At the end of the second movie in the trilogy, The Empire Strikes Back, Obi-Wan tells Yoda that Luke Skywalker is the last hope of the Jedi. But Yoda says, “No, there is another one.” And the viewers are left wondering who that might be.
For me, that exchange was strangely reminiscent of the story of Elijah in 1 Kings 19. He was running for his life because he had challenged Queen Jezebel and had shown the people of Israel the futility of believing in her god, Baal. Elijah ended up in the wilderness, alone and scared, convinced that he was the only one left in Israel who believed in God and that he would die for his faith and his actions. Yet, in a series of visions, God shows Elijah that the situation is not as bleak as he imagines and that many others believe as he does.
Feeling hopeless—that all is lost and nothing you can do means anything—is easy at times. I think that hopelessness was prevalent when Jesus began his ministry. We know that John the Baptist sent some of his followers to Jesus to find out if he was the Messiah or if they should look for someone else. The idea that God cared for God’s people was being challenged by a legalistic and unbending religious establishment and tempered by the presence of a political dictatorship. We can easily see why there was no hope in the land.
When Jesus stood up to speak in the synagogue in Nazareth, he was announcing hope, real hope. He proclaimed:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Luke 4:18–19 (NRSV)
The promise Jesus proclaimed that day is still with us. In today’s society, we tend to think that hope is lost and that tomorrow will bring only more heartbreak and sorrow. Religion and politics today often mirror situations that must have existed in Elijah’s time as well as in Jesus’ time. Thinking the world is hopeless is easy.
But the story of Elijah did not end in the wilderness. God showed him that God was still at work in the world and that there was more for Elijah to do. The story did not end when the religious and political establishments crucified Christ on the cross. In fact, the story may have begun with the cross. In Christ’s resurrection we discover hope—and God’s plan for the story to continue.
DECEMBER 11, 2016
NEXT DAY STRETCH
Jesus proclaimed the kingdom of God, a new religious, social, political order that will mean good news for the poor, release for the captives, sight for the blind, freedom for the oppressed, peace, health, joy, life. The kingdom of God is hope for the future. This Christmas, find ways to proclaim and to live out the hope of God’s dream for the world.