Wednesday of Easter 3 (A)
April 29, 2020
Text: 1 Peter 1:17-25
Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!
In this world of continual change and decay, what are the things that really last? We know what does not last. Riches, perishable things such as silver or gold. These slip through our fingers like sand. You can spend a lifetime amassing money and possessions, and these can be wiped out in a month of pandemic. The old ways, the ways of the flesh inherited from your fathers, are futile. Things fall apart. Moth and rust destroy. Thieves break in and steal. Governments corrupt and fail. Societies break apart. Our own bodies deteriorate. Creation groans. In this fallen world, subjected to futility by our sin, nature itself decays. The grass withers. The flower falls. St. Peter, echoing the Prophet Isaiah, says our flesh is like that (1 Peter 1:24; cf. Is. 40-6-8). It withers and falls. It dies. Life in this world does not last. That cannot be our hope.
What does last is the Word of the Lord, and Jesus Christ, who comes to us in that Word. That is our hope. That… He… Jesus alone is our hope. Unlike all that withers and falls, Jesus is the eternal Son of the Father, foreknown before the foundation of the world, the Word that was with God in the beginning, the Word that is God. And it is He who was made manifest in these last times for your sake. Without beginning, without end, God’s Son is everlasting. Jesus lasts. And the things of Jesus last.
His sin-atoning blood and death. That is your hope. As you confess with Dr. Luther in the Small Catechism, echoing St. Peter in our text, He “has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death.” Why? “(T)hat I may live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true.”
Yes, His resurrection. That is your hope. That is life that lasts. Jesus lives, forever. Not only as God, but as Man, with a body, His body that was crucified for your sins, dead, and buried, now risen, living and reigning. Peter says that through Him, the Lord Jesus, you are now believers in God, who raised Him from the dead! The resurrection of Jesus lasts forever. He died once. Death can never take Him again. He is no longer subject to its cruel grasp.
And you are included in His death and in His resurrection life, baptized into Christ. That is what it means to be born again, not of perishable seed, the seed of the flesh, but of imperishable, God’s own child. Holy Baptism is your rebirth and renewal in the Holy Spirit, by water and the Word. The old you has died with Christ, drowned in Baptism, and that old you daily dies with Christ in repentance. The new you has been raised with Christ, a new creation arising from the baptismal waters, nourished by His body and blood, forgiven all sin for Jesus’ sake, spiritually alive and marked for the resurrection of the flesh on the Last Day. This life you’ve been given, is the life of faith and hope in God through Christ, the Crucified, who is risen from the dead. Faith and hope are the things that last.
And love. Christian love. Love that flows from Christ to you, and through you toward your neighbor. Sincere brotherly love from a heart that has been purified by the blood of Jesus (both philadelphian and agape are indicated in the text, by the way, for you Greek scholars). This love is not simply warm and fuzzy feelings or the emotion of a burning affection. It is decision! It is concrete action! It is self-sacrifice. Jesus on the cross is the picture of this kind of love, giving Himself into death for the unworthy and ungrateful, both in solidarity with those who would become His brothers, and for those who would continue to hate and despise Him all the way to their eternal death. You, dear Christian, love with that love, the love of Christ poured out on you as a gift, given to you to give away to your neighbor. That love is a thing that lasts.
And you, in and of yourself? You do not last. Yes, unless Jesus returns first, you will suffer a bodily death. Maybe it will be from coronavirus. Quite probably it will be something else. But in Christ, you do not die. You live. For the Christian, death is but a peaceful sleep. The soul lives with Christ in heaven in peace and in joy. And on the Last Day, bodily resurrection. As Christ is risen, so you will arise. He will make it so.
For that is what He says. That is His Word. And the Word of the Lord remains forever. That, by the way, is the great motto of the Reformation. Perhaps you’ve seen it: VDMA (If you have one of our Augustana t-shirts or sweatshirts, you know it is right there on our logo). Verbum Domini Manet in Aeternum, the Word of the Lord remains forever. What He says lasts. And what has He said? Your sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake. You are redeemed for Him by His blood and death. You live now because He lives. You will arise from the grave as He is risen. This Promise is unchangeable. It is not subject to corruption. Pandemic is no match for the saving declaration of the One who has defeated death forever.
In this world of change and decay, what are the things that really last? Jesus and His Word. Jesus and His salvation. Jesus, and thanks to Jesus, you. Me. We last. In Him. For He is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia! In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.