The God of Hope

The God of Hope

Matthew 10:20-22, 27-34

“Daughter, take courage; your faith has made you well.”

 

            When we face unrelenting adversity, we lose hope, and despair grips the soul.  After contrasting the new order of faith versus the old order of religious ritual, Matthew gives examples of how the old brought despair but the new brought hope.   The first individual was a woman suffering from a continuous menstrual flow.  In the Old Testament, the period of a woman’s monthly cycle rendered her ritually unclean.  Because of this, anything she touched would also be unclean. Consequently, for the past 12 years, she was regarded as unclean and unable to participate in any temple worship. While the physical ailment was not life-threatening, it was untreatable and life-changing.  As one unclean, she was limited in her contact with people and would have been looked down upon by others as unclean.  In her hopelessness, she was desperate to find hope. 

            The second miracle involved two men who, likewise, were without hope.  They cried out for pity and mercy because they were blind.  Being blind, they could no longer work, and without any financial support, they were solely reliant upon the gifts of others.  In the old order, there was cause and effect.  The people looked upon the blind as ones God judged for some sin (see John 9:1-5).  Thus, they, too, were without hope.

            The third miracle dealt with a man who was the most troubled.  He was not just unclean or suffering because of sin; he was possessed by a demon who rendered him speechless.  Unlike the other two, who were able to ask Christ for relief from their suffering, this man could not even do that.  He was utterly powerless to ask for help.  

            All three thus represent the hopelessness of the old order with its rituals and focus on external religious practices. In such a world, these three individuals were people to be shunned and ostracized because they were regarded as sinful and unclean.  But in each case, Christ reverses the order and points to the new order he came to establish, one in which faith in him brings hope, for he brings physical healing and spiritual renewal.  In the case of the woman, she is unclean and makes anything or anyone she touches unclean. However, she becomes clean when she touches Jesus, thus making him unclean.  Jesus takes upon her uncleanness so that she might become clean by her faith. The clean becomes unclean so that the dirty may become clean.  This foreshadows the cross when Christ takes our sin so that we might also become spiritually pure. In the second case, the blind receive their sight by the touch of Jesus, also because of their faith. Spiritual sight comes through the eyes of faith. In the third case, the man is mute, so he cannot even ask for help, yet Jesus again contrasts the old and new order.  In the new order, those who cannot speak are healed physically and spiritually, while those who can speak (vs. 34) are left in their sin.

            In the old order of the Jewish rituals, those confident in their self-righteousness were left spiritually destitute, while those without hope, by their faith, were given freedom and forgiveness. In these miracles, we see the paradox of faith.  Those who have everything but faith are blind to their hopelessness, while those who have nothing but faith receive the hope of eternal life.  Christ points out the basis for the new order he establishes in his kingdom.  The basis is not through religious acts but faith, which comes when we realize we have nothing to offer, faith that is destitute of our efforts and solely reliant upon the grace and mercy of Christ.  It is a faith manifested when we come to Jesus without hope and surrender completely to him and his grace.  When we live by faith, then we discover the hope and joy of salvation.   When we live by faith, we discover hope even when our circumstances seem unrelenting, for in our faith, we discover the God of hope.   

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