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We Can But Hope

Hope is an intriguing subject with a lot of different understandings.

This is based off a meditation I gave for NGVN #64
Inspired by this blog, mixed in with
a meditation I gave Christmas Eve 2020
While I had the file, when I prepared to speak March 2nd
I can’t find it.
Therefore, I don’t have any of my citations.
And I’m sad.
If I find the file, I’ll update and better cite this.

Star Wars has a few quotes about hope that encompass the idea as understood in culture pretty well – as a thing, an idea, and as a person. When faced with a space station that could completely destroy a planet, the Deathstar, Princess Leia referenced the plans to the Deathstar as “Hope.” Jyn Erso referenced the idea that Hope was the belief that the world could be better than it was when she argued that fighting against the Empire was worth it, no matter the odds. She said, “Rebellions are built on Hope.” Still later, Princess Leia, in her transmission to Obi-Wan shows us how hope can be placed in people, when she said, “Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope.”

In Christian circles, I think that the concept of hope encompasses what culture believes but is even more. Five Iron Frenzy argues in their music that “Hope still flies.” And that “Hope is freedom.” They also reference the effect of hope in this line, “Web slinging is only wishful thinking, you lift my soul, you keep my heart from sinking.”

Biblically, we read that “Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.” in Hebrews 11:1 (KJV). Far from the idea that faith is believing in something without proof, or what is often mis-attributed to Kierkegaard, that it’s a leap into the darkness with no evidence, according to the writer of Hebrews faith is the very substance of what we hope for.

The word in Greek is πόστασις (hypostasis)
Sometimes it is referenced as the substructure to a building.
But that’s another blog.

But hope isn’t something that is simple or even easy. As the Asguardian god of mischief, Loki recounts,

“Sure. Burn it down, easy. Annihilating it, easy. Razing things to the ground is easy. Trying to fix what’s broken is hard. Hope is hard.”

Loki

Hope is hard.
Sometimes it really is.

Because Hope that the world will be better than it currently is, is the only thing that keeps you going when you don’t think things can get worse. I’m often reminded of the classic Christmas movie, quote

“Worse? How can it get any worse, take a look around you Ellen, we’re on the threshold of Hell.”

Clark Griswold, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

But what does this have to do with John chapter six and Peter?

Great question.

Jesus, Peter, and Exodus.

In John chapter six, Jesus feeds 5,000 men, walks on water, and tells them a hard truth. A bunch of the people following him stopped, and he turns to the twelve and asks, “Are you going to leave to?” John records peter’s answer in John 6:68.

“Simon Peter Answer, “Lord to whom shall we go? You [alone] have the words of Eternal Life [You are our only hope]”

John 6:68 (AMP)

In my aforementioned blog, I talk about how I came to that conclusion after experiencing a situation in which I had lost hope. And I still believe that conclusion is valid… but what if, in Peter’s case, after witnessing everything he had with Jesus, what if that expression wasn’t out of desperation, but instead it was a revelation?

As a Jewish child, Peter and the other disciples would have gone through a series of Jewish schoolings which would have taught them the Torah – the first five books of our Old Testament. They would have been taught about God’s promise to Abraham, how they were a chosen people, the promises of God, how they wandered in the wilderness, of David, and the coming messiah.

At the end of Genesis, the Israelites find themselves in Egypt, guests of Pharoh and finding salvation from starvation. However, by Exodus 2, they had become slaves of the Egyptians. The Pharoh committed mass genocide against them and even after that Pharoh had died, things got worse.

“Years passed, and the king of Egypt died. But the Israelites continued to groan under their burden of slavery. They cried out for help…”

Exodus 2:23

The Hebrew word for cried is “sa’aq” according to The JPS Torah Commentary, “Sa’aq is one of the most powerful words in the Hebrew language… it denotes the anguished cry of the oppressed, the agonized pleas of the helpless victim.”

Sa’aq is the sound we utter when we’re wounded, it’s an expression of pain, the cry of misery and wretchedness, one of self-pity, and the knowledge there is someone to bring justice, and the hope that our cry will be heard and answered. But Sa’aq also asks the questions, Where is justice? Who will come to my rescue? Will anyone hear my cries? Am I alone?

It’s really difficult to relate to the bible sometimes, isn’t it?

