In a conversation in Bethlehem, a Palestinian friend, who works on conflict resolution and reconciliation in the West Bank, spoke to me of the challenges facing his fellow Palestinians. The massive separation wall was surrounding much of the Palestinian territories, cutting people off from their farms, livelihoods and ability to travel. Roads and new settlements were being built on Palestinian land against the will of the people. Palestinians were increasingly isolated from the outside world, making them prisoners in their own land. The more he spoke, the more depressing it all sounded. Realistically, he could not see a solution on the horizon which would relieve the plight of the Palestinian people: there had already been so many broken promises and false dawns. But, he said, he was a Christian and despite all that was happening around him, he was ‘bristling with hope.’
Hope is a child of the resurrection and is fed by the resurrection. Christian hope is not some vague desire that things will turn out for the best (that’s optimism), but it is based on God’s promise that he has liberated and continues to liberate his people in order that they can grow into the people they were created to be. Often this happens in unexpected ways and at unexpected times.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ, celebrated on Easter Day, shows God keeping his promise by liberating Jesus Christ from the grasp of death itself. The resurrection shows that death, the force of negativity and annihilation, which appears to have the last word in life, ultimately has little power. Just as the resurrection challenges death, so it challenges all negative values of the world, turning them upside down. This can be seen when a person is willing to surrender their life for the sake of another. It is seen when a person suffers a great deal yet instead of giving up and falling, flourishes and becomes more human despite everything through which they pass. It is seen when in the middle of despair and hopelessness, an unexpected word or unexpected person lights up possibilities that were not previously apparent.
Hope is based on God’s promise that, through his love and power, there are ways through the most traumatic of circumstances, even though we may not see them at the time. Furthermore, unexpected refreshment and life is to be found in the midst of the trauma itself. That is the story of Good Friday and Easter.
It is this hope to which we can cling when surrounded by darkness. It is this hope which gave energy to my Palestinian friend. It is this hope which is fed and brought to life by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.