When we live with hope, we begin to move beyond our circumstances. In the New Testament epistle of Hebrews we read these words:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:1-3, NIV)
Immediately before this, the writer had addressed heroes of the faith who pursued God with faith and hope during their earthly lives even in the face of challenging circumstances and though, at times, they never fully experienced God’s blessing in this life. Building from that, the writer calls his readers – and us – to hopeful perseverance by looking at the examples of Jesus.
When we look at Jesus hopeful approach to His earthly life, we see two companions of hope – two attitudes or approaches – that marked His life.
The first is best described by the word magnanimity. Now, I understand this is not a word we use much today, but it is still the best description that I can find for this characteristic of Jesus’ hope. Magnanimity is characterized in one sense by the word benevolence. However, the roots of magnanimity convey the sense that someone is great-hearted or noble-minded. A magnanimous person in this sense is someone who lives out of a sense that their life – and life in general – is about something greater than we see. I would like to suggest that part of the reason we no longer use this term is that our culture does not have much sense that there is more than meets our physical senses for which to live and, thus, the word has fallen on hard times. Jesus lived with an aim that was bigger than Him. Although the Cross was a cruel and difficult trial, Jesus scorned its shame and endured opposition from sinners because He was living a magnanimous life; He was living in hope for something beyond what was visible to the senses. If we are to be people of hope as followers of Jesus, we, too, must live with magnanimity, having an aim in life that is bigger than us.
The second companion of hope that we see in Jesus from Hebrews 12 is humility. While it may seem that humility is at odds with the previous discussion of magnanimity, this is not the case. Humility means that we have an appropriate view of God, ourselves, and others. We do not have either too high a view of ourselves nor too low a view of ourselves. In his letter to the Philippians, Paul writes that Jesus “did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant” (Philippians 2:6-7). Jesus endured the Cross – and it was indeed a public humiliation by earthly standards – because of who He was and what He had come to do. It was not because Jesus was short-sighted or foolish that He went to the Cross, but because He was living for something greater than Himself. His hope of sitting “down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb 12:3) and His mission “to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:44) – a magnanimous hope – is what propelled Jesus into radical service and selfless sacrifice – a humble hope. We also have been invited into God’s greater purposes, yet we are called to also entire into that with a humility that is exemplified by Jesus.
[This is a continuation of this week’s theme of “Beginning to Live with Hope.”]