God’s greatest redemptive work is often being done right under our noses, just outside of our awareness. Therefore, there is always a reason to live into hope, especially during days that seem hopeless.
This was the insight that jumped off the page as I prepared to preach on Mark’s account of the resurrection of Jesus (Mark 16:1-8).
When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. (Mark 16:1)
On that Sunday morning none of the women got up anticipating or sensing that Jesus had been raised from the dead. Their subjective lived experience was one rooted in mourning and disillusionment. They had witnessed Jesus being tortured, crucified, killed, and then buried. As a final act of devotion they approached his tomb in order to anoint his dead and lifeless body.
The women came to bury hope, not ignite it. From their vantage point death had won. Life as they knew it was going to carry on much as it always had, with death getting the final word.
But their intense mourning, acute despair, and profound hopelessness was misplaced. By the crack of dawn Jesus had already been resurrected and had gotten on with his day! And even though New Creation had erupted within reality, had you asked any of these women a few minutes before arriving at the tomb, they would have resolutely affirmed that they were living in the age of death and hopelessness.
What they felt and experienced was entirely disconnected from the truth of what God was up to. Everything their feelings and senses communicated to them seemed irrefutable, and yet minutes later they discovered that their perspective was mistaken and misaligned to reality. Their worldview was wrong because the world itself had changed. Just as they would have to catch up with Jesus who had gone ahead of them, their hearts and minds would have to catch up with the truth of the resurrection that so starkly confronted their current understanding of the nature of things.
There’s a critical lesson here. It is possible to believe you are walking in hopelessness and be completely mistaken. It is possible to feel utterly lost and without hope, and be thoroughly wrong about that evaluation.
As the women made their way to Jesus’s tomb, they would have felt utterly lost and without hope. But their perspective was woefully incomplete. The tomb had already been emptied and a new and living hope had already been established.
4 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. 5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. 6 “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. (Mark 16:4–6)
We live much of our lives “in the dark” as it relates to sensing or feeling God’s power at work in our lives. That is why it’s so important to live by faith and not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7). Our perspective is limited and this limitation can tempt us into interpreting God’s silence for absence and/or powerlessness. When that happens, if we do not feel, sense, or perceive God at work, we can all too easily bury hope.
But the resurrection account challenges us to understand that God does some of His most powerful work outside of our direct knowledge. This may be a discouraging realization at first. After all, who doesn’t want to sense God powerfully at work in their lives? And yet this realization is also profoundly encouraging in its insistence that we can by faith trust that extraordinary things are in play—veiled as they may be to us—and therefore there is always a reason for hope. A particularly important truth to remember during days when our world threatens to collapse under the weight of calamity.
And trust me when I say, one day calamity will come. And your world will buckle. And on that day you may not feel, sense, or perceive God’s redeeming power at work. And as a result, on that day you may find yourself tempted to bury hope.
But when that day comes remember the women who rose to face the end of their world, only to be invited into a new one through a risen Saviour.
Remember that the tomb is empty. Remember that Jesus has risen. Remember that he’s gone ahead of you. Remember that he’s powerfully at work though you may not perceive it.
And instead of burying your hope, let the Spirit of God ignite it.