“Thou art Simon … thou shalt be Peter,” said Jesus, and at that Simon lifted up his head and his heart. His redemption began at that moment. Courage and high resolve entered into his heart there and then. He was saved “by hope.”
“Thou art … thou shalt be,” in that contrast you have the optimism, the redeeming optimism of Jesus. No man can be a redeemer who has not a “shalt be” for the persons he seeks to redeem. Plato could not be a redeemer to the poor and low-born of Greece, he had no “shalt be” for them. Priests and scribes could not be redeemers to the publicans and sinners of Palestine. They had no “shalt be” for them.
There are plenty of men who can diagnose the condition of mankind to-day with exactness, who can point out the ill and describe the malady, but they can do nothing to redeem, because they know no cure. Thomas Hardy can describe with terrible fidelity man’s misery and woe, but he can do little to redeem him; he has no “shalt be.”
But Jesus Christ is fitted to be the world’s Redeemer just because He has a “shalt be” for every one. Taking us just as we are, He tells us of something better and nobler, which by the grace of God we may become “Thou art … thou shalt be.
He has a “shalt be” for us, no matter how desperate and hopeless our case may appear to be.
Knowing our weakness and shame, He speaks to us of a “shalt be” of strength, and honour, and victory.
Think of the “shalt be’s” He uttered to others.
He found Mary in her shame, and spoke to her a “shalt be” of holiness and purity.
He found Levi at his toll-booth and spoke to him a “shalt be” of service and saintliness.
He found Saul a blasphemer and persecutor and injurious, and spoke to him a “shalt be” of grace and apostleship.
And the Christ who hoped for the harlot and the publican and the persecutor of long ago hopes still with an invincible hope for the most abject and desperate of men.
He goes about this sad and stricken world whispering to the men and women who have lost heart and are down His “shalt be” that speaks of the dawn and the better day.
“Thou art weak,” He says to this one; “thou shalt be strong.” “Thou art bound in affliction and iron,” He says to another; “thou shalt be set at liberty.” “Thou art vile and full of sin,” he says to a third; “thou shalt be clean as a little child.” “Thou art a prodigal among the swine … thou shalt be a son at home.” And this “shalt be” of Christ’s, this radiant optimism of His, lifts men out of their sloth and their sin and their despair. It makes “new men” of them.
They are saved “by hope.”
From J.D. Jones, The Gospel of Grace, “The Optimism of Jesus” (1907), 20-23.