One of the unique aspects of Christianity is that it actually traces its origin to one particular event in one moment on one day in history. That moment has changed more human hearts than any other event in history. Our hope is that Jesus will touch your heart as he has for so many from every generation, language, and nation for the last two thousand years.
I’ll tell you my goal today: it’s that you would be filled with hope.
As I was working on this message, I thought about so many people I know, I thought about so many people in our church who have had so many disappointments in the last year. People I know and love, and people you know and love.
I cannot tell you how deep my desire is for you to be filled with hope today, for hope to run real deep and burn real bright in you.
And it’s not dependent on how any circumstance in your life turns out.
And here’s what I want to do – I want to talk about hope by looking at a three-act story.
I want to start by looking at God’s original intent for his creation – what the original hope was, in a sense.
And then look at exactly how that got disrupted by the Fall.
Then I want to look at how Jesus and his followers understood hope, and how that hope changes everything.
Finally, I want to talk about what this all means for you and me.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
[Have you ever wondered how God felt about his creation? Well, the intimate care of God for his creation is expressed in verse 2.]
The earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
The ancient rabbis had a very tender image of God’s love for his creation.
This is from an ancient rabbi:
I was considering the space between the upper waters and the lower waters and the Spirit of God was brooding on the face of the waters like a dove, which broods over her young.
The throne of divine glory was standing in space hovering over the face of the waters, even as a dove hovers over its nest.
The rabbi said God hovers over his creation like a dove – the way a mother hovers over her children – protecting, nourishing, caring. God had great plans for his creation – like a dove hovering over her young.
Hang on to that image. We’ll come back to it.
After God created everything else, the writer of Genesis says:
Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.
God forms a human being from the dust of the earth. He reaches down and makes a little dust bunny, but it’s not alive yet.
In both Hebrew and Greek, the word for breath is the same as the word for spirit.
Only human beings received breath/spirit directly from God.
At the end of the sixth day, God looks out and says of all that he had created, “It is finished.”
And he rests on the seventh day.
*like the animals had not been named yet.
*and the garden still needed tending.
*He gives human beings things to do.
*God’s plan was for people to help him complete the task.
There was a two-word phrase used to describe this –
It’s a Hebrew phrase, and it meant “to fix the world” – to help the world realize its full potential.
Now of course, God could have done that, but he deliberately allowed certain things to go unfinished so that human beings could partner with him, could help the world reach its full potential.
The first man is a gardener, and he partners with God in the care of God’s creation.
Tikkun Olam – together, they’ll help the world reach its full potential.
The second act is the story of the Fall.
And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”
But then Satan tempts the woman.
“You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat of the fruit your eyes will be opened, you will be like God, knowing between good and evil.”
And the woman eats; and the man eats.
And then verse 7:
Then the eyes of the both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked.
What did they experience when they opened their eyes?
In a word – despair.
What they saw was shame and guilt and death.
What they saw made them want to hide from God, and hide from each other, and hide from themselves, and they experienced despair.
They had never experienced despair before. Never for a moment had a despairing thought entered their mind. Now, they would never be free of it.
To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ Cursed is the ground because of you;
through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you.”
The ground itself – the earth itself – something happens to creation. It also falls under the curse.
Now the earth will produce thorns and thistles.
Have you ever wondered where thorns and thistles came from? It was not part of God’s original plan.
He said to the woman, “Your pains in childbearing will be very severe.”
Remember, this is part of the curse – bad pain.
So that even though her husband is very kind and goes to birthing classes to coach her on how to breathe during the delivery…
*she’ll say bad words to her husband.
*and reject her husband’s coaching.
*and promise to get even with her husband.
*and tell him that she wishes he were not there… which for the next period of life isn’t a bad idea.
I think that’s what the writer of Scripture was getting at.
To fix the world is precisely what we cannot do.
And Adam and Eve are banished from the Garden. Verse 23 says:
So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken.
What this part of the story means is – human beings would no longer be able to live with God in the old way. There is now a gap between the earth and the heavens.
