At the suggestion of his publisher, Timothy Keller penned Hope in Times of Fear: The Resurrection and the Meaning of Easter. But as Pastor Keller began the book, the COVID-19 pandemic struck and he received a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. Hence, writing in such dark times helped Pastor Keller see in the resurrection new depths of comfort and power. And we too desperately need a stone of hope (see Daniel 2:34-35). So, for us, the hope (profound certainty) of Jesus’s resurrection becomes a light even when all other lights go out. Yet, it’s one thing to know about the resurrection, quite another to know it personally and experientially. In addition, the Christian faith transforms you only if you accept Jesus’s death, resurrection, and appearance to many witnesses as historical facts.
Above all, everything changed because these events happened in history. Together, the empty tomb and hundreds of eyewitnesses provide evidence that something extraordinary occurred. Furthermore, the resurrection began the restoration, not suspension, of the natural order of the world. As God intended it to be. Christ’s rising from the dead, then, brings the future into the present, heaven to earth. As a result, the Shekinah glory of God that once dwelt behind the veil is now available to us when we unite with the risen Christ by faith. Also, properly understood, the message of God’s kingdom subverts the dominant beliefs of our own culture. Giving us hope in times of fear.
Most significantly, the inspired Word of God presents a simple, coherent story about how Jesus saves the world through the Great Reversal. Because the Great Reversal challenges the world’s thought categories, it’s the most practical guide to real life. And all the little reversals in the gospels point us to the Great Reversal – Christ’s death and resurrection. The ultimate refutation of the world’s wisdom. We change only when we meet the risen Lord personally and unite with Him by faith. Yet, we’d never run to God unless He calls us by name. On the other hand, there would be no hope if God waited for us to make the first move. Properly understood, however, the claims of Jesus Christ never evoke a lukewarm response. For we either run away from Jesus or run toward Him.
Finally, Pastor Keller stresses, it’s absolutely essential to hold to sound doctrine. Yet insufficient at the same time. Because truth must also shape the affections of the heart, the practices of will and character. Christ’s rising from the dead means God’s liberating power is here now through the risen Christ and His presence in our lives through the Holy Spirit. Thus, the life of the believing community must reflect the justice and peace of the final city of God. Pursuing this justice serves as an evangelistic witness. Therefore, when dark times find us, we need to respond in a way that brings blessing out of curses, life out of death. As Pastor Keller concludes in Hope in Times of Fear:
“Defiance comes from looking at ourselves. Hope comes from looking at [Jesus].”