God chose a nation to be an example and a blessing to the world. Their story is told throughout the Bible, warts and all. At times glorious, sometimes enslaved, never abandoned: although many questions asked when they struggled!
In the fullness of time, the nation grew like a mighty tree. Under King David’s rule, they were a powerful and wealthy people. Later, but not much later, they crashed down in the gales of history.
Defeat was followed by Exile and partial restoration: by the time of Jesus, they were a mere stump under the iron boot of Rome. Longing for freedom, deliverance, and power, they looked for a Saviour who would restore their privilege and preeminence among the nations of the world. After all, “we are the Chosen of God” so we should be blessed and set free… Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord!
“Out of the stump of David’s family will grow a shoot— yes, a new Branch bearing fruit from the old root.“Isaiah 11 v1
Such a promise! From the roots of the old, the nation would be reborn. Though brought to the ground, life will find a way. In the face of Roman dominance, proud Israel made life difficult for the conquerors. Clinging to their faith and insisting on special treatment, the Jews required careful handling to avoid revolution-which flared up anyway and was crushed brutally with many zealots crucified along the roadside.
The prophetic torch lit by Isaiah was never dimmed. Give up? Impossible! God will save us!
Then Jesus came, claiming to be the Son of God, Incarnate. The Man who is God.
Drawing crowds, teaching with insight, authority and compassion, healing the sick and freeing those under Satan’s heel. Feeding the crowds, criticising the hypocrites and self-righteous, calling a ragged band of nobodies and shaping them into world-changers. On Palm Sunday, the crowds greet Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah, the Saviour-King. Enthusiasm, even hysteria, which troubles the authorities and precipitates the betrayal and execution of the Christ/Messiah as Jesus is rejected and (they hope) buried.
The end. ???? No! Never give up!
A week later, Jesus re-enters the city as Resurrection King, the Saviour given for the whole of creation not just one nation. New shoots of growth emerge from the roots deep within a tomb: Jesus is alive, and Death is left behind in the grave alongside the false hopes and pride of a humanity that has tried to save and rule Ourself. The crashing down of our pride is dwarfed by the self-giving plunge of Jesus as Light skewers Darkness and explodes into redeeming Love! Never give up.
Shoots that grow from the old root will grow and spread, bringing Kingdom life and the fruit of the Spirit to every place, person, and time. Beware the temptation to prune these shoots and re-assert independence. The King has come, and the Kingdom is being established until its final fulfilment as God dwells among us and all the garbage, pain, and even death will be no more.
Wishful thinking, you say?
Look at the old stump. See how the people chosen by God have spread throughout the world, see how resurrection life has transformed them and changed history.
Yes, there’s a world of trouble out there. Suffering hits seemingly at random as well as by malice. Yes, there are horrible mistakes, deliberate sins, and dreadful failures even in the ones who claim to have encountered the Risen Jesus. Truthfully, I can’t even achieve a perfect Christian life in myself, let alone change the whole world. There are many questions I can’t answer (yet, if ever!) and the current deluge of hatred and war IS depressing and frightening. Why do I go on hoping and believing?
Because there is an empty tomb outside Jerusalem- and a Risen Christ preparing the mother of all comebacks to bring Heaven down to Earth. Green shoots have risen from the fallen tree, the Saviour’s grave, and from the once-hard hearts where Love has planted new Life. Never give up. God hasn’t given up on us…
By the way: in the Bible “hope” means a “confident expectation that God will keep His promises.”
So, I will always be hoping. What hope are you clinging to?