In the beginning, where did God live? On the earth or in the heavens?
God was present everywhere. There was no gap.
Now there is a gap.
God is not hovering over their lives and their world in the same way now.
And the primary word for that in the Old Testament is the word “exile.”
The primary problem of the human race is sin… and its consequence is exile.
N. T. Wright, who is maybe the greatest biblical scholar in our day, says that understanding this idea of the exile is maybe the single most necessary idea to grasp Jesus’ mission, as it was perceived by people in his day.
Here’s what happens:
*After the Fall, the human race goes into exile.
*God begins again with the people of Israel – God creates Israel, and they’re going to be the community through whom God Tikkun Olam – fixes the world through this people. And he leads them miraculously.
*When they are exiled in slavery in Egypt through the Exodus, they were redeemed – they were brought out. That becomes a major theme in Jesus’ day – deliverance from slavery.
*And they’re brought into the land that’s flowing with milk and honey.
*And David sits on the throne, and the temple is built, and they’re going to be the way through which God fixes the world.
*And they’re not fixing the world.
Now, this is the spiritual, emotional, relational problem of their lives.
They’re supposed to be the people of God fixing the world, but they’re in exile. Everything is wrong.
So these two concepts – the return from exile and the forgiveness of sins – went hand in hand.
Look at just one example in
The forgiveness of your sin, O daughter of Zion, will be accomplished. He will keep you in exile no longer.
The connection is crystal clear.
The Prophets write over and over again about this connection between exile and the sinfulness of God’s people – and the promise of the forgiveness and cleansing of sin and return from exile.
The writers of Scripture say over and over again, “When sin has been forgiven, then will come the return from exile, then will begin the Tikkun Olam – the fixing of the world.”
But until then the exile goes on.
Now I want to look at the hope Jesus and his followers had, and how that changes everything. Mark, chapter 1 is the beginning of the ministry of Jesus. Mark 1:9-10 Mark is not talking here about some clouds parting and blue sky showing through. This is not about some weird cloud formation. Mark 1:9-10 This image doesn’t come out of nowhere? This image has been around a long time. Luke 24:15-21 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” “What things?” he asked. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.” “He was going to be the one to end the exile. He was going to be the one to bring the kingdom of God.” 1 Corinthians 15:20-22 Jesus is the firstfruits of those raised from the dead. The “firstfruits” is the beginning of the harvest. Luke 24:28 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him. Luke here uses the same wording as the Greek version of Genesis: “Their eyes were opened.” John 20:1 Look at John 20:19: John 20:19 N.T. Wright says, “John doesn’t waste words. When he tells us something like this twice, he knows what he’s doing. It’s not just that Easter happened to be on a Sunday. John wants his readers to figure out that Easter day is the first day of God’s new creation. Easter morning is the birthday of God’s new world. John 19:41 Mary sees Jesus, but just like with the couple on the road to Emmaus, she doesn’t recognize him, and she’s weeping. John 20:15 And in a sense, she’s right. He’s the new man. He’s the new Adam. 2 Corinthians 5:17 And it doesn’t stop there. John 20:19-22 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” As the Father breathed into the nostrils of Adam and Eve and said, “Now live. Be living beings in my image.” Now, Jesus breathes his own breath – the breath of life, the breath of God, the Spirit of God – into his followers and says, “Receive the Spirit of God.” In Psalm 42 and 43 — the psalmist keeps saying: Psalm 42:5, 43:5 And I don’t know about you – maybe hope comes real easily for you. Blue Oaks Church
Are you ready? This is where it gets good.
At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open [what does that mean?]
Something fundamental is happening here – it’s the beginning of everything a Christian stakes his or her life on.
The reign and rule and the presence of God… has now come to earth.
Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.
God wants the people who will follow Jesus to know – God is hovering very close once again.
The God who was creating something in Genesis has begun a new work of creation.
