The Power of Hope
The power of hope. Even in the worst situation, when people struggle under the most extreme situations where they face the darkness and evil of life, we humans hold on to hope. That is a lifeline to those who suffer, hoping that a better day awaits them! Whether someone lived through past horrors Nazi Germany concentration camps or the gulag prisons of Soviet Siberia, or todays unimaginable sufferings in war-torn Syria, or among the Rohingya genocide in Myanmar, or even under the depressing challenges of America’s opioid epidemic, or some other abusive situation in one’s daily life, what keeps people getting up each day and trying to go forward is HOPE. Hope for a better tomorrow. Hope that change is possible. Hope even for a new life, a new beginning!
Throughout Scriptures, we see many examples of such hope. Moses leads the Israelites out of Egypt after 400 years of slavery; the shepherd boy David courageously confronts and defeats the military giant Goliath; the three holy youths, Shadrach, Meschach and Abednago won’t deny their faith in God and accept to be thrown into a fiery furnace, only to come out alive because of their trust and hope in God. And of course, the New Testament and Church history is filled with story after story of followers of Jesus holding on to hope despite the greatest odds against them, even when darkness and danger tried to extinguish all sparks of hope!
Hope is a powerful virtue that sustains life!
Well, today we celebrate a day of hope on Palm Sunday, a day when crowds in Jerusalem expressed their dreams in a very vivid, yet threatening manner. Remember, the Roman Empire ruled over Israel and all the Mediterranean world, often in a ruthless and violent manner. The Jews dreamed of a day they would overthrow Roman rule and regain their freedom. This is the dream of all people who suffer under violent oppression! All oppressed people dream of a liberator rising up to lead their people to freedom and a better life. In fact, for centuries the Jews dreamed such a leader, for a Messiah, a religious/military/political leader who would usher in a new era not only for their nation, but for all humanity!
This is the hoped-for dreams of Israel when Jesus entered into Jerusalem today. The crowds heard about the prophet from Nazareth, the miracle working rabbi who filled his listeners with hope. Thus, when Jesus entered Jerusalem today, the crowds began waving palm branches and crying out ‘Hosanna. Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord. The King of Israel!”
Their king had arrived. Years of suffering and oppression would come to an end because their Messiah was about to reveal himself! Jesus, the prophet, wonderworker, wise sage and teacher, humble yet charismatic rabbi, was about to accept his throne and lead a revolt to overthrow the Romans, ushering in a new era of peace and prosperity, a new reign that Jesus Himself was calling the Kingdom of God!
The power of HOPE! This was the hope that the crowds cherished and carried with them during Jesus’ thrilling entrance into Jerusalem. And when the Jewish religious and political leaders harshly reacted to this welcome by the crowd, sharply criticizing Jesus for allowing the masses to compare himself to a king, our Lord didn’t deny the crowds enthusiasm nor try to temper their fervor. Instead, he fueled the excitement by proclaiming, “I tell you that if this crowd should stay silent, the stones themselves would immediately cry out!” Messianic dreams and hopes filled the air!
But then, what happened?
Jesus is the Messiah who is ushering in a new kingdom, yet the problem is that His reign has nothing to do with what the crowds imagined and for what they dreamed. And this same problem continues even today, as we become disillusioned with the Kingdom of God.
People want a king of power; Christ offers a reign of humble service, selfless love, and compassion for all people.
People want a king of strength; Jesus teaches a path of utter humility.
People long for a king to offer comfort and prosperity; Christ guides his followers in a life of simplicity, sacrifice, self-denial and even possible suffering and martyrdom.
People long for a King who will destroy their enemies; Jesus ushers in a kingdom that forgives one’s enemies – a kingdom of divine love, unlimited mercy and constant compassion even towards one’s enemies.
People want a king of victory; our Lord, however, offers a surprising type of victory – not an earthly triumph, but a much more significant conquest over the darkness in our souls and a victory over the devil, sin and death itself!
Palm Sunday is the celebration of a King offering hope as He enters Jerusalem, yet the type of hope He offers differs significantly from the hope which the crowd desired. And as a result, the crowds turned against Jesus very quickly. On Palm Sunday the people cry out “Hosanna to God in the highest” to a Messiah. A few days later they shout out “Crucify Him. Crucify Him” to their Roman overlords, asking their hated oppressors to kill yet another, what they believed to be a false messiah.
Every Palm Sunday, as we enter into the holiest week of the year, we are confronted with a fundamental questions. “Do we truly want Jesus as the Ruler and King of our own lives? Are we willing to acknowledge Christ as our King, as the Master and Guide of our lives? And if so, will we accept the type of King Jesus longs to be in our lives? The King of humility, of self-denial, of selfless service to others, the king of mercy and compassion and love to not only our friends and neighbors, but even to our enemies!”
May we accept Jesus Christ as our King and Ruler in our lives!
Phocas the Holy Martyr, Bishop of Sinope; Ezekiel the Prophet; Pelagia the Righteous of Tinos; Trophimos & Theophilios and the 13 others martyred in Lycia; St. Anna of Levkadio; The Icons of the Most Holy Theotokos of Pochaev; Icon of the Mother of God
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