God of Hope: Transcendent and Immanent

It’s morning on the third day. The tomb is empty. And the Eleven (once Twelve) are gathered to hear the bizarre, perplexing stories of Jesus appearing to the women, to Peter, and to the two from Emmaus (Luke 24:33-35). 

Confusion reigns where shock and grief still consume – “We had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel” (v.21).

As if a ghost, Jesus suddenly appears, proclaiming peace and asking, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds?” (v.38). He exhibits His wounds, eats a little fish, and explains, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me” (v.45), then He expands their minds to understand that He, the Messiah, had to suffer and rise from the dead (v.46). 

Yet, still they ask, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6, emphasis mine). Despite everything Jesus has said and demonstrated, something in the disciples continues to expect a savior who resembles David more than God – someone who would restore Israel to its former glory and defeat its enemies.

For the men who worked most closely with the Son of God, who loved Him most fiercely, who followed Him despite what He asked of them – these disciples, these apostles, they found it hard to grasp exactly what Jesus was up to.

His ways are higher than their ways (Isaiah 55:9). 

Our God transcends all human experience and understanding. The disciples felt the truth of this as they wrestled with Jesus’ teachings and actions – over and over failing to understand (Luke 18:34).  

His thoughts are higher than their thoughts (Isaiah 55:9).

Yet Jesus, who walked the earth in order to give His life, first had to descend from the heavens (Ephesians 4:10). He had to leave His throne room in order to usher in God’s kingdom here on earth (Luke 17:20-21). And, when He ascended back to His place of power and authority, He sent His Spirit to dwell in us (Acts 1:8, 2:4). 

Our heavenly Lord is transcendent and immanent – both beyond our grasp and beckoning us to be with Him, just as He is within us.

Empty Tomb

The disciples thought they understood the plan – heal and make whole so people would follow Jesus. THEN, He’d set them free.

They thought they knew who they were following – the Messiah, the One from God who wouldn’t die but rise to power.

But then the cross. His death. Along with Jesus’ body, their hopes for all that Messiah would bring were buried. Dead.

So, when the women found an empty tomb on that first Easter morning, Jesus’ ways once again transcended their ability to perceive what it could mean. And it makes me wonder what I miss about the empty tomb – have I heard the story so many times that I fail to grasp its fullness?

The Son of God died and was buried. For three days in utter darkness and the stink of death.

Then, by the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus’ body – His human yet immortal, flesh and blood body – was resurrected. Brought to life. Living and breathing. Talking and laughing. Eating and teaching.


Jesus’ death defeated sin. His resurrection conquered death. It left the tomb empty and the stone rolled away so His followers could peer inside and know the truth.

He lives!

So that we can live. Yes, in eternity – always and forever with Him – but also now

Photo by Steve Harrris on Unsplash

Paul calls this empty-tomb-living the “newness of life:”

For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives. …Now you do those things that lead to holiness and result in eternal life. …Now we can serve God, not in the old way of obeying the letter of the law, but in the new way of living in the Spirit.

Romans 6:4,23; 7:6b NLT

Suddenly and beautifully, a once-lofty idea settles into my soul. 

In my own spiritual self, I’ve died – to sin. Jesus’ death brings a glorious power upon me, upon all His followers, to be able to die. to. sin. And, just as He was brought to life, so are we – resurrected into newness of life. New lives, sanctified because of the Spirit in us.

What was once a sin-defined existence is re-defined by resurrection.
What was once a life unworthy is redeemed and readied for holy living.
What was once a tomb of a body is now a temple.

Our Hope

So, when I think about all that makes us tired and torn, weak and weary, I look back into the empty tomb. And remember.

Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. 
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary;
they will walk and not be faint.

Isaiah 40:31

Not because of the way they live but because of His death. Not because life will always make sense but because He is with us. Not because life will always work out the way we want but because in Him we have a living hope (1 Timothy 4:10). 

