But we had hoped…

Regular bloggists among you will know that occasionally something strikes me while I am preparing for a sermon and I will share it here as a kind of sneak preview as God is shaping what I say. Today I want to go back to what I shared last Sunday morning. We were looking at the encounter with Jesus on the road to Emmaus* (Luke 24:13-44). In that passage we get an amazing summary of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. what follows is more or less what I shared from that point in the narrative on Sunday morning…

Isn’t [Luke 24:19-24] an astonishing summary of Jesus’ life? In the Message version it is just 139 words long. If you ever want a summary of Jesus’ life you could do a lot worse than use the Gospel according to Cleopas and Mary*. And yet…

And yet it is an incomplete summary. It is full of hopes but they are hopes that have been extinguished. It is full of questions and doubts. For me the saddest phrase is the one that begins: “But we had hoped…” They had hoped Jesus was The One. They had hoped that this was God’s moment. They had hoped that Jesus would live up to their expectations, perhaps even when he was arrested and on trial. But those hopes were dashed when he was crucified and died. They were buried with Jesus in the tomb.

So as they walked back to Emmaus they carried with them unfulfilled hope, disappointment, sadness, bewilderment, doubt and confusion.

We all carry questions, doubts, problems on our journey of life like Cleopas and Mary. I include myself in that.

I have “But I had hoped…” moments in my life and in my ministry:

“But I had hoped that I would not let Jesus down as much as I do.”

“But I had hoped that I would not disappoint people.”

“But I had hoped that more people would become Christians.”

What are you carrying with you on your journey of faith? Do you have hopes and ambitions that are unfulfilled? Is there disappointment, sadness, bewilderment, doubt and confusion? Would you include the phrase, “But I had hoped…” in your own story of faith?

telescopeHow do we deal with “But I had hoped?” Let’s look at how Jesus responded to it. He revealed to Cleopas and Mary that they had been looking at the Bible from the wrong end of the telescope.

They had looked at the Bible as the story of how God would redeem Israel from suffering – seeing God as distant and remote – but instead the Bible is the story of how God would redeem the world through suffering – close up and personal.

Jesus went through the chronology of the Bible “beginning with Moses and the prophets… all Scriptures.” He showed them how it makes sense that God took the suffering, rejection and sin on himself in order to release people from it. He showed them how the Bible points towards the Messiah’s death on behalf of humanity.

Perhaps we need to ask ourselves if we are looking at things from the wrong end of the telescope. Does God seem remote and distant, not involved in our life? Or is he up close and personal? A remote and distant God cannot respond to “But I had hoped…” as much as a God who is up close and personal – within us by his Spirit.

A God who has dealt with sin and has experienced the pain of rejection and death, is one with whom we can share our “But I had hoped…” moments and ask for his help.

I find Jesus’ death and resurrection help me to read the Bible. It helps me regain a better perspective. It helps to increase my awareness of Jesus who died for me. It helps to regain an awareness of the Jesus who was raised from the dead. It doesn’t matter which part of the Bible you read, the Old and New Testaments both point to him, look for what the Bible is saying about Jesus and you may find that the telescope turns around and the distant God becomes the up close and personal God.

The reality of Jesus’ resurrection can transform how we see things. No longer is death and suffering the end, it is the means that justifies us in God’s sight.

One more thing I would suggest that will help us with our “But we had hoped…” moments is not to travel alone. Cleopas and Mary were travelling together, “talking with each other about everything that had happened.” It was as they discussed things that Jesus drew near. This is why prayer triplets, house groups or just informally sharing with others is so helpful. We can find that as we are honestly sharing our doubts and struggles that our companions can share them with us. And we may well find that as we pray about them together Jesus draws alongside us. we may not recognise him at first, but he promises to be with us.

It was their encounter with the risen Jesus as they walked along that rekindled their extinguished hope.

Be blessed, be a blessing

*I believe that Cleopas is the same person called ‘Clopas’ in John’s gospel and described as the husband of one of the Marys who followed Jesus. That’s why I called Cleopas’s companion ‘Mary’.

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