Why Jesus Represents True Hope

Dr. Jon Morrissette - 12/15/2019

This Christmas series was inspired by lyrics from the hymn ‘O Holy Night. But keep in mind the best Christian music echoes Scripture. Take for example ‘O Holy Night, “Long lay the world in sin and error pining, Till he appeared and the soul felt its worth.” How often have you used the word “pining?” “Pining” describes a state of unbearable longing. This was the struggle of the Old Testament prophets who asked, “How Long O Lord?” To “pine away” is to slowly lose your health, to slowly lose your vitality, to slowly ebb away. To “pine away” is to waste away under the weight of all your sin, all your errors in judgment, all your mistakes, your regrets, your disappointments and unfulfilled expectations of life. Lot of people pining away this Christmas!

In ‘O Holy Night there is also this lyric: “A thrill of hope—the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!” Yonder means “over there, not here.” Hope may be floating out there in some distant place, date and time… but its not happening for me here, its not happening for me right now.

Christian songs like ‘O Holy Night are so captivating because they echo Scripture. We no longer need to lay around in sin and error, pining away. Christ Jesus has appeared! God has come near and visited us! The light of Jesus Christ has dawned on our dark world, a “new and glorious morn” has broken upon us. In Luke 4:21 Jesus announces that its ‘TODAY” (not yonder, but today) that all our aching/ longing/ pining is no more. “Today as you listen, this Scripture is being fulfilled.” Luke 4:18-19… “I’ve come to proclaim good news to the poor, release to the captive, recovery of sight to the blind, freedom to the oppressed, favor to those who’ve felt so unfavored by God.”

The way most Christians think about hope is that hope is “yonder.” We tell ourselves, “Sometime yonder I’ll die. Sometime yonder this body will be cremated or buried. But I need not fear. I’ve got my gospel hell insurance, my sins present/future are forgiven, judgment will be a breeze, my eternal home is guaranteed, my soul will rest easy, on my gold lawnchair, basking for all eternity in the glory of God. . .” Is it any wonder people are bored with hope?

In the Gospels, in passages like Luke 4, Jesus is declaring something infinitely more profound about hope. Hope has arrived. Hope has appeared. Hope is standing before you looking you in the eye. Hope is being inaugurated, Hope is rising today. Your dark nights of “pining your life away” in sin/error, are a distant nightmare. A new day is beginning. A new order is taking hold. A new King is ascending to his rightful throne. A new Kingdom is rising in this world! Hope has dawned.

This past fall we spent a lot of time in Daniel. I’m still studying Daniel, its like God has opened up a whole new window for me to gaze through. You may recall how Daniel is filled with apocalyptic visions of terrifying Monsters. Each monster has a physical manifestation (gold, or silver, or bronze, or iron, or clay). Each monster has a feral, animal, beastly manifestation (an eagle, or bear, or leopard, but always something dreadful). Each monster has a political representation (whether it’s Babylon, the Persians/Medes, Greece, Egyptian Ptolemies, Syrian Seleucids, or the Roman Empire). Each monster is governed by a satanic power (So there is a Prince of Babylon, a Prince of Persia, a Prince of Greece, etc.). Each monster has various horns which are rulers/kings.

These terrifying monsters (these kingdoms) rise to power one after another. Despite their reign of terror, there were a few bright moments in Jewish history. For example, Cyrus King of Persia allowed the exiles to rebuild the city of God. You might remember how that Syrian ruler Antiochus Epiphanes IV rose to power. He was the most dreadful and cruel of all the monsters. He wanted to use Judea as a buffer state against his Egyptian enemies. To accomplish his goal, he hellenized (enforced the Greek culture/language) upon the Jews. He sought to eradicate Judaism from the land by changing the function of the temple. On December 25th, 167 B.C. Antiochus desecrated the temple and established it as a place for people to worship him!

