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When Nikita Khrushchev died, a humorous story circulated in political circles. The Communist party had cast Mr. Khrushchev aside and was uncomfortable about burying his body on Soviet soil. So they called President Richard Nixon, but President Nixon had his own problems at the time and declined. Then the Soviet leaders tried Golda Meir, Prime Minister of Israel. She was agreeable but added, “I must warn you that this country has the world’s highest resurrection rate.”
This Sunday we celebrate Easter and the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. His crucifixion and resurrection have altered the course of history like no other event. There are lots of reasons this is true, and today I want to focus on the hope that Christ’s resurrection brings people.
First consider what was going on with Jesus’ disciples after His crucifixion. Their leader had been tortured and killed as a political prisoner, which meant the same could happen to them. The band of followers had scattered and were falling apart, with two already on their way home. The reports that Christ’s tomb was empty did nothing to alter their thinking, it only confused them. Their entire world had come apart. The two despondent disciples summed up the situation very neatly, “we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel” (Luke 24:21). They didn’t know they were talking to the resurrected Jesus when they said this.
Human hope is a fragile thing and when it withers it’s difficult to revive. Hopelessness as a disease of the human spirit is desperately hard to cure. When you see someone you love and care for overtaken by illness, which goes on and on, despair sets in. It almost becomes impossible to hope for recovery, to be even afraid to hope because of not being able to cope with another letdown.
The disciple Cleopas says, “but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.”
He has no hope, he has a broken heart. Do you know what it is to have a broken heart?
It feels like our heart and soul have grown cold and dark, we lose direction, we become depressed, and/or afraid.
Then Jesus teaches them how the Messiah had to suffer and die to fulfill the Old Testament as they walk to the disciple’s home in Emmaus. When he breaks bread with them their eyes are open and they recognize Jesus is not dead, He is risen, and He is right there with them. When he vanishes from their sight they declare, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32).
The word “burn” means to set on fire, to kindle, to consume, to light. Jesus ignited something within these two followers of His to lift them out of hopeless heartbreak to burning hearts ready to change the world. He can do the same for you and I, and does when we trust him with our lives.
What is the most hopeless situation you have ever faced in your life? Did faith help you come out of it? If you are struggling with hopelessness now, do you think a renewed faith can help you to be full of new hope, like disciples whose hearts are burning with hope because they have met the resurrected Son of God? If you have never really accepted Jesus as your personal Savior, would you do it right now? Do not delay or put it off. Find a trusted Christian friend and ask them what to do next to live a new life full of hope! Always remember Jesus is not dead, He is risen to rule the world and He has won the victory over sin, death and evil for you and I, for all time!
Al Earley is pastor of La Grange Presbyterian Church. To find out more about Al Earley or read previous articles see www.lagrangepres.com.