Can “Hoped” become “Hope?”
Hulitt Gloer

“But we had hoped….” These four simple words can be among the saddest a human can speak. They can, of course, be used to speak of quite mundane hopes, hopes that seem quite trivial in the grand scheme of things: “we had hoped to win the championship” or “we had hoped for better weather.”

But many times, maybe most, these words carry much more serious connotations. They have more gravity, carry more weight, even much more weight. “We had hoped that he might write.” “We had hoped that she might respond to our email.” “We had hoped for a better prognosis” or “that the medicines might have proven more effective” or “that the treatments would have been successful.”

“But we had hoped.” This phrase implies that there was hope, there had been a dream, that there had been a future to look forward to but now that hope was gone, the dream destroyed, the promises of a better tomorrow were just empty words.

On the road to Emmaus on the day of Jesus’ crucifixion, two disciples were discussing what future there could be now that Jesus was dead. With his death, died all their hopes and dreams of freedom from Roman oppression and at long last, the establishment of the kingdom of God. They were disappointed, disillusioned, dejected and, I would suggest, more than a little angry. 

Almost without notice, the two walking becomes three walking. The third asks the two what they were discussing. Cleopas, one of the two, responded, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” The third responds, “What things?”  

Cleopas’ response is the story of Jesus (so far as he knows it) in capsule form. The “things” are about “Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people. Our chief priest and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and they crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel” (Luke 24:19-20). Then this Jesus “beginning with Moses and the prophets, …interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures (Luke 24:27). 

When they arrived at Emmaus, the two invited the stranger to join them for dinner. When the stranger blessed and broke the bread at the table, “their eyes were opened, and they recognized him (Jesus) and he vanished from their sight” (24:31). “They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us ?” (Luke 24:32)

To be sure, there is mystery in this story but what fascinates me is the relationship between “opening the scriptures” and “burning hearts.” Luke’s description seems to suggest that Jesus was saying that to understand what happened to him that day, you have to understand scripture. Interestingly, In what may be one of the earliest confessions of faith, the Apostle Paul says, “For I handed on to you what I in turn had received; “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scripture, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures….” (1 Cor. 15:3-4). 

In the midst of their despair and uncertainty, Jesus used scripture to help these disciples understand who he was and why he had been crucified. As he “opened the scriptures” to them, the scriptures became the light that enabled them to finally recognize him “in the breaking of bread,” however, before that could happen their understanding about the Messiah required a serious “reboot.” They had no conception of a crucified messiah. They had no conception of a resurrection before the end of the ages. What does Jesus use to accomplish this reboot? He uses scripture! Only after Jesus had shown them in scripture, were they able to recognize him. The importance of opening scripture is nowhere better illustrated than in Jesus’ use of it with those two disciples on the road to Emmaus that day.

In Meditating on the Word, Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes “the entire Bible…is the Word in which God allows himself to be found by us” (p. 45). Confronted by the horrible “pandemic” of Nazism, in a letter dated March 1, 1942, Bonhoeffer reminded former students that in spite of the fact that “our previous ordered life has been broken up and dissolved in these present days,”

Daily quiet meditation on the Word of God as it applies to me…becomes for me a point of crystallization for everything which gives interior and exterior order to my life (p. 51).

In the book’s introduction, David Gracie writes of Bonhoeffer, “He lived in such an intimate relationship with scripture, reading and praying it daily, that he could hear it as a ‘burning word’ spoken directly to him by Jesus” (p. 9). He knew that Jesus is primarily known in the witness of scripture and that he encounters us as we read and meditate on scripture. Could it be that the Bible is our “burning bush” and if we take the time and pay attention to it, God will speak to us like he spoke to Moses?  Bonhoeffer also knew the daily reading of scripture could be dangerous. It will inevitably affect the way in which we experience our social, political, economic, and cultural realities. He knew that reading the Word incorporates our own experience into God’s redemptive purposes until, by God’s grace, God’s purposes will become our purposes.

“But we had hoped….” The two disciples on the Emmaus Road that day could never have imagined how God would transform their hopelessness into a living hope by raising the crucified Jesus from the dead “in accordance with the scriptures.” During this season, or any other season, when your “Hopes” become“ Hoped,” try following Jesus and opening scripture where “Hoped” becomes “Hope!”

With great Hope!

*** Road to Emmaus by Les Edwards

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