Bishop's Message

The final hour is ours

Jan 2005    

IF YOU see someone reading a mystery novel, and you have already read it, you are not supposed to tell him how the story would end. You are expected to let him enjoy struggling with every twist and turn of the story. As far as literary enjoyment goes, that is fine.

In real life though, when you are per-sonally involved in a story, things can be quite different. There is a human desire to know how the future will be and how the story would end. Hence, the popularity of fortune-tellers and their like. The reason for this is not just human curiosity but also human anxiety. It is indeed difficult to live life with the prospect of a bleak future.

Towards the end of His earthly life, Je-sus revealed the immediate future to His disciples, making it increasingly clear that He was about to be killed. He also predicted that His disciples would betray and deny Him and would be scattered. If His disci-ples had only listened to Him carefully, they would have realised that a nightmare was about to begin.

Perhaps they sensed it some-how, though they did not fully un-derstand. Though they probably did not grasp intellectually what Jesus was saying, their more per-ceptive visceral alarms (gut feel-ings) went off. They must have felt vaguely uncomfortable with what they heard. Racing pulse, sweaty palms, faces turning pale – these would have shown their inner anxiety and fear about the future.

Realising this, Jesus reas-sured them, “Do not let your hearts be trou-bled. Trust in God; trust also in me.” (Jn. 14:1). Jesus explained to them that He would be leaving them but promised that He would not abandon them. He promised to send them the Holy Spirit who would live in them. He revealed that life might be difficult – “the prince of this world is com-ing” (Jn. 14:30), but they are to be calm. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you … Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (Jn 14:27).

After Jesus was crucified, dead, and entombed, the anxiety of the disciples must have multiplied most uncomfortably. Their dreams of the future had crumbled in the hands of an angry and sinful crowd. It must have felt that they had come to the end of the book. A promising story had ended tragically, so it seemed.

Then the resurrected Jesus appeared to them. The book that had been closed sadly and reluctantly was again opened with new joy. The story, after all, had not ended. The cross was not the final full-stop, only a comma. Jesus met the disciples by saying “Peace be with you.” (Lk. 24:36). They were, not surprisingly, startled. Jesus asked, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your mind?” (Lk. 24:38). Somehow and strangely, this conversation seems to be a continuation of that found in Jn. 14, before Jesus was crucified. Clearly, the disciples had not fully understood what Jesus had earlier tried to tell them.

But this time it was different. The dis-ciples encountered the risen Christ. It was the dawn of a new day in their lives, a de-cisive turning point in their stories. As they remembered all that Jesus had taught them – divine forgiveness, new birth, eternal life, the kingdom of God – they began to see traces of a larger Story. Their stories were woven and stitched into that Story. They began to understand how that Story began and how it would end. They were changed men after realising that they were part of a story that was larger than themselves. They marched forward into the dark night know-ing for certain that their journey would end with a new dawn. As changed men, they changed the world.

Two thousand years have come and gone since then. History has twisted and turned, ran and stumbled through time. Bil-lions of personal stories are pasted on it, flapping in the winds of time, containing untold stories of little dreams, moments of joy and unshared pain. Each of us also has a story to tell. We meet each new year won-dering how the story will develop and how it will end. How long more do we have before our stories become another piece of paper flapping in the winds of time?

It is one thing to read a story in a book. It is another thing to exist in one that is unfolding. Who knows how the story would proceed and how it would end?

The Bible tells us how history would end. Jesus is coming again, and when that happens, a new earth and heaven will ap-pear. There will be no more death, no more tears, no more pain. The old order would be no more. (Rev. 21; 22).

If you belong to this Jesus, then His Story becomes the vehicle for your story. The uncertainty of your fragile story can ride on the certainty of His Story. His Story gives stability and hope to our stories. The final hour of history will be Christ’s.

He has the final say; the final hour is His. If we belong to Him, the final hour is also ours.

As we stand at the beginning of yet another new year, who can tell what the immediate future holds for us personally and col-lectively? Who knows what “breaking news” would break our hearts? Who knows what the headlines would be this year? Who can predict what would make us laugh or cry, angry or sad? Who knows what the next day would be like? The next day has all its uncertain-ties. And that can make one anxious.

The uncertainty of the immediate fu-ture must be lived with the certainty of the final hour. For the follower of Christ, there is the promise of glory that will mark the end of the Story. Christ invites us, with our little uncertain stories, to enter His glori-ous Story, to become part of His unfolding Story. When we do so, we can turn every corner of time, with its immediate uncer-tain future, with peace and poise.

To be baptised and united with Christ, to be a part of His Body is to share in His eternal destiny, to be part of His Story. Let us live our uncertain days in His Story. He is the Shepherd of our souls (1 Pet. 2:25). In Him the final hour is ours.

And, paraphrasing Helmut Thielicke, if the final hour is ours, then why be anxious of the next minute?

PROMISE OF GLORY

‘The uncertainty of the immediate future must be lived with the certainty of the final hour. For the follower of Christ, there is the promise of glory that will mark the end of the Story. Christ invites us, with our little uncertain stories, to enter His glorious Story, to become part of His unfolding Story. When we do so, we can turn every corner of time, with its immediate uncertain future, with peace and poise.’

REACH OUT

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