Good Friday: Investing Where Hope Seems Dead
One of the most remarkable sentences in all of Scripture comes from the thief who was hanging next to Jesus on the cross. Jesus was just hours from death, and, by all appearances, had failed in his Messianic role.
Just days before, Jesus had entered Jerusalem, hailed as a king with shouts of “Hosanna!” But then, Jesus was betrayed, tried, beaten, and nailed to the cross. In the eyes of the disciples and all of his followers, it was all over.
And then, just before his death, a criminal said to Jesus, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42). At the darkest hour, when others had given up hope, the robber believed Jesus was about to enter his kingdom.
This is the hope that we have as Christians. When darkness surrounds us, and when it seems as though the end has come, God is at work, turning death into life.
For me, the entire ministry of World Vision around the world is based on the idea of investing in seemingly hopeless circumstances.
To the rest of the world, we must seem crazy.
Why bother to feed a child who will die of malaria before his fifth birthday? Why give a loan to a widow in Africa who is dying of AIDS? Why educate a deaf child in a place like Gaza, where the future is bleak? Or why bother to nourish children in the middle of the Congo, where war and violence may take their lives?
I can hear the voices of the skeptics telling all of us at World Vision that we are fools to invest so much in the “losers” in our world.
But what they don’t understand is that we serve a God who has always taken up the cause of the widow, the orphan, the alien, and the stranger. Our God is the God of the mustard seed, the lost sheep, and the widow’s mite.
Our God is a God who went to the cross and died for the least and the lost.
You see, when we are honest, we realize that you and I are among the “losers” in whom God invests. Later in the New Testament, the Apostle Paul explains, “Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God.”
God takes those who are the least and makes them great. He takes those who lack hope and makes them hopeful. He takes death and turns it into life.
There is a boy right now begging on the streets of Phnom Penh whom God created to be a gifted teacher. A malnourished girl in the Sahel whom He created to be a great farmer. A boy now selling drugs in the inner city has the gifts to be a great evangelist. And that girl now trapped in a brothel will someday bring comfort to thousands as a gifted counselor.
That’s what the story of Good Friday reminds us. Before the glorious victory of Easter comes the despair of the Crucifixion.
We believe not only in a God who brings hope in hopeless situations. He also asks us to do the same.
As Jesus told his followers, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”
That is what God has done for us, and it is our privilege to do the same for all those whose circumstances may seem hopeless.
Photo ©1996 World Vision, Karen Homer