In today’s world, it is often thought that hope is merely a wishy-washy feeling, and mere desire fulfilment, an irrationally grounded hope. Many explanations of Christianity appeal to such desire fulfilment to explain Christianity’s origin- Feuerbach declared Christianity to be a psychological crutch; Marx declared religion to be the opiate for the masses. And yet the nature of hope declared in the New Testament is a “sure and steadfast hope,” a “hope that will not disappoint,” one so rational that Christians must “always be prepared to give a reason for the hope within”. This runs, in contrast, the common conception of an irrational Christianity – instead, Christianity is grounded very much on truth, with Jesus declaring himself as the “Way, the Truth and the Life” (John 14:6).
What is the ground of Christian hope? Why should Christians be so happy? It’s a strange world, in which Christians are relegated to the side, in which it’s OK for them to have their own religion- but we dare not bring it out into the public square; we dare not share it with others in the workplace or in polite company. If Christianity is merely for this life, then this makes sense. And yet the Apostle Paul claims that “if Christ was not raised from the dead, then we are to be pitied above all men”- in other words- Christianity, if false, should not be merely nice, but should be inordinately ridiculed, and positively opposed. Christianity is not merely here to make us feel nice or to offer a good community or even to help society. All of these are good things, even great things,that Christianity contributes too. But this is not what Christianity can be limited to.
Instead, the ground of Christian hope is the resurrection of Jesus Christ- to say that there is more yet to come for the Christian. In his monograph “The Resurrection of the Son of God”, NT Wright repeats unfailingly that resurrection cannot be limited to life after death, but must be understood as life after life after death, or the reversal of death. Indeed, Wright declares that this is the great proof of the truth of Christianity, for the proclamation of the resurrection of a single individual is unprecedented pre-Christianity- for Gentiles and pagans, the hope was in a disembodied afterlife; for the Sadducees, there was no afterlife; for the Pharisees, the hope was for the general resurrection of all at the end of time, similar to the resurrection of dry bones in Ezekiel 37. That a number of Jews then went on to proclaim the resurrection of their crucified Messiah – one, who according to Deuteronomy, is one “accursed by God”- and were persecuted for it, with records of Peter, Paul, James the brother of Jesus and James son of Zebedee all being martyred for the faith, is truly extraordinary.
In the resurrection of Jesus Christ, a demonstration of the victory of Christ is shown – Jesus is shown to have defeated death. And this is the ground of hope. With the Apostle Paul, we may therefore cry out: “Oh death where is your sting? Oh death where is your victory?” In here, true hope is found, a truly sure and steadfast hope.