Imagine a World Without Hope
1 Peter 1:3 – 7
Imagine a World Without Hope
A new hope!
Just last week we introduced our kids to Star Wars! That is, they’ve known bits and pieces about the movies from friends and toys and what have you, but after careful research, and much consideration, we decided they could watch the first of the movies, the original movies.
Of course, for those of us of a certain generation, that first movie was originally just called Star Wars. And I only realised this week that it was actually released before I was even born! But apparently things that came out in 1977 need updating, I’m not sure what that says about me, who also came out in 1977, but when the film was re-released, they added the subtitle “Episode 4, A New Hope.”
And as I was reflecting on this part of the Bible during the week, I thought that that title could just about be the subheading for these words we’ve just heard read to us.
The writer is a man named Peter, he was one of Jesus’ closest friends, and sometime around 62 or 63 AD, he’s sat down to write this letter to Christian people who are, as you can see just up a few lines, scattered throughout the provinces of the Roman Empire, in what is now Turkey.
So we’re talking 30 years or so after Jesus’ death. In fact, more time has passed, since Star Wars was released in 1977, until today, than between the first Easter, and when Peter sends this letter.
And they’re still releasing the Star Wars movies!
So in historical terms, Peter’s writing very close in time, to the events of that first Easter. And the task that we’ve set for ourselves today, “Imagine a World Without Hope”, well Peter draws a line very clearly doesn’t he, from the events of that first Easter in about 30 AD, to the hope that he wants his readers to have.
Clearly Peter thinks, there’s something about Easter, that gives people hope.
But, many people, it’s not too hard at all, to imagine a world without hope, because that’s exactly what they feel is their daily experience.
I meet people whose life circumstances make them think that everything is hope-less,
People who don’t see any way forward in troubled relationships,
People who feel hopeless as they watch their children making decisions that they know can only end in hurt and disaster.
A friend of mine rushed interstate last week, to be with his mother as she died. For many that experience is one of hopelessness;,
Staring death in the face.
I read an article this week, 10 things to do when you feel hopeless. Instruction number one was, “Give up hope”! Not an overly auspicious start! And the article went on to say that any desire for hope is misplaced, so “just get over it.”
But I think, “No”, we don’t want to do that,
We don’t want to give up hope,
We don’t want a world without hope.
The reason we’ve asked our question this morning is because we want to say the opposite is true.
There is hope, and when someone offers hope, we want to take hold of it, don’t we?
You might remember the Barack Obama “Hope” posters, that came to represent his 2008 election campaign. That image of his face, with just one word at the bottom, “hope.”
And in that election campaign, that word, galvanised, a whole section of the population, and summed up what they were longing for, “We want hope.
We want someone to offer us more than we can see right now.”
And so I want to acknowledge, that to say “Imagine a world without hope”, for many people, and maybe some here today, that’s not something you need to imagine,
That’s something that you’re living,
And I want you to know that you’re not alone, neither in our age, nor in the day which Peter was writing.
There was an ancient play by Sophocles called Oedipus at Colonus, well-known in the time that Peter’s writing, and in it, Sophocles expresses the sentiment that the best thing of all was not to be born in the first place, and the second best thing, is to die at birth.
That is hope-less-ness isn’t it?
And to not have hope can be, debilitating, and terrifying,
Sometimes even overwhelming.
Years ago I did some work with World Vision, and during my time there I picked up a copy of a book the organisation had produced, it was actually called “A Vision of Hope”, and it includes the line, “It has been said that a human can live about 40 days without food,
About 3 days without water,
And about 8 minutes without air,
But only one second without hope.
To long for something that we don’t have.
Well Peter here argues that Easter offers us hope, in a world that can, at times, seem without hope.
For some of us maybe, Easter brings chocolate,
Easter brings Hot Cross Buns,
Easter brings a long weekend to many,
All that quite possibly means that for some of us Easter brings a couple of extra kilos!
But Peter claims here, is that Easter brings hope.
I imagine that most of us like Easter, if only for those things I’ve just mentioned, but I wonder if you think, that Easter is a source of hope, that Easter offers you something, that you don’t yet have and see.
And Peter wants his Christian readers to see, that a world without Easter is a world without hope.