And in verse 14, Jesus goes into Galilee and begins to proclaim the good news – the gospel – “The time has come. The kingdom of God has come near. The heavens have opened up.”
Jesus is saying – in him, the exile is over, the kingdom of God is here – that is, the presence and power and reign of God is now available to ordinary people like you and me.
*You can live in it if you want to.
*You can walk right on in.
It doesn’t matter where you’ve been or what you’ve done – you can live in the kingdom of God right here and right now.
Jesus had already been crucified, and there are rumors that something has happened.
As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him.
They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”
“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people.
To understand the story, you have to understand the significance of the fact that he was crucified.
He didn’t just die, he was crucified.
*Crucifixion is what happens to people who think they’re going to liberate Israel and find out they’re mistaken.
*Crucifixion is what happens to people who think they’re going to bring in the kingdom, but are wrong.
And it didn’t just happen to Jesus. There were at least 10 or 12 movements that externally looked a lot like Jesus, within a century or two of him on either side.
*You follow a leader who gets crucified, you know you were rooting for a loser.
*You follow a leader who gets crucified, you were on the wrong team. The exile is not over.
And something had happened that was so good they hadn’t even dreamed of it – and that something was the resurrection.
When the resurrection came, that meant resurrection for everyone.
And what Jesus is saying is, in his resurrection, the beginning of the resurrection has now started.
But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.
The rest of the harvest is just a matter of time.
Jesus is saying, “Now the resurrection has begun.”
Look at Luke 24:28 – this is back on the road to Emmaus with Cleopas and his wife.
As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.
So long ago in Genesis, a husband and wife had their eyes opened. And they see the beginning of sin and death.
And the human race lives in exile for thousands of years.
And now, Luke says, “Two human beings – a husband and wife – have their eyes opened, and they see the defeat of sin and death.”
Jesus is with you today just as he was with Cleopas and his wife on the road to Emmaus.
Do you recognize him?
It was the reality and power of the resurrection.
So according to John 19:30, on the sixth day, Friday, the sixth day of the week, Jesus is on the cross, and he cries out. What are his final words? “It is finished.”
But now, it’s the work of re-creation, of redemption. “It is finished.” He’s done it, and it is good.
Early on the what? –
Early on the first day of the week…
On the evening of that what? –
On the evening of that first day of the week…
And we live in God’s new world.
The good news is the kingdom of God is available to anyone and everyone now… because of the resurrection. It’s available to ordinary, fallen, foolish people like you and me. And we can live in it if we want to.
We are first-day people now… because the exile is over.
Let me ask you a question. Where is the tomb located? Do you know?
At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid.
Jesus asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”
Thinking he was the gardener…
There’s a fascinating passage in 1 Corinthians 15. I don’t have time to go through it, but Paul gives Jesus two titles.
In 1 Corinthians 15:45-48, he says Jesus is the last Adam and the second man.
He is the last Adam – he is the end of that fallen, exiled, broken race.
All of that fallenness and exile falls on him. That’s what had to happen. He’s the last Adam. No one has to live as part of that anymore. No one has to. He’s the last Adam.
Just as God reached down to a little lump of clay way back in the garden, and breathed, and that man became a living spirit.
One more time, in a garden, God the Father looked down at a tomb, at a lifeless body – at a lump of clay – and God breathed into him the breath of life.
And that lump of clay came to life – he’s the second man.
The apostle Paul wrote in
If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
John 20:19 – this is after the resurrection and a kind of foreshadowing of Pentecost.
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”
*He wants us to live in the power of the resurrection.
*He wants us to live as a new creation.
*He wants us to live in the kingdom of God.
*He wants us to live in the reign and power and presence of the Spirit of God.
So here’s the choice you and I face today.
*It’s the same choice the couple on the road to Emmaus faced.
*It’s the same choice Mary faced.
*It’s the same choice the disciples faced.
*It’s the same choice Adam and Eve faced.
I want to put it like this – every time you and I face any kind of difficulty or any kind of adversity, we have a choice. We can give in to despair. You and I can –
*just like the couple on the road to Emmaus did.
