The Second Sunday After Easter April 26, 2009
1 Peter 1:3-9
191, 352, 206(1-6), 732 [TLH alt, 201]
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.
In Christ Jesus that Savior through whom we have a living hope, dear fellow-redeemed:
“This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” There were two times in Jesus ministry when God spoke these words from Heaven. He spoke these words at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry—at His baptism as Jesus entered into that life which would be lived for us (cf. Matthew 3:17). God also declared, “This is My beloved Son at the end of His ministry on the Mount of Transfiguration when His life was nearly complete and His suffering and death was drawing near.
There is a third time when God declared this same thing, but this time it was not through words. The third declaration of God’s pleasure in His Son was on Easter morning. Jesus, the Son of God who became man, lived a perfect life, and then died for sins completed everything necessary for the sinners’ salvation. He had fulfilled the Father’s plan of salvation and so by raising Jesus from the dead, God declared “this is My beloved Son in whom I am well-pleased” without actually saying a word. If anywhere in the course of Jesus’ life or at the completion of His work of redemption God’s pleasure would have stopped with Jesus we would have no salvation. If Jesus had not lived a perfect life with which God could be completely pleased, his life would not have been a sacrifice that would have merited our forgiveness. If somehow Jesus had not pleased God in fulfilling what our sins deserve, again we would be lost. Indeed Jesus became “displeasing” to God as He suffered on the cross for our sins and thus God forsook Him, however, that was also the payment that God demanded for sins and was, thus, pleasing to Him. And as Paul wrote in the first letter to the Corinthians, “If Christ is not raised our faith is in vain and we are still in our sins” (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:17). If God wasn’t pleased with Jesus sacrifice and did not raise Him from the dead, we would still be lost. Therefore, the Father’s statement by raising Jesus from the dead is the guarantee and seal of our forgiveness.
Through Jesus’ resurrection, our heavenly Father gives us specific Easter gifts and we consider three of those gifts today. Our heavenly Father gives us I. A living hope, II. An unfailing inheritance, and III. An Inexpressible joy.
Peter begins in our text by explaining how it is that we came to have these gifts from our God in the first place. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who according to his abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” [v.3] The Father’s Easter gifts, beginning with the living hope, come to us purely from God’s mercy. Really everything that we have and enjoy is a gift from God’s mercy. He looks upon us with compassion. He answers our prayers with His undeserved love and gives us what we need. None of this comes because of our goodness. We deserve nothing but judgment because of our sins, and yet, God shows mercy and grace and gives us rebirth as His children so that we might receive the living hope and His other gifts.
We are born again through faith in Christ Jesus as our Savior. We need to be born again because we are dead in trespasses and sins. Jesus told Nicodemus “Unless one is born again he cannot see the Kingdom of God” (John 3:3). Nicodemus was shocked and wondered how he, an older man, could reenter his mother’s womb and be born again. Jesus explained to Nicodemus that He was speaking of a spiritual rebirth accomplished by the Holy Spirit as He uses the Gospel in Baptism and in the hearing of God’s Word to bring sinners to faith and through faith into the family of God and salvation. We sinners who were dead in trespasses and sins (cf. Ephesians 2) have been born again to a new life. This rebirth brings us into God’s family and there we receive His gifts, and this is completely God’s doing. Our rebirth is “not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:13).
The gifts we receive from the Father through our rebirth—and indeed the rebirth itself—is dependent on the resurrection of Jesus and the sealed completion of redemption. Our living hope is “through the redemption of Jesus Christ” because if Jesus he did not rise our gifts would be nothing but words and good feelings, our salvation would be lost, and there would be no real hope at all.
But since Jesus did rise from the dead, our living hope is different from any other hope that we might have. The quality of any hope depends upon the object of your hope. If I hope that someone has the right forecast for the weather or the economy or anything else, I’m basing that hope on the individual’s expertise. That hope can disappoint because human expertise, although good, is not flawless. If I base my hope in a bank account and the ability to pay my way out of trouble, my hope may fail and become a “dead hope” because of the small balance in my account. If I base my hope on some other human being, that hope may very well die with the individual. If our hope is in anything on this earth, it will eventually become a “dead hope” because we will all die and everything in this life comes to an end.
The apostle Paul talked about a different kind of hope in relationship to Abraham. When Abraham was holding onto the hope of having a son, it wasn’t an earthly hope and it wasn’t a dead hope. Paul said that Abraham “contrary to hope, in hope believed…according to what was spoken, ‘So shall your descendants be.’” (Romans 4:18). Abrahams hope was contrary to hope because humanly speaking it didn’t seem possible at all for him and his old wife to have a son. But Abraham was able to hope against the human hope because he had a living hope in the sure word and promise of the living God. Therein lies the difference between any hope on this earth and the living hope that we have as a gift from God.
The hope we have from our heavenly Father is a living hope first of all because is based upon his living Word. God’s Word doesn’t die, it doesn’t fade, and it doesn’t change so any hope that we place on the words and promises of God will live and survive everything. That hope cannot die because it is built on the living eternal Word of God.
One of our hymns states: “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness” (TLH 370:1). The very basis of our salvation and our standing with God is built on the blood and righteousness of our Savior, Jesus. The certain hope of salvation and our confident standing with God as His children is dependent upon a living Jesus with whom the Father is well-pleased and whose work of redemption was satisfactory to the Father.
