Posted by: St. Mark Lutheran Church | April 4, 2010

Sermon on 1 Peter 1:3-9

Sermon preached for Easter Dawn, continuing the seasonal series, “From the Catechism to the Cross,” this time focusing on the Second Article of the Apostles’ Creed, “I believe in Jesus Christ.”

Downloadable Version

It All Starts at the Empty Tomb

In the name of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! 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 shielded by God’s power until the coming of the 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 proved genuine and may 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.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

Today we give credit where credit is due – to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  Why?  Peter’s verses detail it for us, but let’s think in Easter broad strokes first.  Luther reminds us that God’s kingdom comes in two ways – in time, through Word and Sacrament, and in eternity through revelation.  We are in time, but looking forward to eternity, with a living hope, with a perfectly guarded inheritance, guarded ourselves until Christ comes – because Christ rose.  This is everything.  It all starts at the empty tomb.

This is where my new birth starts!  God the Father has given us new birth. Here is the major characteristic of our God.  This is what defines Him – He is the new birth giver!  And He did it at the tomb.  It is Jesus’ resurrection that gives us this new birth.  All this He did that I should be His own…just as He has risen from death… As we confess in the Nicene Creed, He did this for us men and for our salvation.

So this is where my hope starts!  And not just any hope, but, a living hope.  He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. This isn’t pie in the sky; it’s pizza on the plate.  This isn’t a politician’s promise.  This isn’t hoping that the health care bill works or that wars in Iraq and Afghanistan might come to peaceful ends.  It’s real, true, certain, and sure, because something else is real, true, certain, and sure – the resurrection of Jesus Christ!  And to make it absolutely clear what we’re talking about, Peter added, from the dead. Jesus was lifeless, deceased, bereft of life.  He was not in a coma.  He hadn’t passed out.  This wasn’t a publicity stunt.  The body in the tomb had no pulse.  Now it does.  He was dead, now He’s alive.  And because He is, so are we!  We have hope!  Yes, Praise God!

But there’s more!  We have an inheritance!  And it starts at the empty tomb too.  He hasn’t just given us new birth into a living hope (as if that weren’t enough), but also into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade, kept in heaven for you. What an inheritance!  It is undying, it is unspoilable, it cannot decay.  It is eternal, it is pure, it is beautiful. And it’s an accomplished fact.  It’s being guarded right now.  God will never think twice about granting forgiveness based on the cross of Christ.  This sacrifice was effective, is effective, and ever will be.  You have a living hope.  You have an eternal inheritance.  It’s in heaven, waiting for you.  All this He did that I should be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness. This is not like those letters saying that two tickets are being held for you for a 3-day, 2-night cruise to Jamaica.  This isn’t, “You may have already won….”  This is living hope.  This is new birth.  This is eternal inheritance.  This is given by God to you through Christ!

So, your confidence of protection begins here too.  [Y]ou, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. Until the moment you saw the risen Christ, you couldn’t be sure.  But now you can be.  He is who He said He is.  He’s done what He said He’d do.  He’ll continue to fulfill what He’s promised.  My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. This is the reality of Deliver us from evil, even as we go through many hardships.

Which means my joyful anticipation of the end also began at the empty tomb. In this you greatly rejoice, Peter says.  In what?  That you are shielded by God’s power until the Christ returns in glory.  You can rejoice now, just as you will rejoice then.  Even though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. You know how the movie ends, because you’ve seen the empty tomb.  Christ is risen, which means Christ wins!  He was reborn to life, and so were you.  As Peter says later, For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also….  It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ….

And so your faith, proved genuine in trials, starts at the empty tomb too.  The reality of the resurrection gives Baptism its power.  The reality of the resurrection gives the proclamation of the Word its power.  Without the resurrection, everything we do here is pointless.  There’s nothing to hope, nothing to trust, nothing to grasp.  You’re still lost in your sins.  You’re still stuck trying to right the ship and get in good with God on your own.  But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead!  Your faith has something to hang its hat on.

Which means your love for Christ really starts here too.  Though you have not seen Him, you love Him. What a profound thought, but no less true.  You love Him because He loved you this much.  He was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, crucified, died, and buried.  He descended into hell.  He rose from the dead.  He ascended into heaven.  He sits at God’s right hand.  From there He will come to judge the living and the dead.  For us.  He has redeemed you, a lost and condemned creature.  He did all this to purchase and win you, not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood, with His innocent suffering and death.  All this He did so that you should be His own.

Which means your faith starts and ends at the empty tomb.  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. What’s the goal?  To avoid hell.  To get to heaven.  Eternal life.  Peace with God.  A clean conscience.  All of that starts right here, right now.  The tomb is empty.  He is not here.  He is arisen, just as He said.  What He started, He finished.  For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!  Amen.

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