Rumors of Hope

women-at-tombAnd entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus… He has risen; He is not here… He is going before you to Galilee. There you will see Him…” And they went out and fled from the tomb… and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. — Mark 16:5-8

It was almost 4 pm, and I was late for a meeting. The Ministry Center would usually be closed by then, but I had let “Sam” start his laundry late in the day. As we waited for his clothes to dry, I asked Sam about his spiritual background. He expressed regret about not attending church growing up, saying he thought it would’ve kept him out of trouble. Then he said, referring to past difficulties, “I feel like God is punishing me for all the wrong I’ve done.”

Sam isn’t the first person here to say that. Another client previously told me, “With all that’s wrong in the world, I feel like God is torturing us.” It’s hard enough for me to believe sometimes that God loves me, that He’s benevolently involved in my life, that daily He has new mercies. It’s hard for me to believe this, and I’ve never been abused. I’ve never been to prison. I’ve never had my body used as an object by an uncaring “john.” The gospel can be hard, I think, for most anyone to believe, but many of our clients have years’ worth of hurt convincing them that God is either not there or not good. How can God’s kindness lead them to repentance if all they see is pain and evil?

Maybe many of our clients just aren’t ready to believe the fullness of God’s good news, but they’re not alone in that regard. Many scholars note how unready Jesus’ peers were for His ministry to “sinners.” Surely God was only angry at those people, right? Similarly, His disciples weren’t ready for His resurrection. Surely the dead don’t come back, right? At the end of Mark’s Gospel, the women who see Jesus’ empty tomb and hear He has risen simply run away, afraid and keeping quiet, unsure of how to process what they have just experienced.

While I want our guys to fully grasp the good news of Jesus, as contrary as it is to their experience, a great first step would be an encounter like that of the women in Mark 16. I would love for them to catch just a whisper of His love and victory, even if they walk (or run) away, scared and confused. The women in Mark 16 are left with a challenge to meet Jesus in Galilee, leading one commentator to say it’s like Mark still asks readers today, “Will you go there and see for yourself?” For those among our guys who aren’t ready to fully meet Jesus, I hope some whisper of hope gives them just enough curiosity to head down that road, trusting that this risen Jesus they’ve heard rumors of will meet them soon enough.

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