*just like Mary did.
*just like the disciples did.
*just like Adam and Eve did.
And maybe for us it happens like this – when I entertain thoughts like:
*“If I don’t get what I want, I’ll never be happy.”
*Or, “If I don’t succeed at this project, I’ll always be a failure.”
*Or, “I’m afraid about money.”
*Or, “I’m afraid of some illness.”
*Or, “I’m afraid of being alone.”
*Or, “I’m afraid of never measuring up.”
Despair and discouragement will rob you of life, just as it did Mary and the disciples… and Adam and Eve.
*It will cause you to live in regret about the past, anxiety about the future, preoccupation in the present.
*It will make you anxious, sad, and depressed.
*It will make you want to quit.
And you need to know – God never does this. God never calls anyone to despair.
Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God…
Sometimes it does for me, but there are a lot of times I have to fight for it.
And those words that the psalmist speaks to his soul, I sometimes speak real soberly to mine.
Sometimes I say them out loud – I do it when I’m by myself, because I don’t want other people to think I’m losing it altogether… anymore than they already do.
But sometimes I’ll just say, “Put your hope in God.”
When you face a challenge, you can do this. You can say:
*God, I put my hope in you.
*God, your kingdom come, your will be done.
*God, let your kingdom come in this situation.
*It doesn’t mean it’s always going to end up the way I want it to.
*But God’s kingdom can always come into it.
*“I believe God is hovering over me right now, so close.
*“I believe that because of Jesus, the resurrection is a settled fact.
*“So what on earth, what in God’s name do I have to worry about or be afraid of?
*“I believe that the Spirit of God has been breathed into me, and is at work in me, and is my great partner through every moment of my life.”
Hope will bring energy and endurance and creativity and joy and the ability to deal with whatever life throws at you. It just will.
And ultimately, it’s the hope that all of this is really true… that you’re not just listening to this for your health, we’re not talking about stuff that doesn’t really matter.
That, in fact, the resurrection really did start with this man, Jesus, and that one day, it will catch up to us.
And not only that, but that God’s redeeming work will not be stopped, that in the words of Paul, in that great section on hope in Romans 8, “Creation itself, that is under the curse now, of thorns and thistles—creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.”
And God will fix the world.
So lets go into our world, sent by Jesus himself, and bring hope to our relationships, and our homes and our work and our neighborhoods.
Mark, chapter 1 is the beginning of the ministry of Jesus.
Mark is not talking here about some clouds parting and blue sky showing through. This is not about some weird cloud formation.
This image doesn’t come out of nowhere? This image has been around a long time.
He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”
“What things?” he asked.
The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.”
“He was going to be the one to end the exile. He was going to be the one to bring the kingdom of God.”
1 Corinthians 15:20-22
Jesus is the firstfruits of those raised from the dead. The “firstfruits” is the beginning of the harvest.
When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him.
Luke here uses the same wording as the Greek version of Genesis: “Their eyes were opened.”
Look at John 20:19:
N.T. Wright says, “John doesn’t waste words. When he tells us something like this twice, he knows what he’s doing. It’s not just that Easter happened to be on a Sunday. John wants his readers to figure out that Easter day is the first day of God’s new creation. Easter morning is the birthday of God’s new world.
Mary sees Jesus, but just like with the couple on the road to Emmaus, she doesn’t recognize him, and she’s weeping.
And in a sense, she’s right. He’s the new man. He’s the new Adam.
2 Corinthians 5:17
And it doesn’t stop there.
After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
As the Father breathed into the nostrils of Adam and Eve and said, “Now live. Be living beings in my image.” Now, Jesus breathes his own breath – the breath of life, the breath of God, the Spirit of God – into his followers and says, “Receive the Spirit of God.”
In Psalm 42 and 43 — the psalmist keeps saying:
Psalm 42:5, 43:5
And I don’t know about you – maybe hope comes real easily for you.
Blue Oaks Church