by David Faust
In the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, there’s a sign containing a quote from a Tennessee farmer in about 1940: “The greatest thing in the world is to have the love of God in your heart. The next greatest thing to have is electricity in your house.”
Hope electrifies a life, but the absence of hope leaves us powerless. I can’t imagine a satisfying life without it. Yet in our day, hope has been losing value faster than a dollar bill.
When politicians talk about hope, you suspect they’re mainly just hoping you will vote for them.
When players on a last-place football team talk about hope, they dream about completing a Hail Mary pass on the game’s final play.
When meteorologists talk about hope, they try to act perky in spite of a gloomy five-day forecast.
When atheists talk about hope, you wonder, “On what do they base their optimism?”
When Jesus talks about hope, we’re wise to pay attention.
Strangely, though, he didn’t appear to say a lot about it. In fact, if you examine a Bible concordance you’ll see an abundance of references to hope in the Old Testament and in the New Testament Epistles, but surprisingly, you’ll find very few specific references to hope in the four Gospels. (My copy of the NIV Concordance doesn’t list a single instance where the word appears in Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John.) Can you think of a single time when Jesus explicitly mentioned hope? The word isn’t found in the Beatitudes or anywhere else in the Sermon on the Mount. It doesn’t appear in the Lord’s Prayer, and it’s conspicuously missing from his parables.
And yet, confident expectation permeates the teachings of Jesus. Hope pours out of him like a stream of pure water flowing over drought-parched land. For those who mourn, there’s hope for comfort. For the rejected and the persecuted, there’s hope for justice and reward in the courts of Heaven. For those who have wandered away like a lost sheep, there’s hope in the shepherd’s determined search. For the guilty, there’s hope of forgiveness. For the lonely, there’s hope of inclusion in a caring family of brothers and sisters, and for the poor, hope for riches that money can’t buy. For the homeless, there’s Jesus’ assurance, “I am going there to prepare a place for you” (John 14:3), and for the frightened, “Take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
There’s hope in the way Jesus healed the sick and raised the dead. There’s hope in the way he mentored his disciples, preparing them to lead the church and spread the gospel in the years ahead.
He brought hope to a desperate woman whose tears fell onto his feet. He gave hope to a powerless thief on the cross. He personified hope when he arose from the dead three days after being crucified. He breathed hope into his disciples by assuring them of his promised return and of the Holy Spirit’s comforting presence in the meantime.
Jesus didn’t need to say the word hope a lot to drive home its power. Because for Jesus, hope isn’t a campaign slogan, an empty promise, or a casual greeting on a Christmas card. For Jesus, hope is a way of life.