"The MIGHTY Lord is with us; the God of Jacob is our FORTRESS." Psalm 46:7
 
 

Easter Sunday                                      
Rev. D. K. Schroeder
1 Peter 1:3-9 Sermon                                                       
April 4, 2010

Hymns (from the Service Book and Hymnal):
92 "Jesus Christ Is Risen Today"
387 "I Know That My Redeemer Lives"
105 "The Day Of Resurrection"
90 "The Strife Is O'er, The Battle Done"
103 "Now Let The Vault Of Heaven Resound"

A LIVING HOPE

 TEXT:  "3Praise 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, 4and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade-kept in heaven for you, 5who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7These 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. 8Though 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, 9for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls." 

 

            I would imagine that most of you would be acquainted with the old Andy Griffith Show--you know, the one that was set in Mayberry, North Carolina, and had characters like Barney, and Opie, and Aunt Bee.  These old shows are replayed on TV Land and Nickelodeon and other various channels all the time.  This old show has been a favorite family show for many years.

            On one particular episode, Opie had met up with a gentleman by the name of Mr. McBeevee.  And the way Opie had described him, it was pretty incredible.  According to Opie, Mr. McBeevee lived in the woods.  He wore a shiny silver hat, and walked around in the tree tops.  Opie also said that he had twelve extra hands, and had the ability to make smoke come out of his ears.  Of course everybody thought this was just a product of Opie's over-active imagination that had invented an invisible friend.

            Then one day, Opie came home with a hatchet.  He said that Mr. McBeevee gave it to him.  Of course this concerned everybody, because they knew an imaginary friend could not have given Opie a hatchet.  So Andy tells Opie to take it back where he found it.  And as one thing led to another, the stories kept getting more and more incredible.  Barney was very critical of Opie's imagination, and he kept saying, "you've got to nip it in the bud."

            Eventually, Andy winds up punishing Opie for lying about Mr. McBeevee.  And as you would expect, Opie is absolutely crushed that nobody would believe him.

            It wasn't until Andy was taking a walk in the woods to work off his frustration, when he muttered Mr. McBeevee's name.  And lo and behold, from way up high, Mr. McBeevee answers him.

            It turns out that Mr. McBeevee was a lineman for the power company, and he spent his time up on poles--or as Opie described it, walking around in the tree-tops.  His shiny silver hat was his hard-hat, and his twelve extra hands were the tools in his tool belt.  And to make smoke come out of his ears, Mr. McBeevee had lit a cigarette, blew a little smoke into his closed hand, held it up to his ear, and opened his hand.  When the puff of smoke was released, it appeared as if it had come out of his ear. 

            Then everything made sense.  The way Opie had described him, it seemed like utter nonsense to everybody.  But when it was all put together, it was just Opie's way of describing a lineman.  Of course Andy felt very foolish, especially since he doubted his son's word, despite Opie's protests to the opposite.

            This morning, we are looking at an empty tomb.  It's the reason we are here.  We are celebrating Christ's resurrection from the dead.  We exclaim "He is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Hallelujah!"  Based upon the fact that the tomb was empty, and that Jesus demonstrated he was alive, we know for a fact that we have an actual event we are celebrating.  It's not some old wives' tale, or a page out of mythology, or a fabrication of somebody's inventive mind.  It is actual historical fact.

            Our Gospel lesson for this morning is Luke's account of the resurrection, which is recorded near the end of his gospel.  At the very beginning, in Luke chapter 1 verses 3-4, this is what Luke says about his record: "3Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you... 4so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught."

            This was not speculation or educated guesswork on Luke's part.  His record is the result of thorough investigation.  The various things Luke recorded had come directly from the disciples themselves  And why?  So we could be absolutely certain about the validity of what we are reading.  There can be no mistake about the truth of Luke's record.  This is especially relevant to what we are addressing today, as we study Christ's actual physical resurrection from the dead.

            Normally I would preach from one of the Gospel accounts of the resurrection on Easter.  However our Lenten series this year suggested a different text, which is the one I read a short time ago from the first general Epistle of Peter.  Peter's letter gives us a bit different view of things.  Peter of course was there, and he is mentioned in the Gospel reading from Luke.  However when we read Peter's own words, suddenly we know what this resurrection meant to him personally.  And not only that, we also know what it means to us.  And so to use Peter's own words, we can see how Christ's resurrection from the dead gives us "A Living Hope."

            In order to appreciate Peter's words, we have to first look at how he was involved.  And for this, we turn to Luke's Gospel to see how everything unfolded.

            To start off, we know one thing for sure; nobody was expecting a resurrection.  Nobody!  In fact the only person who might have had a clue was Martha, and she isn't even mentioned here. 

            So why Martha?  Not too long before this, Mary and Martha's brother Lazarus had died.  If we look at John chapter 11 verses 21-27, we can read some of the dialogue between Jesus and Martha:   21"Lord," Martha said to Jesus, "if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask."  23Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again."  24Martha answered, "I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day."  25Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; 26and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" 27"Yes, Lord," she told him...  But that's Martha's testimony, and not Peters.

            Still, out of all the disciples, Peter should have known better.  Listen to the conversation between Jesus and Peter recorded in Mark chapter 8 verses 31-33:  "31[Jesus] then began to teach [the disciples] that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. 32He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. 'Get behind me, Satan!' he said. 'You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.'"