Our hope is alive and well because Jesus is alive and well. Had Jesus remained dead our hope would be dead, but indeed we have a living Savior who gives us His righteousness and also continues to live for us. In one of our Easter hymns, the hymn writer declares his living hope when he says: “[My Redeemer] lives to bless me with His love, He lives to plead for me above. He lives my hungry soul to feed. He lives to grant me rich supply, He lives to guide me with His eye. He lives to silence all my fears, He lives to wipe away my tears. He lives to calm my troubled heart, He lives all blessings to impart” (TLH 200) How can Jesus do all of these things? Because He lives! He is a living Savior who has your best interests at heart. He is a living Savior who actively knows what you are facing. He is the living Savior who actively governs the affairs of this world for your blessing and the blessing of all believers.
Your hope is living, never-to-die, because your Savior is living never to die again.
A second Easter gift from your heavenly Father also comes as a result of your rebirth according to God’s mercy and through the resurrection of Jesus. This gift is an unfailing inheritance. “[The Father] according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again…to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in Heaven for you…ready to be revealed in the lat last time” [vv.3-5]
The first gift, the living hope, is something you possess right now. The living hope is something that changes your outlook on life as it did for Jesus’ disciples after they believed He was truly alive (cf. New Testament Reading). Your living hope is gift for the here and the now of this earth, for the comfort in sorrow, the rest for a guilty conscience, and the strength to persevere. The unfailing inheritance is the climax and completion of the living hope. This gift is in your possession right now—by faith, but it will be yours by sight and experience in the glories of Heaven.
The unfailing inheritance is the culmination of what Jesus has given to us. It is something that we will realize in fullness after we die and then throughout all eternity. It doesn’t fade away like an inheritance we might receive here where “moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal” (cf. Matthew 6:20). In this life we may receive an inheritance and with it by a new home, a new car, an education, but even the usefulness of an education eventually ends, homes grow old, and cars break down. The crown of life which God promises to those who remain faithful until death (cf. Revelation 2:10) is an inheritance that never ends and never fails. It is an inheritance that doesn’t fade away for the glory and the joy of heaven will be constant forever.
It is this unfailing inheritance that Jesus had in mind when He said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:25-26). Even when our life on the earth comes to an end, our souls will live on with our Savior in Heaven, and then be rejoined with glorified bodies on the Last Day. Even when everything we’ve accumulated and everything we’ve done is gone and forgotten, the inheritance of life eternal will not fade away. What will fade away are the sorrows and trials, sicknesses and pains that we experienced here. In that unfailing inheritance “God will wipe away every tear from [our] eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things [will have] passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
This unfailing inheritance is reserved for you and every child of God. Jesus said, “In My Father’s house are many mansion; if it were not so I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you, and if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:2-3). The only thing that is separating you from your reserved place in the unfailing inheritance is time. Whether we have many years left on the earth or only a few hours, it is that time chosen and established by God that keeps us from the inheritance. But God has that covered too, because during that time—your time of grace on the earth—“you are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation” [v.5] While awaiting the time of God’s choosing to bring you safely into your unfailing inheritance, our abundantly merciful God uses His unsurpassed power to keep you, deliver you from every evil work, and preserve you for His heavenly kingdom (cf. 2 Timothy 4:18).
The third Easter gift from our heavenly Father is inexpressible joy. This joy is so inexpressible and so human incomprehensible in part because it is a joy that is able exist even in sorrow and trouble. “In this[inheritance] you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials” [v.6]
Having been born again according to God’s abundant mercy and therefore having a living hope and an unfailing inheritance creates a confident joy even while crying and suffering. One of the ways that you can find this joy even in the midst of sorrows is by knowing that there is a purpose for the trials that you face.
We can find joy in the knowledge that God can use our hardship and sorrow for His purposes: “…that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” [v.7] God says that He will use the pressure of sorrows and the “heat” of misery in this life to refine our faith. Just as heat melts gold and burns off the inferior products, so God uses the trials of this life to purify and strengthen our faith. He does this to make our faith more sure, less distracted, and better able to rest completely on the rock of our salvation. God’s goal is that in the end we will be found resting our faith in the Lord for His glory and our eternal salvation. In Psalm 121, God promises to “preserve your soul” and to accomplish this purpose He may at times use the fires of this earth’s troubles to purify our faith.
We can be assured of God’s gracious dealings with us and find joy even in sorrow because we have that first Easter gift—a living hope. Paul told the Romans: “…we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint…” (Romans 5:3-5) because it is that living hope built upon and dependant upon our living Savior. Paul expressed the joy and confidence that is ours, again in writing to the Romans, “I am persuaded that neither death nor life, no angels nor principalities nor power, nor things present nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus my Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).
We love Jesus even though we have not seen Him because He is the one who brings us the gift of inexpressible joy. Peter wrote, “Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressive and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.” [vv.8-9] We have ant inexpressible joy when we keep the eyes of our faith focused on Jesus, our living Savior.
You have three Easter gifts from your heavenly Father. Each one comes out of His abundant mercy. Each one comes through the resurrection and ongoing life of Your Savior. Each one is a treasure to hold and to value above all others. You have a living hope, an inheritance that will not fade, and in those gifts an inexpressible joy. Amen.
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