Listen to what he says. 3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth,
into, a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
4 and into, an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade
The hope of Easter is all God’s work
Easter is a source of hope, but not a hope that we have to , work up ourselves. This hope is given to us by God.
The hope of Easter is all God’s work.
And the image he uses is one of birth.
Now, one of the things they tell preachers is , don’t ever tell childbirth stories! A good proportion of your congregation will know much more about childbirth than you do, so steer clear of it!
But, Peter’s point is that God offers us a new birth
You might have heard Christians talk about being “born again.”
You might also associate that language with a particular flavour of Christian. I’ve had people say to me, “Clayton, I’m a Christian, but not one of those born again Christians.”
But actually, there’s no such thing , as a Christian who’s not a born again Christian.
To be Christian is to be born again. It’s just one of the images the Bible uses to talk about what it means to become a Christian.
Being born again symbolises being brought into a new family. In his great mercy, he has given us new birth
And this new birth, is all God’s work.
The hope of Easter is not something that we have to summon up from within us,
No, Peter says, In his great mercy God has given us this new birth
So university has started in the last few weeks, and because I run our young adults Bible Study on Friday nights, I have lots of conversation with high school students about what they hope to get into at uni.
And so they’ll say, “I hope to do, such and such a course at uni, so I need to, do these subjects,
Pass these assessments,
Get particular marks.”
What they hope for, they need to work towards, or they’re not going to get.
Lots of what we hope for, works like that;,
Some kind of financial security,
Health or fitness goals,
There are things that we hope for, that we have to work towards.
The hope of Easter is a hope that comes to us by God’s mercy, that is, it’s undeserved,
It’s not something we’ve earned or figured out.
I imagine, that when it came to your birth, you didn’t play much role in it.
You were there, certainly,
You made your presence felt, no doubt!
But your conception, your birth, you were not really the driving force behind those events, were you?
Other people did those things for you.
The hope of Easter is all God’s work.
We don’t deserve the new birth that he gives us.
It doesn’t come to us as a reward for good living,
It doesn’t become ours by virtue of our religious heritage.
We don’t deserve to be part of God’s family.
The Bible is clear that every single one of us has lived as a rebel against God. Most of us, are very polite in our rebellion,
We tend to quietly ignore God,
We just get on with our lives without any thought of him, really.
But we live in God’s world, taking good gifts from God’s hand, but without recognising that it’s his world that we live in.
This rebellion, is what the Bible calls sin.
And because of our sin, we don’t deserve anything good from God. In fact, we deserve punishment and separation.
But the hope of Easter is that God offers us something else!
See there in verse 3, In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead
The resurrection of Jesus offers us hope.
That is, deny the resurrection, think that Easter is all myth and superstition and nonsense, or that there is no such thing as the resurrection, and this hope is out of reach.
So if we want hope, which I imagine most of us do, and it might be specifically why some of us have come here today, to find out what hope the Christian message offers, then it seems to me the key here is to work out whether the resurrection of Jesus from the dead is a real event in history, or whether it’s just myth,
And then if it’s real, to work out how the resurrection offers us hope.
Because if it’s not true, then to hold out hope that is based on something that is false, then , that’s pretty cruel, isn’t it?
There was an uproar in the news a few weeks ago about someone offering various remedies to cure cancer, that couldn’t cure cancer, all they wanted was people’s money.
To hold out hope for people, based on something that is entirely false is deceptive and cruel.
But is the resurrection true?
And so, that first question, is the resurrection an actual, verifiable historical event?, is not one that Peter particularly answers in this part of his letter. He’s writing in the first instance to Christian people, people who were already convinced about this event that had happened in their lifetime.
But Peter himself is an eye-witness of Jesus’ resurrection. He’s not talking about something that he’s head from his best friend’s cousin’s wife’s grandmother. He describes himself in chapter 5 of this letter as a witness of Christ’s sufferings, and he was one of the very first people to see the empty tomb on that Easter morning.
And he then saw Jesus face to face multiple times, after he was raised from the dead. If it was just one occasion, we might be tempted to think that Peter was imaging things, hoping that Jesus was alive again, and so kind of projecting his hopes onto reality.