            After all of the clear explaining Jesus did, and even after he rebuked Peter, he still couldn't put everything together!  None of the disciples were expecting a resurrection.  None of the women were expecting it either.

            On that first Easter, the women had made some definite plans.  They gathered up all of the necessary ingredients to finish the embalming process.  They even mused amongst themselves as to who would roll the huge heavy stone from the entrance. 

            When they discovered the empty tomb, they immediately went to tell the disciples.  Luke chapter 24 verse 11 records the disciples reaction: "11 But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense."  They reacted about like Andy and Barney did when Opie told them about Mr. McBeevee.

            The word that is translated "nonsense" is an interesting one.  It's the Greek word "lay-russ."  Literally it means "the wild talk of somebody who is completely delirious or insane."

            These women brought an incredible message to a group of eleven complete skeptics who were unwilling to accept this.  Even when Peter went to the tomb himself to investigate, he left in a completely puzzled state.  After everything Jesus had said, he still couldn't put it together.

            Now as we move into Peter's first Epistle, we see a complete turn-about.  Granted we're talking about a time span of about 30 years, but still there is a complete shift in attitude.

            In our text today, we have a particular Greek word used to describe faith and belief.  It is the word "pistis."  Listen to these phrases: "...who through faith are shielded by God's power....your faith-of greater worth than gold....even though you do not see him now, you believe in him..."  This is the same faith that is talked about in John chapter 3 verse 16 that says, "...whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." 

            That little word carries an incredible amount of weight.  This is the term used to describe a saving faith, a faith that ensures an eternity in heaven.  The difference between heaven and hell teeters on this one word!

            And the most sobering thing of all is that the disciples' initial reaction to the women's news of the resurrection was the complete opposite.  The Greek word is "hay-pis-two-on," which describes the 180 degree, exact opposite of a saving faith.  The immediate conclusion to all this, is that a saving faith is one that must accept without a doubt Christ's physical resurrection from the dead.

            From Peter's Epistle, we know where his faith is.   Right at the beginning, he presents us with the doctrine which is the keystone of the Christian faith: the account of Jesus' resurrection. He begins with that happy event on which the church stands or falls. And then, piles on the descriptive words to show us what is ours through the resurrection of our Saviour from the dead! " . . . new birth . . . living hope . . . an inheritance that can never perish . . . kept in heaven for you . . . shielded by God's power . . . revealed in the last time . . ." so that we can rejoice in "all kinds of trials" because they "refine [our] faith, which is of greater worth than gold."

            Every time I think of Peter, I am always amazed at what God can do.  He was stubborn, opinionated, crude, and well acquainted with the ways of the world.  He could boast and brag right along with the best of them; but when push came to shove, you couldn't find a bigger coward.  He was even intimidated by a servant girl who asked him about his association with Jesus.  He was intimidated to the point of lying more than once to her!

            The Gospel of Jesus most certainly changed his heart.  Peter was the type of person who had been forgiven for a lot of things; and because he was forgiven much, he loved much.  The Holy Spirit worked in him and changed him from being a cowardly sinner into a redeemed and loved child of God.  If that miracle of faith worked such a change in Peter's life, we can certainly appreciate how he has worked in our lives too!  God can take the likes of sinful people like you and me, create faith in our hearts, and bring us out of the muck and mire of sin into the glorious hope of eternal life.

            In verses 3-4 of our text today, Peter writes:  "...In his great mercy [God] has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade-kept in heaven for you..."

            A living hope for you.  That describes our personal relationship with Jesus our Saviour through faith alone.  We have a God who not only gives second chances, but third, fourth, fifth, and as many chances as we need.  We can always come to him and find a living hope.

            In our text, Peter says that because of our faith, we will be "filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy..."  To get an idea of what kind of joy this is, just think of those times in your life when you have been the happiest.  Those times cannot even hold a candle to the happiness and joy we will experience in heaven forever.

            Our living hope is always before us.  Yet we are keenly aware that the sinful flesh inside of us, and the devil's work in the world around us will always try to destroy our Spirit-given faith, and try to rob us of our glorious inheritance. Afflictions will happen in our lives.  Tragedy can happen.  Things can be taken from us.  Finally, we are left with nothing but the Word and promise of the almighty God, which points us to the cross and empty tomb. There and there alone we find the everlasting arms of the Father, holding us up when all else fails us.  Jesus is always there; and through faith alone, we can always be assured that we are indeed his beloved children who, because he lives, will also live with him forever.

            This morning, we look at an empty tomb.  It's emptiness is an historical fact.  Many have tried to come up with alternate explanations as to why it was empty on that first Easter morning.  Even people today look at the miracle of the resurrection, and see it in much the same way as Andy, and Barney, and Aunt Bee regarded Opie's story about his friend, Mr. McBeevee. 

            But we know the truth.  The Holy Spirit has worked the faith in our hearts to accept that truth.  Christ's physical resurrection from the dead is where we hang our hope for eternity.  He has promised that because he lives, we shall also live.  Therefore, throughout our lives, each and every day, we can exclaim:  "He is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Hallelujah!"

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