The final chapter of the Gospel of Matthew shows us the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is the event that changes everything.
The resurrection turns the ultimate defeat into the ultimate victory. Sin, death and Satan have now been dealt with forever because the Son of God has risen from the grave. The consequences of humanity’s fall into sin are reversed, never to take control of us again.
Just before issuing his Great Commission to the disciples, Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” That means the sin, death and Satan combined have approximately zero authority.
Since this deals once and for all with our biggest problem, lesser problems also come into a proper perspective. All of the hurts, problems and defeats that I have experienced or that I have caused are reduced to times that my team and I have fallen behind in a winning game. It may look bad for the moment but our final victory is ultimately assured.
There is never a reason big enough to give up hope. Christ is risen and someday we too will be resurrected into a completely new life in him.
There are times when our striving over a thing reaches its proper limits. When this happens we need to know how to quietly trust in the Lord. That unanswered prayer, that stressful situation, that massive uncertainty we have in an area that we feel we ought to understand better – all these may be areas we need to deliberately give over to Him.
David understood this and offers his own example to us in a brief psalm. He intentionally calmed and quieted his soul, knowing that some things needed to be placed in God’s hands and left there. There is a beautiful peace and humility involved in this kind of intentional trust.
A Song of Ascents. Of David.
1 Lord, my heart is not haughty,
Nor my eyes lofty [or “arrogant”].
Neither do I concern myself with great matters,
Nor with things too profound [or “difficult”] for me.
2 Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul,
Like a weaned child with his mother;
Like a weaned child is my soul within me.
3 O Israel, hope in the Lord
From this time forth and forever.
By definition, mercy is something that is not guaranteed. The American Heritage Dictionary explains mercy like this:
- Compassionate treatment, especially of those under one’s power; clemency.
- A disposition to be kind and forgiving: a heart full of mercy.
So when it is clearly possible to get something else, and we get mercy instead – compassionate treatment, kindness, forgiveness – we tend to breathe a huge sigh of relief.
Such was the relief experienced by the prophet Jeremiah after the destruction of Jerusalem. Babylon had conquered, the city was flattened, the nation was defeated, the captivity had begun – and, tragically, it might all have been avoided. It was all their own fault and Jeremiah knew this better than anyone; he had been prophesying it all along.
But Jeremiah had also prophesied that the captivity would last seventy years. As his nation had already been promised an eternal future, he apparently figured that seventy years was, well, doable. Eternity was a lot longer.
When we consider our own difficulties and disasters, we are wise to listen to Jeremiah. He knew disaster well. This doesn’t decrease the reality of our grief. It increases our appreciation of God. When we desire Him more than anything else, His mercies will fill our hearts with hope.
This I recall to my mind,
Therefore I have hope.
Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul,
‘Therefore I hope in Him!'”
– Lamentations 3:21-24 (NKJV)