Rob Bell in his book Jesus Wants to Save Christians, argued that this cry was the cry that “inaugurates redemptive history.” Because God moves.

“God heard their groaning and remembered his covenant promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He looked down on the people of Israel and knew it was time to act.”

Exodus 2:24-25

University of California at Berkeley professor and Hebrew professor, Robert Alter writes in his translation and commentary of The Five Books of Moses, writes,

“Until this point, God has not been evident in the story. Now He is the subject of a string of significant verbs – hear, remember (which in the Hebrew has a strong force of “take to heart”) see, and know.”

Robert Alter – The Five Books of Moses

God heard the cry of his people. And this cry jumpstarted his plan to redeem all of humankind, starting with Moses. God entered time and space to appear as a burning bush and speak to Moses to give him hope.

“I indeed have seen the abuse of My people that are in Egypt, and their outcry because of their taskmasters. I have heard, for I know their pain. And I have come down to rescue them from the hand of Egypt and bring them up from that land to a good and spacious land, to a land flowing with milk and honey.”

Exodus 3:7-8

There’s a song by Elevation Worship called, “The Blessing.”
In it there’s a bridge where the singers say, “He is for you.”
Words cannot accurately express how powerful that knowledge is.
Especially if you’ve never felt hopeless.
If you’ve never felt the world was out to get it.
If you’ve never experienced injustice.
If you’ve never wondered if God actually cares about you.
If you’ve never wrestled with how God could let these things happen to you…
But that’s another blog.

After finding freedom from the Egyptians, God reminds Isaiah in Isaiah 43 all the things he’s done for the Israelites. But then he says,

“But forget all that—it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland. The Wild animals in the fields will thank me, the jackals, and owls, too, for giving them water in the desert. Yes, I will make rivers in the dry wasteland.”

Isaiah 43:18-20

Can we take a moment and appreciate the verbiage?
“The wild animals… will thank me.”
A lot of people focus on rivers in the desert.
But I love the idea of the animals thanking God.
Partly because I think us humans don’t always appreciate things.
But also because what God is doing is so amazing
The animals themselves will thank him.

What if Peter’s Claim wasn’t out of hopelessness, but instead was hopeful? Because he had realized by this point that Jesus was God, and he remembered what God had done for the Israelites, and he knew that God was going to do more. He knew that God would restore things… but he may not have known the fullness of it. Years later, Paul wrote to the Romans,

“Against its will, all creation was subjected to god’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay.”

Romans 8:20

All of creation.
Not just humans.
All of creation has hope.
Hope that they will join us in freedom from death and decay.

Peter may not have known it then, but after the resurrection of Jesus had happened, he had a better idea. And I began to put the pieces together about his potentially realizing his Jewish teachings because Peter makes the following statement in Acts 3:21 he was talking about Jesus bringing about, “final restoration of all things, as God promised long ago through his holy prophets.”

For as much as Peter knew, there was so much he would never be able to imagine. John got to see what the final restoration would look like… he tells us in Revelation.

“I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look! God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”

Revelation 21:3-4

“No longer will there be a curse upon anything. For the throne of God and of the Lamb will be there, and his servants will worship him. And they will see his face, and his name will be written on their foreheads. And there will be no night there – no need for lamps or sun – for the Lord God will shine on them. And they will reign forever and ever.”

Revelation 22:3-5

This is the hope we have in Christ, that things will not always be the same as they are now.

We have hope, not just because in the end things will be better, but because we serve a God that enters time and space to restore things.

We serve a God who does not forget his people. We have a God who is not just putting together what we need now, but what don’t even know we’ll need thousands of years later.

We serve a God who cares about the least of these.

This is who Peter realized Jesus was. This is why Peter had hope, even though he didn’t fully realize how hopeful it was until a little bit later.

It’s important to note that even after this realization,
He still denied Jesus.
He still gave up on Jesus.
He still had to have his story Anakephalaiosasthaied
(Read about Anakephalaiosasthai)
Peter’s story is a whole other blog.

The truth of who Jesus is, is why, when asked if he also was going to leave, Peter replied, “Where else can I go? You alone have the words of truth. You are our only hope.”

Published inBible ExplorationPersonal MusingsTheological Musings

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