Antiochus underestimated the Jews. They refused to break their ancestral laws and traditions. They vowed they would rather die than submit, and they engaged in bloody campaign of “Martyrdom-for-Torah”. Judas Maccabaeus and his companions organized a protracted insurgency and accomplished the unthinkable. They wore Antiochus down and on December 25th 164 B.C. just three years later) they cleansed and consecrated the temple once against as a place of worship!

A new festival (Hanukkah) was added to the Jewish calendar to celebrate the event. N.T. Wright says, “The Maccabean revolt became classic and formative in the same way as the exodus and the other great events of Israel’s history.” But despite these bright spots, no blaze of divine glory returned to the temple in Jerusalem. The global transformations that were to accompany Israel’s revival never materialized. Israel became divided politically, weakened in power, and found herself overtaken by Caesar.

By the time of Jesus birth (which didn’t actually take place on December 25th, and is only celebrated on this date)… by the time we find Jesus standing in the synagogue in Luke 4… the Jewish people were enduring the reign of terror of yet another monster—Caesar, and another monstrous empire—the Roman empire. There was a sense of life/hope pining away. N.T. Wright says at best the Jewish story was stalled, waning, fading. Whatever political, militant, expectations of hope the Jewish people had, were laid in the grave alongside Judas Maccabeus.

But this is the best part! In Daniel 7, God shows Daniel that Israel’s hope wasn’t in Israel becoming a more ferocious and dreadful and powerful monster. In Daniel 7:9-10, Daniel describes a vision. “As I kept watching, thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat. His clothing was white like snow, and the hair of his head like whitest wool. His throne was flaming fire, its wheels were blazing fire. A river of fire was flowing coming out from his presence. Thousands upon thousands served him: ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him. The court was convened, and the books were open.”

Daniel 7:13-14, “I continued watching in night visions, and suddenly one like a son of man was coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was escorted before him. He was given dominion and glory and a kingdom; so that those of every people, nation and language should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will not be destroyed.”

When you read the NT, you have to understand that for them, hope was all about God becoming King! Hope was Daniel 7:13-14. It would be seeing one like a Son of man “coming” with the clouds… and not to earth… but coming with the clouds, being escorted, approaching the Ancient of Days, taking his throne in heaven. Hope was God’s reign forever being established on earth (among people of every tribe, tongue, and nation.) Hope was a Kingdom coming that would never be destroyed!

N.T. Wright in his book “How God Became King” says the overwhelming majority of Christians have misread, misunderstood the gospels. The gospels tell the story, not just about how God appeared, but Jesus’ ascendancy from a mere child to a monster-slaying, victor who defeats Satan, as Paul says in Colossians 2:15, God “disarmed the rulers and authorities and disgraced them publicly; he triumphed over them in him.”

Luke 1:30-34, what does the angel Gabriel (who also spoke to Daniel) say to Mary the Mother of Jesus? “Do not be afraid Mary, for you have found favor with God. Now listen, you will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord will give him the throne of his father David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and his kingdom will have no end.”

How does Mary herself understand the meaning of Jesus’ life? In Luke 1:51-55, overcome with joy, Mary praises God because “God has done a mighty deed with his arm; he has scattered the proud because of the thoughts of their hearts; he has toppled the mighty [Beasts?] from their thrones and exalted the lowly. He has satisfied the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remember his mercy to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he spoke to our ancestors.”

How did Zechariah, the father of John Baptize understand meaning of Jesus’ life? Luke 1:68-71, “Blessed is the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has visited and provided redemption for his people. He has raised up a horn (ruler, King) of salvation for us, in the house of his servant David, just as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets in ancient times (i.e. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel); salvation from our enemies and from the hand of those who hate us (i.e Romans). . .” Luke 1:78-79 he says, “Because of our God’s merciful compassion, the dawn from on high will visit us to shine on those who live in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

In Luke 2:29-32, how does Simeon, a righteous and devout man understand hope? Luke tells us he’d been waiting for the consolation of Israel. The moment he sees Jesus he says, “you can dismiss your servant in peace, as you promised. For my eyes have seen your salvation. You have prepared it in the presence of all peoples—a light for revelation to the Gentiles and glory to your people Israel.” And Simeon says, “this child is destined to cause the fall and rise of many in Israel. . .”

