1 Peter 1:3-9
The Rev. Dr. Robert S. Langworthy, preaching
April 26, 2020
To some people, Easter hardly happened two Sundays ago – what with there being no family brunches, egg hunts, display of Spring finery in dress. To others, Easter happened; but now seems long past, given how much has taken place since and how we’ve moved on.
Yet, if Easter is true, it is something we never get done with, or rather never gets done with us. Though launched 2,000 years ago, it has just begun for those who today seek to make something of it.
After breaking loose from the tomb, Jesus was very much alive, and very much on the move. He was going before those who cared to keep in contact with Him and inviting them to follow. When on Easter morning the women came to the tomb expecting to find Jesus cold and stiff, an angel exclaimed, “He is not here…Go, tell His disciples and Peter that He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see Him.”
Perhaps because He was too excited to wait, Jesus let Peter and the others see Him that very evening. But Jesus refused to settle in with them there in Jerusalem; He proceeded to Galilee where He waited for them to catch up to Him.
Peter and the rest could not keep in touch with Jesus by staying put. To meet up with Him again they had to move on. They could only enjoy His companionship by seeking Him elsewhere than in their present status quo. They had to let go of today to gain the tomorrow He’d destined them to enjoy with Him.
Peter, of all of them, was ready to leave his past behind and receive a new and better present. For Peter had just failed Jesus as badly as Judas. Though he’d initially fought for his Master at His arrest, Peter ended up denying Him three times in the cold dark hours of Friday morning, after the adrenalin had run out of him and the reality of disappointed expectation had encased his heart in despair. Holy Saturday, shame, guilt and pain must have weighed heavily upon Peter’s soul.
But Peter could not shake the dream that had gripped his imagination. So when the women said Jesus had left His tomb, Peter ran to it and barreled into it in wondering disbelief. Later that day – Paul says – Jesus appeared to Peter before any of the other apostles, maybe out of worry about his mental state; and, when days later they’d all gathered for their rendezvous in Galilee, Jesus pulled Peter aside and gave him a special charge to “tend” His “sheep”. The living and loving Jesus was pulling Peter free from his past and propelling him into his future and destiny.
Peter spent the rest of his life fulfilling his destiny and tending Jesus’ sheep. His loving concern for them pervades this letter. He wrote it to encourage beleaguered believers to embrace the living hope that would sustain them in their trials.
Peter blessed God for giving them “a new birth into a living hope” of a salvation to be known here and now despite difficulties and hereafter in everlasting perfection.
Peter, that under-shepherd of the Good Shepherd, meant to bolster in his brothers and sisters a hope that is both living and propelling – that motivates them to keep following Jesus as He keeps going ahead of them to bring them to a deeper place in God’s grace.
Joni Eareckson Tada, who at the age of 17 became a quadriplegic from a diving accident and who has been confined to a wheelchair for half a century now, tells of a visit she and her husband Ken made to her home state of Maryland. A family member showed some old 8mm home movies that included Joni prior to the accident. She recalls looking at her 16-year-old self, projected larger-than-life on the living room wall. “I had the same basic hairstyle and hair color,” she says, “but my head was attached to a walking and working body! I watched my hands hold the reins of my horse and pat his neck. I watched how I put one put foot in front of the other. It gave me goose bumps.”
Ken later asked her how it felt to watch herself with a fully functioning body. She replied that once she would have groaned with painful aching to have things the way they had been; but now, after decades of steeping in the living hope of Jesus, she groaned with happy anticipation to have things the way they soon will be. With hallelujahs in her heart over her coming resurrection, Joni cried out, “I look forward to having a body that works. And I’ll do so much more than just walk!”
Joni went on to note she is now closer to gaining her heavenly body than to having lost her earthy one. She now sees the past as past; and the future, much more interesting. For it promises an eternity in which to enjoy everything she had before – and much, much more!
To embrace a living and propelling hope in Christ is to turn our backs on the sorrows of yesterday and to reach for the joys of tomorrow and today. It is, as Paul says, to forget what lies behind and press on to what lies ahead. The risen Christ ever goes ahead of us to lead us into an “inheritance” that is kept in heaven for us but that can already be experienced on earth. To have such a hope is to live into a new and more vital mode of being. Let us follow the resurrected Savior this day and every day!
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