Have you ever had to wait for something for a really long time? I don’t mean a month or even a year. I’m talking about multiple years. Ever had to wait that long? Time passes like a drippy faucet. It slowly nibbles away at your resolve. You become frustrated. You become bitter. Like the taste of a pill that grazes you tongue as you wash it down, time leaves a bitter aftertaste. Wait long enough and you might forget why you’re waiting. You might forget the reason you even chose to wait.
Every wait begins with hope. Hope that what you’re waiting for will fulfill your longings and desires. That’s the premise of romance, of fairytales. It’s why stories like Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella endure. Hope springs eternal. It’s human to hope. We hope for rescue. We hope for redemption. We hope for every villain to get justice. We hope for every hero to receive reward. Sometimes the hope of a happy ending is the only thing that keeps us going.
But as years drift, hope can fade. Hope can be slowly eroded and supplanted by despair. In this world, there are no real happy endings. Take a family of five or six people sitting around their dinner table. Laughing, sharing the details of their day with each other. Children laugh. Parents offer advice. It’s a picture filled with hope. The kids have their lives before them, the parents still have much to look forward to as their children grow, marry, have their own children.
However, there is a villain at the table; unseen, unnoticed, unheard.
The sorrow of living erodes away at hope, slowly, patiently, silently.
One person at this table will live to see everyone else die. Death is the villain who always has his moment of triumph. Everybody dies. And there is the undercurrent of sorrow that defines our existence. The sorrow of living erodes away at hope, slowly, patiently, silently. If we wait long enough, all hope will fade and we will find ourselves alone, enduring sorrow alone.
There was a man who waited once for thirty eight years. That’s over half an average American male life expectancy. He was cripple, unable to do for himself, depending on the kindness of others for most of his needs. Every day he waited at the pool of Bethesda. He waited for the waters of the pool to be stirred. Some say they were stirred by angels because whoever made they’re way into the pool first was healed of whatever ailed them.
This guy was there every day for thirty eight years. In that time, he had never made it to the water first. No matter how fast he crawled and scraped his way, no matter how often or how loudly he shouted “WAIT!” he was always beaten. In thirty eight years, no one ever bothered to help him. Apparently he was alone. His parents were likely dead, and because of his condition, he had no real friends. But in thirty eight years, he had not even experienced the kindness of a stranger to assist him down to the water.
He was face to face, daily, with despair. His strength was failing. His hope for making it to the water was gone. He was simply here now because he knew no other way to live. Essentially he had put his life on autopilot, waiting for death.
No hope. Embittered. Welcoming death.
Then one Sabbath, a man approached him. Nothing new. People approached him all the time to give him their pocket change, but never a trip into the water. But this guy had the audacity to ask him dumb questions. “Do you want to be healed?” Of all the rhetorical, stupid, idiotic questions! Annoyed, he retorted, “Sir (sarcastically), I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” Hoping he would go away, he rolled over on his mat and closed his eyes, trying to hold in his disgust mixed with sadness, not wishing to make a scene.
But the man did not leave. In fact the next words that came from his mouth changed this man’s life forever. It wasn’t a question, it wasn’t kind words of encouragement, and it wasn’t promises from Scripture that he would one day be made whole at the resurrection. It was a command.
“Get up, take up your bed, and walk.”
And like the first command, “Let there be light!” created an instant universe filled with light, this command instantly filled his legs with life and strength! For the first time ever he understood what it meant to stand upright, he understood how to walk, he felt the unction in his legs to move! He stood up, as if he had been doing it his entire life, picked up his mat and began walking. Stunned. He didn’t even say thank you. And when he finally looked around for the man who commanded his legs to walk, he was gone.
Get up, take up your bed, and walk.
Hope had come.
The mistake we make in our waiting is that we misunderstand hope. We often view it as something we’re hoping will happen. It’s a day we’re hoping will come, or a gift we’re hoping we’ll receive. Maybe you’re waiting for justice. Maybe you’re waiting for reconciliation. Perhaps you’re waiting for an inheritance. We are shortsighted on what hope actually is. There’s nothing wrong with hoping for these things, but if the summation of our hope lies in an event or an action or in receiving something, we sell it short.
Hope is a person. Jesus Christ is the summation of all our hopes; he is hope personified. When this man met Jesus, there was no pomp and circumstance, no dramatic moment where he swooped the man up and took him down to the water. There wasn’t even a single physical contact. It was a simple command. And unlike all the other supposed healers that this man encountered through the years, Jesus didn’t linger waiting for the adulation. He slipped away. Hope was humble, hope was confident, and hope was complete. This man didn’t limp. He didn’t hobble. He walked completely and ably. Jesus Christ, our hope, had come to this man, made him whole, and all with a simple command.
Get up, take up your bed, and walk.
Where are you? Are you lying on a bed of despair? Are you disillusioned by the silent sorrow of living in a world where death seems to always have victory in the end? Are you resolved to just wait for death to come because it would seem a kindness to end the misery of life? Listen to your Redeemer! “Get up!” Hope is not found in anything on this earth. Hope can only be found in someone from without.
Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, the Savior of men, the Redeemer of all things, can restore your life, renew your hope, and give you the ultimate victory over death and the sorrow of living. How? If you trust him for salvation, you will know that all things are being made new through him. He is recreating us, and will recreate all things when he returns, making for us and for God, a new world where we can dwell, along with God, together. Only then will there be no more pain, no more death, no more suffering. Hope will no longer be hope, but it will be a forever present reality.
Hope is greater than what you’re hoping for. He is beyond your expectations. He offers more than you think you need because your need is deeper than you think. Unexpected hope is what we all need. Jesus Christ is our Unexpected Hope.