A couple of months ago, I bragged to my congregation that we northerners, especially we upper Midwesterners, “get” summer so much better than our friends to the south. It’s all in the contrast. We have such long miserable winters that we cannot help but appreciate, even treasure, our brief summers—far more than those who basically, in our eyes, experience only spring-like or summer weather all year round. (And our Canadian brothers and sisters are laughing at me right now, because if anyone “gets” summer, it’s them!)
The point I was trying to make is that Jesus’ followers, at the time of his death, were not anticipating the resurrection. They had no hope at all, because this was outside their realm of experience—like someone who had only lived in winter their whole life trying to imagine summer, without any assistance. What faith could they have that summer is coming, or what hope?
“And now there remain these three: faith, hope, and love…” (1 Corinthians 13:13a). We can grasp love. We find it in relationships and we see it displayed to perfection in Jesus Christ and his sacrifice for sinners. But faith and hope are more confusing. Maybe that’s because they are so tightly related. Consider Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the conviction of things not seen, the assurance of things hoped for.”
Certainly the relationship between the two depends on context. Each word has multiple meanings and nuances. But let’s try this relationship between hope and faith:
In the brief but incredibly dark period of time between Jesus’ death and his resurrection appearances to his disciples, those disciples had no hope at all. All was lost. Their hope depended on their faith, and their faith was completely based on what their senses—especially their eyes—told them was true. They had watched Jesus die, had seen him buried. It was only when the angels at the empty tomb reminded the women disciples of Jesus’ specific words about his death and resurrection that they began to believe once more—to have faith (see Luke 24:6-8).
Faith in what we see, hear, feel in this life does not ultimately give us hope. Faith in that which is alone rock-solid, the words of Jesus, the Word of God—in this we find hope that is unshakable and unending.
“He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20). Do we really believe that he is returning for us? The signs of the times are confusing to our physical senses, to our limited intellect. But the Word of God does make it clear. And in this Christian faith we have real hope, for right now and for eternity.
Rev. Brent Juliot edits Faith & Fellowship magazine, teaches math at Hillcrest Lutheran Academy, and serves as pastor at Stavanger Lutheran Church in Fergus Falls, MN.