The Hope of Christ
The Hope of Christ
“The people who were sitting in darkness saw a great light, and those who were sitting in the land and shadow of death, upon them a light dawned.”
In preparation for the beginning of his public ministry, Jesus went from Galilee to the region of the Jordan River. After his baptism, the then was led by the Spirit into the southern parts of Judah, to the wilderness area. It was here that Satan confronted him, and it was also during this time that John was arrested for preaching against the Marriage of Herod. After Jesus’ temptation and the arrest of John, Jesus then went back to the northern region of Galilee. However, he went to Capernaum, a small village on the Sea of Galilee, rather than settling in Nazareth. It is here that he would establish his base for ministry. This was to fulfill the words of Isaiah that from one from the region of the sea of Galilee, one would arise to bring deliverance to his people. In quoting Isaiah 9:1-2, Mathew describes both the despair of the people and the hope that the Messiah would come. The people are described as individuals who are sitting in darkness. The picture is more than just a passing moment of despair but carries the idea of one dwelling in a state of hopelessness. The word for darkness in the Old Testament is used frequently in Job, Psalms, and Isaiah to refer to a state of ignorance, evil, and judgment. It speaks of spiritual and mental darkness. But the issue goes beyond hopelessness; it points to people in delusion and despondency. The second phrase, “dark land,” refers to those dwelling in the land of death. It is the same word translated in Psalm 23 as “shadow of death.” It speaks of circumstances that terrorize the people because they have no hope. It is a place where we are daily reminded that death is a tyrant and our whole life is lived under its shadow and threat.
Yet just when life seems hopeless, and beyond the reach of God’s salvation, one comes who brings light. Light is seen as the source of hope and redemption throughout the Old and New Testaments. These words are also echoed by John when he states in John 1:4 that Jesus “was life and the life was the Light of men.” Jesus is the true Light who comes to enlighten every man (John 1:9). Christ not only brings hope to the hopeless and salvation to those in despair, but he also brings instruction and clarity of life. Apart from God, the people lived in ignorance, under the death sentence of sin and its destructive force. But Christ came to bring clarity and understanding by bringing to light God’s purpose and salvation to those oppressed by sin (Isaiah 9:4).
Today people are still living in moral and spiritual darkness where they are groping in the dark to find answers and hope. They are lost without any identity and are searching for an identity that will bring wholeness to them. Some search to find their identity in wealth and fame. Others seek to find their worth and value in success and accomplishments. Some turn to their sexuality to find a sense of identity and worth. But all are still left groping in the darkness. The only place we will discover hope, identity, meaning, and purpose is in the person of Christ. We were created in the image of God. However, we abandoned that identity, desperately attempting to live independently of God. The result was a loss of true identity and meaning in life. Christ came to restore us by restoring our identity. The identity we desperately search for is found only in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). He is the only one who gives meaning and purpose. Christ was the answer for the hopeless in the first century, so he remains the answer for us today. Only by immersing ourselves in Christ do we discover the joy of life.