Often in life we talk about hope. We ‘hope’ for a change in our circumstances, we ‘hope’ for a new car, we ‘hope’ Burnley FC will win, and when we use this language of ‘hope’ we know what we mean. We mean, much as we do when we say ‘we hope the weather is good tomorrow’, that we are being positive, we’re being optimistic about the future, but without any firm evidence that what we ‘hope’ for will in fact happen. ‘Hope’ in this kind of everyday use is much like a wish, a desire, but nothing more.
When it comes to Easter and the Christian ‘hope’ it can easily sound like it is the same kind of wishful thinking without any solid evidence to back it up. ‘I hope Jesus was real,’ or ‘I hope He rose again,’ or ‘I hope to get to heaven’ can all sound a lot like ‘I hope the weather is better tomorrow’. If that is what is in our mind then we couldn’t be further from the truth.
The Christian ‘hope’ is almost the exact opposite of wishful thinking, for the Christian ‘hope’ is built upon concrete evidence. The empty tomb, the eyewitness accounts of the resurrected Jesus, and the physical contact between Jesus and His disciples gives us firm ground, firm evidence, that what Jesus said will actually happen. And what did Jesus say? That famous verse from John’s Gospel sums it up nicely:
God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,
that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16
‘Is a clean start, forgiveness of sins, and a relationship with God possible?’ The resurrection answers ‘yes’! The cross worked, as it were. If Jesus had merely died, and not risen again we would have no reason to believe what He said. But Jesus did rise again, and there is solid eyewitness testimony, so we can be sure that the sins of all those who believe in Christ are forgiven.
‘Is there life after death (eternal life as John calls it in the verse above)?’ The resurrection answers ‘yes’! Death is not the end, the empty tomb proclaims. Life continues, and even gets better, after death when everything that is wrong with this world is put right. This new life is not ‘airy fairy’ sitting on clouds, or hovering about like ghosts. When Jesus rose again Mary could grab hold of Jesus (John 20:17) and Thomas is invited to touch Jesus (John 20:27). This new life is a life which is as real, as concrete, as our current existence just without depression, hip replacements, or cancer. And it is a life which will go on forever in the physical presence of Jesus Himself. This is the Christian ‘hope’ and it couldn’t be more certain.
So, as Christians, do we live as if this is the case? Or do we hedge our bets, thinking that trusting in Jesus is more like a ‘hope’ for a sunny day, and that we should carry an umbrella ‘just in case’? As we celebrate Jesus dying and rising again that first Easter, be encouraged that the hope we have is certain and secure.