Summary: We all need hope. But hope alone is not enough - it must be based on a solid foundation. This sermon reminds believers that our Hope is based on the resurrection of Christ.
In the late night hours of July 30, 1945, the USS Indianapolis was struck by multiple torpedoes fired by a Japanese submarine. 500 miles west of the Philippine Islands, far from any port and under orders of secrecy, tt was the last US Navy ship sunk by enemy fire in WW2.
The real story of the Indianapolis is the story of the survivors.
900 of the 1100 sailors and marines survived the sinking and made it into the water. Many were badly injured and all were covered in diesel fuel and oil. Some were in lifeboats. Most had nothing more than a life jacket to keep them afloat in the 80º water of the Pacific ocean.
Their first night in the water was chaotic and fearful. Men with horrible injuries had no comfort and no hope in the dark waters. Many died from their wounds. Their only hope was that rescue would come. The ship most certainly sent out and SOS call before it sank. Ships and aircraft would soon be on the way to pluck them out of the ocean.
The morning came and when it did, the men who were cold in the ocean overnight were soon facing the scorching sun. They covered their eyes for shade. But the sun was the least of their worries. Soon, sharks started attacking and killing the desperate men.
The first day passed and with the setting sun their hopes faded for rescue.
Three days passed. With the fading of each day came the fading of hope.
David Harrell wrote a book telling the story of his father, Edgar Harrell. He writes, “Clearly there were no atheists in the water that day. Gone was that damnable attitude of pride that deceives men into thinking that there is no God, or if there is, they don’t need Him. When a man is confronted with death, it is the face of Almighty God he sees, not his own. We were all acutely aware of our Creator during those days and nights.” (David Harrell, “Out of the Depths,” Xulon Press, 2005, 112-113).
All of us need hope. The hope that we need is found in the Gospel. But understand this. Hope alone is not enough. If your hope is based in something false, then your hope is just an illusion. It is the reality of the Resurrection of Jesus that provides the foundation for our hope. Paul put it in the following way in the very same chapter where we find his 3-fold definition of the Gospel:
“If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” (1 Corinthians 15:19–20).
For the purpose of our study, where can we find an Old Testament example of the Resurrection that vividly pictures this hope?
There are few OT passages that describe the Resurrection. One is found in a miracle performed by Elisha. In 2 Kings 4, Elisha meets a woman from Shunem, which was a Jewish village just outside of Nazareth, south of the Sea of Galilee.
This woman was wealthy but her and her husband did not have a son. Because of this, the aging of her husband meant that she would have noone to support her once he died. The story is told in 2 Kings 4: 8, 14 “One day Elisha went to Shunem. And a well-to-do woman was there, who urged him to stay for a meal. So whenever he came by, he stopped there to eat.” .... “What can be done for her?” Elisha asked. Gehazi said, “Well, she has no son and her husband is old.””
Elisha promises her that the Lord would miraculously give her a son, a promise she resisted because she thought that it was too good to be true. “About this time next year,” Elisha said, “you will hold a son in your arms.” “No, my lord,” she objected. “Don’t mislead your servant, O man of God!”” (2 Kings 4:16)
But God did give her a son. However, the story does not end here. In his early childhood, the boy becomes sick and dies. We read the sad commentary in 2 Kings 4:17-19. “But the woman became pregnant, and the next year about that same time she gave birth to a son, just as Elisha had told her. The child grew, and one day he went out to his father, who was with the reapers. “My head! My head!” he said to his father. His father told a servant, “Carry him to his mother.”
What does this mother do in her moment of hopelessness? What can we learn from her about the hope that we have in the resurrection?
1. Her wealth could not buy a son.