How to Proclaim Hope in the Shadow of Death

What’s the one thing people are looking for right now?

(Well, other than toilet paper and face masks.)

It’s hope.

Yet Jesus tells us in these days to avoid false hopes because many will be offered: “And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray” (Matthew 24:11 ESV).

We thought we knew what this fall’s election season would be about. But now, most likely, the election will be about who can offer hope for a better, more prepared, more stable economy and government systems. Democrats will say that if they were in charge, coronavirus would have been handled better. Republicans will say the opposite.

And yes, once this current crisis has passed, we will revisit our medical systems, developing new vaccines and reviewing protocols for early containment. Individuals will resolve to save more. Businesses will re-examine the risks they are willing to take.

Most of these changes will be appropriate. But ultimately, all earthly solutions will fail. In the final analysis, if what we’re after is hope, all of these changes are sinking sand.

Nothing can deliver us from the sentence of death we’re all ultimately under. For a few of us, death may be a long way off, and we may die pleasantly, surrounded by friends and family. But for many of us, death will be sudden. And for the majority of us, it will be unpleasant.

Jonathan Edwards said, “Unconverted men walk over the pit of hell on a rotten covering. And there are innumerable places in this covering so weak that they will not bear their weight, and these places are not seen.”

Translation? It is foolish to live our lives as if death was not certain and we won’t face judgment.

A couple of weeks ago, as organizations were canceling events by the hour and everything seemed to be changing minute-by-minute, a friend told me, “Is this situation new? Absolutely. None of us has ever lived through a global pandemic. Very few of us have had to live in quarantine. But while this situation is new, our calling is not. The gospel is still the most important message in the world, and we are still called upon to tell it. It is a gospel of love and faith, precisely what we need when society is filled with fear and uncertainty.”

Your neighbors are scared and feeling hopeless. They are asking questions—about life and death and what happens after—that are usually hidden deep down.

As believers, we have answers to those questions. God is up to something. We have to be faithful to be at our post, pointing the way.

In a matter of days, we will celebrate a holiday that has been at the center of Christianity for two thousand years—Easter. There has never been a more hopeless time, humanly speaking, than when the Son of God was in the grave. At that point, it seemed like the end. Even the disciples were despairing.

But Easter is a reminder: Jesus is risen! And as sure as he walked out of the grave, he promises life to those of us living in the shadow of death. When we live in the light of the resurrection, we can proclaim the only hope that offers a firm foundation.