Maybe you’ve had that experience when you’re expecting an important phone call, and you imagine that your phone is ringing, even when it’s not.
It’s called Phantom vibration syndrome!
In one study, 9 out of 10 people said they had experienced this; They’re wanting their phone to ring, and so they actually feel it ringing.
So commonplace, that in 2012 Phantom Vibration Syndrome became Macquarie Dictionary’s word of the year!
When Peter saw Jesus, did he just have Phantom Vibration Syndrome?,
Phantom Messiah Syndrome?
Was he just so much expecting Jesus to come back to life, that no matter where he looked, he saw Jesus?
Well, that might seem a kind of convenient explanation to us, but it doesn’t fit with the evidence.
Have a look at the words from Mark’s gospel that are printed on your leaflet. These are from Mark chapter 16, almost the very last words in Mark’s account of Jesus’ life. A group of women come to Jesus’ tomb expecting to find it sealed up and with the body inside, but instead they find it open, and empty, and a young man sitting beside it who says, go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He Jesus, is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’
During his lifetime, Jesus had said he was going to be raised from the dead. The thing is, Peter and the rest of the disciples didn’t believe him, didn’t understand.
The gospel accounts of Jesus’ life definitely don’t portray the disciples with any kind of rose-tinted glasses.
Their flaws, their misunderstanding, the slow turning of the cogs in their minds are laid bare for us to see,
I think for our encouragement!
For when we’re slow to understand things,
And when we don’t believe Jesus’ words.
So there at the end of Mark’s gospel, it’s obvious, isn’t it, that Peter and the other disciples were absolutely not expecting Jesus to be raised from the dead.
If they were expecting him to come back from the dead, they’d be in Galilee, because that’s where Jesus had said he’d meet them.
Peter didn’t think Jesus was coming back.
Peter no more expected Jesus to be raised from the dead than we would expect one of our friends to come back from the dead.
The resurrection is no Phantom Vibration Syndrome.
So Peter is an eye-witness of the resurrected Jesus. He’s quite confident to offer people hope based on the resurrection. He’s seen all the evidence;, that it is a real and verifiable event in history.
We kind of glossed over it, but that little bit from the end of Mark chapter 16, it also shows us although Peter wasn’t expecting the resurrection, Jesus was.
There you will see him, just as he told you.
Jesus expected the resurrection. He said it was going to happen, and sure enough it all unfolded exactly as he said.
Although this is an unrepeated event, well, most of history is unrepeated, isn’t it?! But although this is a unique and, to us unexpected event, historically, we have every reason to believe that it’s true.
Any assessment or investigation that we apply to any other event in history, if we put the resurrection of Jesus through that test, we’ll find ourselves confronted with its unmistakeable reality and truthfulness.
If you’ve got questions about the resurrection of Jesus,
Is it something we can be sure about?
Can it be relied upon to give me the hope that I long for ? then grab a copy of this booklet off the Welcome Desk, Why Believe the Resurrection? and talk to someone here, we’d love to help you find some answers.
What is the hope offered by Jesus’ resurrection?
And so the second question that I think we want to ask, thinking about this promise of hope, that is based on the resurrection,
a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
Is “What is the hope held out to us by Jesus’ resurrection?”
How is this event in history a source of hope?
Now, I think there are a number of ways that the Jesus’ resurrection from the dead offers us hope.
Let me share a few I’ve been thinking about.
Jesus’ resurrection offers us hope because it tells us that Jesus can be trusted.
The resurrection of Jesus from the dead offers us hope, because it tells us that Jesus can be trusted.
As we saw from those words at the end of Mark’s gospel, Jesus had, repeatedly, actually, spoken of his own death, and resurrection.
Now it’s easy to say, “I’m going to die, and I’m going to be raised from the dead”, anyone can say that. The question is, does it actually happen as we said it would?
Jesus said he would be killed,
He said he would be raised again on the 3rd day.
When that actually transpires just as he said, we’re confronted with a man who makes extraordinary claims, that come to pass exactly as he said they would.
Jesus is someone whose words can be trusted, even when they run contrary to what we expect or imagine.
Naturally, the claim that he was going to be raised from the dead was not the only thing that Jesus claimed.
