“If we have put our hope in Christ for this life only, we should be pitied more than anyone.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
What’s next? Do you ever wonder that? Avengers: Endgame just came out this past weekend. It completely destroyed every box office record and will likely go on to make the most money of any movie ever. It won’t be close. And, with eleven years of build-up and 22 mostly excellent movies leading up to it, that really shouldn’t come as any surprise. I’ve been waiting for it to come out since before I had kids. But now that it’s out, the question most everybody is going to be asking is this: What’s next?
That’s just a movie, though. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not going to change the world in any really meaningful sense. At the end of the day, it’s just a piece of entertainment. We ask the what’s next question about more than just movies.
We ask it about everything, in fact. We are not an easily satisfied people. No matter how much we might enjoy something, we are constantly on the lookout for what is coming next on the horizon. No matter what story has been told, we want to know the next chapter.
I think there’s a reason for this. Our lives are one giant story. There are ups and downs and twists and turns. Some things seem to follow the script pretty well, but there are others that come completely out of left field. There is tragedy and comedy and drama and more. But at some point, our stories end. Or at least that’s what it seems. Eventually, we all die. No more story writing after that. Or at least that’s what it seems.
But as hard and true as death has always appeared to be, it has never sat well with us. Something inside of us screams for more. What’s next? we cry in agony. The story can’t be over!
This is why every culture and religion have come up with some way to keep writing the story. Hinduism and Buddhism have reincarnation. The Greeks and the Romans had the world of the dead. The Vikings had Valhalla. The story has to go on.
Then, about 2,000 years ago, late to the party compared to some of those others, a group of Jews in the Middle East started proclaiming they knew with certainty that death is not, in fact, the end. There is more, they said. They went beyond what most folks said, though, and claimed further that they had seen someone who had actually come back from the dead. His resurrection was the firstfruits of what we could have as well if we would just believe in Him.
This proved to be a potent hope and folks started to sign up. In droves. They began giving their lives to this hope—many very much literally. They began to say no to things in this life that most folks had thought to be good so they could take part more fully in this hope. More than that, they began to say some of these things weren’t actually good. Saying no themselves was uncomfortable enough for the people who were still saying yes. Telling them these things weren’t good made it worse.
The folks who signed up for this powerful hope began to be persecuted by the folks who hadn’t. At times it has gotten intense. It has gotten bad enough that pure belief couldn’t possibly have sustained them to continue in this hope. The only thing that could have explained and sustained their commitment was if this wasn’t just another story about what might possibly come next, but rather the actual truth. A man really did rise from the dead and settled once and for all the question of what’s next. This man’s name is Jesus and we can share in His life if we will commit ourselves to the implications of the fact that He did indeed rise from the dead.
But if He didn’t, it’s all a lie. It’s all a lie and all these people have wasted their time. They’ve sacrificed their lives in every way for nothing. They’ve given up experiencing fun and seemingly exciting things for naught. What a most pitiable lot they—we—are. If Jesus doesn’t actually give us hope for what’s next, He isn’t worth our time. He’s just another good story and nothing more. If you’re going to follow Jesus, make sure you do because it’s true. Otherwise, don’t bother.