nothing to grab? I felt a large, strong hand placed in the center of my back. It arrested my fall and PUSHED me upright. It held me solidly in place until I could regain my balance. Needless to say, I was shocked. There was no one in the cellar! When I looked back over my shoulder to see who was there — I saw no one. I saw no one because there was no one else in the cellar — BUT GOD.
Those two words change everything. Moreover, they change it NOW. The truth of God’s promises is still TRUE before we see Him fulfill His word. The writer of the book of Hebrews tells us faith is being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not yet see. The situations we face may appear dark and hopeless — BUT GOD has promised deliverance. From our present perspective, we may not see any possible solution — BUT GOD has already worked it out. Like the apostles we simply don’t have a sufficient understanding … yet. We haven’t seen all that God intends to do … yet. It is still dark. Blindingly dark. But now as then, God’s love is already moving.
Mary Magdalene had the answer. John tells us that while it was still dark, Mary ran to the tomb.
WHERE IS HOPE?
Hope draws its strength from faith. The faith that tells us when it is still dark that God has a plan.
Hope gives us the faith that insists on trusting God’s plan when we have no clue of what it may be.
Hope strengthens our faith, and allows us to be sure of what we hope for. Certain of what we do not yet see.
Hope gives us the faith to say “When I’ve seen the fullness of God’s plan, I will agree that it was good.”
Hope lets us run to the tomb while it is still dark.
Hope is the hand in our back when we are falling.
Hope is the hand that wipes our tears as we are weeping.
Hope, strengthened by faith, let’s us stand strong in the darkness, trusting in the promises of a loving God. When He seems silent, He loves us still. When it seems utterly dark, He loves us still.
It’s what we do in the darkness that defines who we are in the light.
WHERE IS HOPE? Hope, strengthened by faith, is found in the love of God that is higher and wider and longer and deeper than I can ever imagine. A love willing to sacrifice His life for mine.
HOPE WAS LYING IN THE TOMB. But He didn’t stay there. HOPE LIVES. He lives to express HIs love in us, and through us.
Now these three remain – faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.