Jesus promised all manner of things, some of which , seems to us, perhaps too good to be true.
Jesus said you can be set free from the pain of guilt, no matter what you’ve done,
No matter how badly you’ve treated people,
Regardless of how far you’ve fallen short.
That guilt can be taken away, and you can be given a fresh start, an absolutely clean slate.
I know plenty of people who would hope for that.
Jesus’ resurrection from the dead means his word can be trusted, which means that promise can be trusted.
Jesus said you are loved, perhaps more than you’ve ever known, more than you’ve ever experienced.
Jesus says you are loved so much by God, that he will die in your place, taking the punishment for your rebellion against him.
Who doesn’t hope for that kind of love to be true?
Jesus’ resurrection from the dead means his word can be trusted, which means the promise of love and relationship that Jesus offers, can be trusted.
Jesus promised forgiveness,
Jesus promised a life to come, free from the pain and hurt that stain this life;,
Bodies that break down,
People who treat us badly,
Jesus promised freedom from that.
Don’t we hope for those things?
Jesus’ resurrection from the dead means his word can be trusted, which means those promises can be trusted.
Jesus promises significance,
Jesus offers worth,
Jesus promises us that death is not the end,
Jesus promises to usher us into the very presence of the creator God of the universe.
Jesus’ resurrection from the dead which occurred just as he promised, means we can put our hope, our trust in all of his promises.
Jesus’ resurrection offers us hope because it proves to us that Jesus has defeated death
Jesus’ resurrection offers us hope, also because it proves to us that Jesus has defeated death.
Death is described as “the last enemy”, the enemy that we are ultimately powerless against.
Winston Churchill once said in the House of Commons, “death and sorrow will be the companions of our journey.” Now he was speaking particularly about the war in Europe, but I know countless people for whom this is the experience of life. Death and sorrow, the companions of their journey.
Think of the lengths that people go to, to try and escape, or put off death, hold it at arm’s length, as long as we possibly can.
People go to extreme lengths, having themselves cryogenically frozen, to be thawed out and revived at a point in the future, when some cure for death is discovered!
It occurred to me that I could offer a service to these people, to look after their money, between their death, and when the cure for death is discovered and they’re thawed out and revived. Before they die, they just transfer all their money to me, and I’ll look after it, until they look me up when they’ve been made un-dead.
Except, I discovered, somebody is already offering that very service! So desperate are people to escape death, to put it off, that they’re already paying people to hold on to their money, so they’ll have something to enjoy when they come back.
But do you see that Jesus’ resurrection shows that death has already been defeated. Jesus has already gone through death, and come out the other side,
He has defeated it.
Death is no longer the enemy against which we are powerless.
We still face death, absolutely. But we need not fear it, because Jesus has beaten it.
Do you see how Peter’s letter continues? Because of the living hope we have through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, we also have an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade, kept in heaven for you
Jesus promises eternal life,
Life beyond the grave,
Life in heaven,
And the reason we can be sure of those things,
The reason we can be sure that death just isn’t the end for all of us, is because Jesus has gone there before us.
So let me ask a question; Knowing that we all face death, who are you going to trust with your death.
Whose take on death are you going listen to?
I want to suggest the person to listen to about death, the person to trust with your death, is the person who’s been through death, and come out the other side, and who says you have nothing to fear from death.
Why wouldn’t we put our hope in Jesus, who says death isn’t the end?,
Who gives us confidence, even in the face of death.
Jesus’ resurrection offers us hope because it assures us that evil will be punished
And I guess a subset of that idea, that death has been defeated, is that Jesus’ resurrection gives us hope, because it assures us that sin and evil will be punished.
Now, isn’t that something that we hope for?
For those who do evil to get what they deserve?
For the perpetrators of violence to be called to account?
For terrorists and murders and whoever else to face justice?
20 years ago last Sunday, a man named Thomas Hamilton walked into a school gymnasium in the Scottish town of Dunblane, and killed 16 children, aged 5 and 6, and their teacher. One of the worst mass murders in the UK.
Dunblane was followed only a few weeks later by the Port Arthur Massacre, which has been in the news again in the last few weeks.
