In the lead up to Christmas I had the opportunity to preach in our church. They asked me to preach on the theme of hope, and I ended up focussing on 1 Corinthians 15.
It was an interesting week, because while I was preparing, a plane crashed near Monterrey, killing the famous Mexican singer Jenni Rivera and the other passengers on the plane. The crash happened in a remote mountain area so it took the rescue workers a few days to get there, process the site etc. During this time, the family of fans of Jenni were using the language of "hope" - along the lines of "we are hoping that they will find her alive." Of course all the evidence indicated that this wouldn't be the case. The speed of the impact, the fire etc - all pointed to a very sad outcome.
But it indicated very clearly the different ways in which the word "hope" is used. For the fans of Jenni, hope was what they had despite the evidence, despite the facts.
But in 1 Corinthians 15, hope is what we can have because of the evidence, because of the facts.
In verses 1-11 Paul presents the facts of the gospel. The facts of the live, death and resurrection of Christ - pretty much without interpretation or explanation. This passage reads like a kids holiday diary "this happened, then this happened then this...."
And it this factual presentation that then forms the basis of his argument, because the controversy of the day (and clearly there is nothing new under the sun) is that the resurrection didn't happen. OK - well, if that is the case, then there can't be any exceptions, and therefore Jesus did not rise from the dead either. And what is the result of that? v19 "If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied."
That is, if all the facts don't allow for the resurrection, then we can't have hope.
But in verse 20 we get one of those key Biblical words. "But"
But the facts are there. The resurrection did happen - and therefore we can have hope, a fact based hope.
And what really caught my eye was the thing that we can have hope in. We can have a sure, certain, "Biblical" hope in our resurrection. Because our resurrection follows on from the resurrection of Jesus. Jesus is the firstfruits, the first one in a long line of those who will follow after him. And therefore, the question we can ask is not "If we will be resurrected" but "When we will be resurrected."
The hope we have of our new life is founded on the facts, not something we desire despite the facts.
So what difference does that make?
Well I was thinking about Jenni Rivera's family - waiting for news, for confirmation. How would they be feeling? Nervous. Fearful. Worried. Tense. Stressed.
Why? Because their hope is not based on the facts.
But Christian hope, a hope based on the facts means we can wait without fear or nervousness or worry or tension. Because we know our hope is certain.
Sure, there may be other factors that cause us to be fearful or tense or stressed, but they will pass. Our hope of the resurrection, based on the facts of the resurrection of Jesus should not be swayed.