1 Peter 1: 3-9 (Easter Day 2017)
"Easter Gives us Living Hope!"
Three days ago we witnessed a death. We heard the testimony of those who were there. We learned that trained soldiers saw the mix of blood and water, evidence that rigor mortis was setting in. We read that Joseph and Nicodemus had lovingly, secretly placed the dead body of their Teacher and Lord in a tomb. Jesus of Nazareth was dead.
The gals on Sunday expected to find him that way. They set out to complete the embalming process. They wondered about a heavy stone. Emotions lurked of viewing the lifeless clay of their Teacher and friend. What a hopeless Saturday it must have been for them. But angelic witnesses of Sunday morning speak of life, and hope. Jesus of Nazareth, dead and buried, is now Jesus, the Son of God who lives!
The apostle Peter wraps up Easter so beautifully. These are his words of introduction to his first letter to a hurting Church. The hopes of early Christians were being dashed on the treacherous rocks of the devil’s bad theology; by terrorist acts against those who confessed Jesus as Lord; by the breakdown of family life and failing economy. Peter gives living hope founded on the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus.
Hope in Living Jesus
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish spoil or fade, kept in heaven for you.
That tomb held not only a dead body, but also our shame. If Jesus has not been raised, we believe in nothing. We have no real hope. If we believe in nothing but a dead Jesus, then our sins did not stay dead. All greedy thoughts and deceitful schemes awaken if Christ stays dead. We are still condemned to die eternally. If Jesus is still dead the devil stands ready to pile up a mountain of accusations against us. If he is still dead, we are still objects of God’s wrath … a certain eternal death results.
But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead. A living Jesus is a trustworthy Jesus. Christ is who claimed to be. Peter calls him the Son of our God and Father. The Lord Jesus has given us an entire book full of words and promises. Because of the Resurrection all of it is validated. Easter morning means that you can count on everything that Jesus teaches for this life and for eternity.
Christ has indeed been raised from the dead. Our greatest need is provided. He has been raised to life for our justification. Because he is alive, God assures us that our sins have been paid for in full and we are redeemed. Because he is alive our sinful nature remains in the tomb. His resurrection is the very power of his Word and Sacraments to forgive sins.
Christ has indeed been raised from the dead. He truly is the Son of God. His resurrection secures that fact. Everything he does in our lives, no matter what, has eternal purposes and meaning. That certainty makes our hope a living hope now, even in the lost difficult days, and a living hope for priceless inheritance.
Hope in Trials
“Through faith [you] are now shielded by God’s power … In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proven genuine.”
If Christ has not been raised, then the bad things that happen to people make no sense. There are plenty of stones on which to dash our hopes. This life of sin and corruption is certainly not the inheritance that Jesus has promised. Peter does not speak of hypothetical trials. He speaks of the sufferings the early church was already experiencing. Christians were being imprisoned and killed for their faith in Jesus. Congregations were huddling in closed corridors in the face of extreme poverty and broken homes. The gals on the way to the tomb asked “who will roll the stone away.” The early Christians asked “who will take these fiery trials away!?
Peter’s letter of a living hope was a must! The Resurrection of Jesus is the only thing that gives such hope. Your trials are not hypothetical either. You can very capably list them one by one. The devil would love to collapse your hope and collapse your faith by keeping Jesus dead in your hearts. Easter makes our faith alive and genuine. His Resurrection validates the fact that we are loved by God even in times of struggle and grief.
In the struggles of temptation, God is shaping your shield of faith in the refinery. In the sharp pain of persecuting peers, God is sharpening the sword of your confession. In the grief of temporal losses God is clarifying your trust in his eternal blessings. In the grief of death God is shaping your view of life. The waters will not sweep over your head. The fires will not singe you (Isaiah 43:3). Like gold made better in a molting fires, the Lord validates your trust in a living Jesus and your belief heavenly things! Then …
Hope for Eternity!
Though you have not seen him, you love him and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
If Jesus has not been raised, then no one will be raised on the last day. If Jesus has not been raised, then there is no such thing as eternal life. If the message of Easter is not true, then the atheists would be right to believe in nothing; the soldiers would not have taken money for lies; there would be no comfort in hospice rooms; there would be no comfort at grave sides. There would only be a clutching on to what “good” things we can find here … and then pity when those things don’t work out so well after all.
Peter reminds us that our hope is not only that we will get to go to heaven one day. That is indeed great news enough for rejoicing! Our unseen hope for eternity fills us now. Our inexpressible joy is now! We have no need of idols in temporal things. The power of forgiveness cheers our conscience in this life. The peace of Jesus and his words quiet our troubled hearts here. His Church, though pressed through trials, experiences the hands of his many blessings now. Our eternal hope causes an inexpressible and glorious joy in believers that the world cannot see or perceive.
Still, only in heaven will that joy be made complete. Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. Because a man brought death, God saw fit for a man, the second Adam, to bring life. This is the power of Baptism to give you a living hope. This is the Lord’s Supper to promise life everlasting. This is the power of Christ to promise a resurrection of your body from the grave and into the inheritance can never perish, spoil or fade.
Our living hope assures us that our treasures in heaven will be new and fresh for all eternity. Life with Christ will not curd up like milk left on a counter. The things of heaven won’t rust out like the bottoms of our cars. Pleasures in heaven won’t fade away like last year’s T-shirts. Behold he is making all things new; alive! Rejoice this Easter day! He is arisen, indeed. Your Jesus is the trust worthy Son of God who took away the sin of the world; who gives living hope: hope in this world, and hope for the world to come!
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish spoil or fade, kept in heaven for you, who through faith are now shielded by God’s power until the coming of salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proven genuine and result in praise glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
Though you have not seen him, you love him and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. Amen! And Alleluia!