Thomas Hamilton, the Dunblane murderer, took his own life. Where’s the justice?
Where’s the calling to account?
Martin Bryant from Port Arthur, was sentenced to 35 life terms, plus an additional 1035 years in prison. That was found to be the appropriate punishment for his terrible crime. But he’s not going to serve all of that, is he?
Will he face justice?
Will he pay full price for his crimes?
And it’s not just the monsters from the news headlines.
The people who have treated you badly,
Those who have hurt and abused people we love, and who seem to escape justice.
Well, Jesus’ resurrection from the dead offers us hope, because it assures us that those who do evil won’t just get away with it.
Death is not the end.
Death isn’t the final curtain after which point , nothing happens.
There is life after death, and because Jesus rules after death, those who have treated his people and his creation poorly, or wrongly, will have to give an account for that.
The Apostle Paul says in Athens in Acts 17, that God has demonstrated to the world who is going to judge sin and evil, he’s identified that person, by raising him from the dead.
If you hope for justice, the resurrection of Jesus from the dead guarantees you that hope.
Jesus’ resurrection offers us hope because it promises us an eternal inheritance
The last one I want to highlight, is that Jesus’ resurrection offers us hope, because it promises us an eternal inheritance.
Look back at that second part of the sentence in verse 4 if you will, Yes, God has given us a new birth into a living hope, but also new birth into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance, Peter says is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power
Lots of what we hope for in this life can be taken away, can’t it?
I’ve had conversations with numbers of you, as you’ve told me that the sorts of things that we often put our hope in have been, well, pulled out from underneath your feet.
Well, this hope held out for us by the resurrection of Jesus can never be taken away.
Inheritance is interesting language isn’t it? Once again this highlights the fact of receiving, not earning!
My wife Kathy and I got some inheritance once, and we bought a dishwasher! But we didn’t do anything to earn the dishwasher, did we?
It was all somebody else.
It came to us, because , we were in the family.
Peter speaks of an inheritance in heaven, for all who are part of God’s family, all who share that new birth.
Kathy’s and my inheritance came down to , one dishwasher, Peter’s probably got his eye on something, a whole lot broader.
He probably includes in this inheritance the resurrection bodies that God’s people will receive, guaranteed by Jesus’ own resurrection. New bodies that won’t break down, and get sick, and wear out.
That’s something to hope for!
He probably includes everything about enjoying relationship with God himself forever.
Perfect, unspoilt relationship. That’s something to hope for.
Often we’re told that the things we can see and touch now, that’s what’s real, but anything spiritual, anything we can’t take hold of, in a tactile sense, is illusory,
Will, will, slip through our grasp.
Do you see that the hope offered to us by Jesus’ resurrection upends that? What Jesus offers us through his death in our place, and his resurrection to life, is an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade,
More lasting than anything we’ve ever experienced.
And so we see that the hope that comes to us through Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, is not at all like other kinds of hope,
The wishful thinking kind of hope.
I hope my health improves,
I hope I get that job,
I hope my team wins that grand final.
This hope is sure and certain. It’s , well, living, Peter says, that is in contrast to hope that is dead, hope based on futile and unworthy things.
We don’t want the things we hope for to be taken away, or to let us down, to fail or fade, that would be to live in a world without hope, wouldn’t it?
And you don’t need me to tell you, that the things we put our hope in in this world, will ultimately disappoint us.
Even Shepard Fairey, the artist who created that iconic Barack Obama “Hope” poster, he was asked last year if the president had lived up to the hope, expressed in that image. His response was his shortest answer in the whole interview, “Not even close” he said.
There are plenty of things we can put our hope in but they will all, in some way , let us down;,
Ourselves, and our abilities,
They perish, spoil, and fade.
But the hope offered to us by Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, is the hope of eternity with God,
A certain hope, that can never be taken from those to whom it is given.
You might have read Dante’s Inferno. It details his imagined journey into hell, and above the gates of hell, are written the words “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”
Well, it’s quite appropriate for Dante to have imagined that, isn’t it, because the promise of heaven, is entirely the opposite.
“All who would have hope, enter here,
All who would cling to hope, enter here,
All who find hope in the resurrection of Christ, enter here.”