How does John the Baptist understand hope? Luke 3:16-18, “I baptize you with water, but one who is more powerful than I am is coming. I am not worthy to untie the strap of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and dire. His winnowing shovel is in his hand to clear his threshing flood and gather the wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with fire that never goes out…” For John the Baptist, the enemies of God were about to be consumed by the Daniel 7, Ancient of Days!

The perspective of the Gospel writers is that not only has the monster-slaying, beast-killing Messiah King arrived, but so also, his never-ending Kingdom has begun! The gospel writers tell us the Kingdom of God is “near,” its “upon us,” it’s “in your very midst.” Even the wind and waves obey Jesus. Everywhere he goes the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, those with leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor are told good news. Every Jesus goes demonic powers are driven out in terror before his Holy presence. His justice and righteousness shine. Peter is the first to recognize “You Are the Messiah!”

In Luke 9:26-27 Jesus tells his followers, “For whoever it ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and the of the Father and the Holy Angels. Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.” Some of you will see my coming kingdom coming in power. Some of you will see me ascend to the very right hand of God. In Luke 10:23-24 Jesus tells his disciples privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see the things you see! For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see the things you see but didn’t see them; to hear the thing you hear but didn’t hear them.”

The whole culmination of the book of Luke what is it? You have these two disciples walking on a road to Emmaus, their heads hanging low. Jesus pulls an undercover boss on them, walks up behind them incognito, and asks, “Why are you so discouraged?” And what do they say? Luke 24:19-24, “It’s Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet powerful in action and speech before God and all the people… our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be sentenced to death and they crucified him. We were hoping that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel! It’s been three days since he died, they can’t find his body, a bunch of women reported to have seen a vision of angels who said he’s still alive.”

And what does Jesus tell them? Luke 24:25-27, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all the prophets have spoken! Wasn’t it necessary for the Messiah to suffer these things and enter into his glory? Then beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted for them the things concerning himself in all the Scriptures.”

They banter back and forth a moment saying, “Ah man, weren’t our hearts burning within in the whole time! The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared!” But the best part of Luke is Luke 24:51. Luke simple says, “… Jesus was carried up to heaven.” Luke 24:51 is Daniel 7:13-14, “I continued watching… and suddenly one like a son of man was coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was escorted before him. He was given dominion and glory and a kingdom; so that those of every people, nation and language should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will not be destroyed.”

In Ephesians 1:20-23 Paul declares our hope in Jesus King this way: “God exercised this power in Christ by raising him from the dead and seating him at his right hand in the heavens— far above every ruler and authority, power and dominion, and every title given, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he subjected everything under his feet and appointed him as head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way.” Again, Ephesians 1:20-23 is Daniel 7:13-14!

This Christmas hope means one thing, and one thing only. It means participating in the reign of Christ. Sharing hope means one thing and one thing only. It means inviting people to bow their knee, to make their way straight, to come before the King in repentance, submission and obedience. No more pining away. Jesus was given dominion and glory and a kingdom; so that those of every people, nation and language should serve him.

Scripture Verses

Worship Playlist

Worship Playlist

Joy to the World (Unspeakable Joy)
by Ed Cash, Matt Gilder, and Chris Tomlin
as recorded by Chris Tomlin

O Come Emmanuel
by John Mason Neale, Rita Baloche, Thomas Helmore, and Paul Baloche
as recorded by Paul Baloche

Almighty
by Chris Tomlin, Ed Cash, and Jared Anderson
as recorded by Chris Tomlin

Hosanna (Praise Is Rising)
by Brenton Brown and Paul Baloche
as recorded by Paul Baloche

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