In our secularist institutions, where we work and socialise, our hope as Christians is, however quietly, regarded by our fellow workers as ridiculous – insofar as they have any idea about it – or care for that matter. Many Christians simply don’t mention it for fear of ridicule. Our hope is indeed foolishness to the secularists. Our hope …..in what? Based on what….? What promise have we to hope in….?
We Christians use shorthand words, terms and phrases which are often at best, obscure to outsiders and at worst, grossly misleading and we very rarely explain.
Galatians 3:16 begins: “To Abraham and his seed were the promises made”. Jesus Christ is the Messiah, the Son of God. He was the incarnation of the promise made to Abraham. He was the Messiah – the promise – awaited by the Jews of the Old Testament and at the beginning of the first millennium. They desired to see His coming. They waited, under the Old Law which could not itself, deliver them from their transgressions. The only salvation to be had under the Old Law was in the perfect keeping of the Law in its entirety. That was impossible – only Christ could keep the Law perfectly.
Christ came among us to be the revelation of the Law, to redeem them and us, and to show us the spirit of the Law – which He does in the Sermon on the Mount – The Way. He did not preach miniscule legalism which kills the spirit, but rather, the love of God and of one another, which when properly practised results in the keeping of the whole spirit of the Law. The consequence of keeping the Love is keeping the Law, and we still can’t keep it perfectly, but we are assured of His mercy in our imperfection.
Then there is Christ’s promise to us. It is on that promise that we base our hope. And we base all this on a book comprised of documents separately written nearly two thousand years ago by men of whom we know little. So how convincing is our trust and hope in a promise mentioned in that book?
Is that Book reliable? Let us look at just one incident recorded in that Book as a possible example: the encounter between Christ and two of His Discioples as told in Luke 24:13-35.
In a way, this is one of the more interesting accounts in the whole of the New Testament. Saint Luke is writing to a person of some importance and an intelligent Believer. He is writing in a fairly matter-of-fact style, giving this person an account of the backing, the historical basis of his faith. This particular story is in fact one of the most exact (and longest) in the New Testament. Saint Luke takes considerable care in the first instance, to say where and when these Disciples were going. He carefully states that it was late afternoon and that they were going to the village of Emmaus which he specifies in the original text as about sixty Roman stadia – the distance that a man could walk on rough paths in under three hours. This specification that Luke gives is to ensure that his reader understands that the Disciples are going to the village of Emmaus and not the more distant city of the same name. This village has only recently been discovered by archaeologists and it was a rather expensive “leafy suburb” of Jerusalem. It is possible that his reader lived there or that he is telling him that these particular Discioples were of his own class.
The walk from Jerusalem to Emmaus is largely downhill and due west. If one were to walk that same route today in the late afternoon, the sun would be directly in your eyes as it sets. The text reads “their eyes were holden that they should not know Him” Well with Jesus overtaking them, coming from behind walking in the same direction (the text says “drew near”) the setting sun in their eyes it isn’t too surprising that they didn’t recognise Him. After one of them had invited Jesus into his house it was only then that they recognised Him. Then they immediately returned to Jerusalem to tell the other Disciples – which they could only do from the nearby village of Emmaus otherwise they would not have made it in time to get in through the city gates before curfew.
So here in this one account, we have very specific detail from witnesses who actually met the resurrected Jesus, which gives strong reason for us to trust the source and therefore from that the promises made by Christ, that they are not made up, but things that were actually said. Nevertheless, it is our own personal witness that ultimately decides the matter for us.
We may gain confidence in the veracity of the written witness of the Gospels, based on examples such as that here cited, but it is the discernible action of Christ in our own lives that finally convinces us. This is what elicits our loyalty and facilitates our hope in His promise to us and our genuine trust in His mercy that if we genuinely rethink our ways in order to eliminate the offences that we commit, He will forgive us and receive us at the last into His presence. This is the promise, and this is the reason for our hope as Christians.