2nd Sunday of Easter
1 Peter 1:3-9
He is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Grace, mercy, and peace to you from Him who is, and who was, and who is to come, our Risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! In his name, dear friends in Christ,
There’s peace in security, right? If you deposit money in a bank, you’re glad to hear that it’s FDIC insured. Which means that there is an agency of the government called the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation that makes sure that your money will be safe, it won’t be taken from you if something catastrophic happens to the banking industry. There are home security companies that for a cost you can have a security system installed at your home that provides 24/7 monitoring for fire, theft, or water damage. Why so? So that your stuff won’t be taken from you. You can rest assured when you are away from your home. There are also a bunch of companies that provide identity theft protection. You give them all your personal information and they monitor it so that your identity isn’t taken away from you. Wow! What a world we live in! We live in a world where quite literally you can lose just about everything you have! You can have your property taken by theft, fire, tornado, or flooding. You can have your health taken from you by disease, illness, accident, or old age. You can even have your identity taken from you!
What a world! Perhaps it shows us somewhat of how frail and fragile our lives really are. Wouldn’t it be nice to have something that can’t be taken away from you? Finally, what is suffering? Suffering is losing something that you hold dear. The apostle Peter in our text was writing to people who were experiencing suffering for being Christians. They were starting to feel losses in life- maybe reputations or maybe friendships – just for being Christians. And here God gives them and us the cure in every loss in life.
Perhaps one of the clearest pictures that most of us can think of when it comes to suffering are the concentration camps in Nazi Germany. In one of these concentration camps there was a man named Victor Frankl who was a Jewish psychologist and so, as such, he studied the way people reacted to the suffering that they were undergoing. You see in a concentration camp you experience a lot of things taken away from you: your freedom is taken away, family members were either separated or killed, you lost your dignity, your possessions were all lost or taken away, even your health and strength. And what he observed were four different ways that people dealt with all of this loss. Some people became just brutal- even the nicest people became angry and brutal trying to survive. Some people just gave up and lost all hope of ever getting out and when they lost that hope they also lost their resistance to fight off germs and would just shrivel up and die. Others had a hope, they dreamed about how when they finally would get out how they would get back all the things that they lost. But he noticed that after some of them did get out and were able to get some of their lives back many of them became severely depressed because it was not what they dreamed it would be. And finally there was one last group of people. People who maintained this inner peace, inner strength, inner freedom in spite of their awful living conditions.
So what was different about these last people? They had something that the concentration camp couldn’t take away. They had a living hope that couldn’t be taken away by all the losses of life. So Victor Frankl came to this conclusion: “Life only has meaning if we have a hope and a meaning that suffering and even death cannot destroy.”
Now, thankfully, we don’t live in a concentration camp. But really, a concentration camp is in a way all the inevitable losses of life concentrated, isn’t it? I mean, eventually we will lose our freedom- as our bodies get older we can’t do just whatever we want. Eventually we do lose family and friends in death. Eventually we do lose our health. Eventually – if Jesus doesn’t come sooner – we will all lose our lives. Because we live in a sinful and broken world we will experience in life one loss after another after another. And so, if we place our hope in anything in this life, eventually we’re going to lose it. And what next? Either we’ll become brutal and angry, we’ll give up and become despondent, or we’ll be sorely disappointed.
But what if, what if, you had something that none of the losses in life could take away? What if you had something that was a true and living hope? What if you had something that suffering and even death could not destroy?
The apostle Peter did and you do too! Did you see it? He’s so full of this living hope that he just erupts in praise to God: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!” Did you also notice later he said, “In this you greatly rejoice” and later “you…are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.” Really? How could this be? And this is from the man who had abandoned Jesus in the Garden, denied even knowing him, and locked himself away behind locked doors in fear?? What changed? This is what changed: “In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” That’s what happened. Jesus’ resurrection from the dead changed everything!
Because of Jesus’ resurrection you are at peace with God. That’s what Jesus said when he appeared to his disciples: “Peace be with you.” And he showed them the proof- He died on the cross for their sins, but He rose from the dead for their forgiveness. Because of Jesus’ resurrection Peter knew that his sins were forgiven, he was at peace with God, eternal life was his. And that’s true for you too! Because Jesus is alive your sins are forgiven, you have peace with God, you have “an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in heaven for you.” And you are “through faith shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.”
You see, Jesus resurrection from the dead is proof positive that you have something that all suffering, all loss, even death can’t take from you- you have God’s love, peace with Him, His protection, and eternal life. Nothing can take those things away from you. In Jesus and His resurrection from the dead you have the ultimate living hope.
And you know what that means? That means you can rejoice. “Rejoice greatly” “Are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.” But did you notice? You have this joy even though “for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.” Suffering and loss are part and parcel of this sinful world that we live. We will continue to experience loss until the day we die. But notice what he said? In the midst of the loss we still have joy. You see, most people in the world attach their happiness to their circumstance. If my health is good = I’m happy, if my family is good = I’m happy, if my job is good = I’m happy. But as we have seen, we can lose all those things, then what? We’re lost, we’re devastated. But we have a living hope. It’s a living hope not based on circumstances, so even if our circumstances are terrible, we still have joy. How so? Jesus’ resurrection guarantees the fact that our sins are forgiven, our death has been defeated, and so even death is the means through which God brings us into our glorious inheritance in heaven that can’t be touched.
That means we can live with joy in the midst of sorrow and loss. Here’s a quick illustration. You have two people, you give them identical jobs, 85 hours/week, same working conditions, no vacations, no benefits, but you pay the one $30,000 a year and you pay the other $30 million a year. What’s going to happen? One is going to say, “I can’t take this any longer!” But the other? What’s he going to say? “This job is a breeze!”
In Jesus’ resurrection we have an inheritance, it’s ours, it’s kept safe in heaven, we have it now and will enjoy it fully in the future and it’s infinitely better than 30 million dollars! That means you can live your life with joy, give yourself fully to serving this Savior, and share this wonderful good news message of our resurrected Savior! Live with the living hope of Jesus’ resurrection! Amen.