I realize that at 28 I’m far from old, but the older I get, the more I realize that God rarely does what we expect him to. Sometimes, we try to plan out what we think he’s going to do. We try to look for signs of what he’s up to. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that necessarily. It’s a good thing to try and see how God is working in our lives and world. However, we should hold our ideas loosely. The Easter story is a good reminder of that.
God’s Promises of Messiah…
God had been making promises about sending a Messiah to the world long before Jesus came on the scene. Foreshadows of the Messiah can be seen as early as Genesis 3, when God tells Eve that her offspring will crush the head of the serpent. Things really pick up after the nation of Israel is formed. Moses tell the people that one day they will have a prophet like him who will have the very words of God in his mouth (Deut 18:17-19). Prophets like Jeremiah, Isaiah, Daniel and many of the other prophets talked a lot about the Messiah.
…Not As Clear As We Would Wish
However, let’s be real. A lot of what was said about the Messiah was not quite as clear as we would like it to be. Nothing in the Old Testament says, “There’s going to be a baby born of a virgin named Mary. He’s going to be named Jesus. He’s going to do tons of miracles and signs and he’s also going free you from sin. He’ll be hated by the religious rules so much that they have him killed. Don’t worry though, he’s going to rise from the dead. Then he’s going to go back to heaven for who knows how many years before he comes back a second time and rules the whole world.”
Often, we look in judgment on the Pharisees and the religious people and even his disciples that thought Jesus was going to kick the butt of the Romans, free Israel from foreign oppression, and usher in a new age reminiscent of the days of King David. I challenge you, go back and read some of the Scriptures Jesus said were about himself and see if you don’t get the same idea on first read.
I’m not saying that those prophecies aren’t true or that they’re misleading. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I wish they were a little bit clearer, but that’s not how God works. That’s never how he’s worked. He almost never conforms to what we think he should do. All of the prophecies of the Old Testament will be fulfilled. Some are already completely fulfilled in Jesus. Others were partly fulfilled at his first coming and will be completely filled at his second.
God Doesn’t Work as We Expect, And That’s a Good Thing
We have to be honest with ourselves though. Jesus’ coming wasn’t the way anybody in Israel was expecting it to be. God will almost never show up in our lives the way we expect him to either. That’s because his ways are higher that our ways. His plans are better than ours.
The disciples fully seemed to believe that Jesus was the Messiah. They also seemed to believe that meant he was going to become an earthly king at some point. He never did that. He couldn’t have accomplished what he did, dying for our sins in a way that allows him to sympathize with all of us no matter what our struggles if he would have become king. Jesus wasn’t what was expected. However, that’s a good thing. It’s hard to relate to a king. It’s much easier to relate to someone who was betrayed, rejected, mocked, persecuted, misunderstood, lied about, and judged.
The Hope That Easter Brought
What this means is that Easter should give us hope on several fronts. First of all, Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection give us hope. It’s a sign that one day we too will be raised from the dead with restored bodies to live forever with God and one another.
Secondly, Easter gives us hope that God is at work even when it doesn’t seem like he is. When Jesus was put to death, the disciples thought it was all over. They were hiding out together, mourning. They weren’t just mourning the death of their friend and teacher, but also the death of all their hopes in Jesus as Messiah. The disciples didn’t yet know that Jesus’ death was just the beginning of God’s redeeming work.
The Hope That Easter Brings Today
The same is true in our lives. We might be mourning over something that didn’t work out the way we planned. It could be a failed relationship, a death, a job loss, a home purchase falling through, not getting into a certain school or any other disappointment. We can mourn over the death of a dream. That’s totally natural and okay. However, we shouldn’t give up hope.
Death of any kind is no barrier to God. It doesn’t matter if it’s the death of a dream or a person, God is not limited by it. He is still at work in your life, even if you’re in the midst of mourning. In fact, God likes working against what we see as the impossible. He’ll beat it every time. It may not be the way we think it should work. Regardless, God is working and his plan is best.
Hope Doesn’t Mean It Will Be Easy
No doubt, it can be hard to trust God when we’re mourning. However, joy always comes in the morning. There are so many examples in Scripture, in history, and in our own lives and the lives of people around us that we should not lose heart.
I can’t help up thing of some verses from Lamentations 3:22-24. The book of Lamentations contains Jeremiah’s songs of lament at the destruction of Jerusalem. In first half of chapter 3, Jeremiah talks about his own afflictions, which were great. God had called him to be a prophet to a people who wouldn’t listen. Then he had to watch the destruction of the city and the humiliation of the people he loved. Then in the second half of the chapter, his tone changes and he writes these words:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”
God wasn’t working the way Jeremiah had expected, and yet he still had hope. How much more hope should we have this side of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection? No matter what your circumstance or what you may be mourning, may you, like Jeremiah, continue to hope. May you trust in God even when he doesn’t work the way you’ve planned. God is still at work.