Our hope – it is in the One who can never die, the One who defeated death. 
Our hope – it is as alive as our Savior who walked out of His empty tomb to usher in new life. 
Our hope – it is transcendent of our logical ways of thinking yet finds its anchor in truth. 
Our hope – it is immanent because it resides within us, because He dwells within us.

Friend, this Easter Day I pray you can look into the empty tomb and find the fullness of hope – a holy hope that’s as alive as He is, as new as you are, and as present as the Spirit in you. I pray that you can embrace our God who is as transcendent as He is immanent and trust that His love for you is enough to overcome any sin that wants to keep you in the tomb.

Christ is risen! And with Him, so are we!

Father God, thank You for sending your one and only Son to die on our behalf so that our faith in Him redeems all our sin and gives us new life. Lord Jesus, we celebrate your victory over death. To see the empty tomb is to remind us of the fullness of new life we’ve been given – both now and for eternity. Holy Spirit, your presence in us proves that we no longer live as empty tombs but as holy temples. We ask for your continuous help to live out this new life we’ve been given with humility and hope, with intentionality and integrity, with your truth and our trust. Empower us to embody all that Jesus is so that our lives can be beacons of light in the world around us just as His light displayed God’s glory on the first Easter morning. Hallelujah! Christ is risen! In His name, amen.
(inspired by: John 3:16; Romans 6:4; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20; John 14:26; Ephesians 4:2-6, 21-24; Psalm 25:21; Jeremiah 17:7; Matthew 5:14-16; John 17:1-5)

Resources: I love sharing with you the books, podcasts, articles, and anything else that has inspired, encouraged, or taught me. These are humble offerings with no expectations.

  • Just as Bryan and Katie Torwalt’s lyrics in “Nothing Is Holding Me Back” on our God of Hope playlist remind us, Jesus is doing something new. And Easter really marks us with that truth — like Him and in Him, we have died to our old selves and old ways, and we’re born into new life! And should we doubt we have the strength or power to live in such newness of life, We the Kingdom belts out the truth that “God Is On the Throne” — Hallelujah! He reigns! He saves! He’s never gonna let us down!
  • This ends our Lent series. I can’t believe our seven weeks have gone so fast. We’ll continue our exploration of hope in the next series, “This Hope,” where we’ll look at how suffering and hope work together. I know — suffering doesn’t sound like much fun. But the truth is, we all do suffer in this life, so it helps to know that in God’s upside-down kingdom, our suffering not only has purpose but our hope can be sourced by it. And the foundation of all our hope in the midst of suffering is God’s promises. Y’all, I think this is gonna be a good one. I hope you’ll join in and invite someone else to take part too. Happy Easter! XOXO

Rhythms we can incorporate into our daily lives to aid us in our dwelling with God, living for Him, and putting our hope in Him:

  • I pray that this rhythm of putting Isaiah’s words to memory sinks deeply into our psyches so that we’ll always remember that those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength — in Him, we’ll soar like eagles!!!!!

    Do you not know?
        Have you not heard?
    The Lord is the everlasting God,
        the Creator of the ends of the earth.
    He will not grow tired or weary,
        and his understanding no one can fathom.
    He gives strength to the weary
        and increases the power of the weak.
    Even youths grow tired and weary,
        and young men stumble and fall;
    but those who hope in the Lord
        will renew their strength
    They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
        they will walk and not be faint
    Isaiah 40:28-31, NIV
  • Finally, as a community, let us not neglect sharing God’s hope with others — especially in this Easter Season! Share your God-stories with people around you. Share this site. Share God’s Word. Shine His light into the world! 

Featured Photo by Photo by Jonny Gios on Unsplash. Bits and Pieces photo by Aleksandra Sapozhnikova on Unsplash.

Published by Shelley Linn Johnson

Lover of The Word. And words. Cultivator of curiosity about all things Christ. Lifelong learner who likes inviting others along for the journey. Recovering perfectionist who has only recently realized that rhythms are so much better than stress-inducing must-do's.

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