Easter 3 2017, Glen Carbon, I Peter 1:17-25
Do you realize how blessed we were this morning as we walked from our cars into church? You returned once more to hear the good news of God’s eternal word revealed in Jesus Christ. That wasn’t the case with two of Jesus’ Disciples of whom we read in the Gospel lesson, who needed to go for a walk that first Easter afternoon. A stranger caught up to them and they began discussing the events of the past few days. They asked the stranger, “Haven’t you heard, how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.” We are blessed to know that once again this morning we will meet Jesus as he speaks to us through scripture and take our Lord into our hands and mouth and body in Holy Communion.
In our first lesson from fifty days after that first Easter, Peter addresses the crowd on Pentecost, “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” “What shall we do?” the crowd cried. Peter answered that they should repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins. We have already been baptized for the forgiveness of sins. And when life presses upon us we know “That (the Lord) will incline his ear to us and therefore we can call on him as long as we live. I shall walk in the presence of the Lord in the land of the living.” (Ps. 116)
It’s no surprise then that when Martin Luther wanted to explain in simple terms who Jesus Christ is and what he has done, he seems to have turned to our text for today, I Peter 1:17-25. Just as Peter begins with the blessings we have received from God the Father through His Son, Jesus; Luther does likewise, “I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord.” Last week we heard the disciple Thomas say he would not believe unless he placed his hands in Jesus scars and then when Jesus shows him his wounds he exclaimed, “My Lord and my God.” We too are able to exclaim with Thomas and Martin Luther, I believe “Jesus Christ is my Lord.”
However, there was a time we did not have a Lord. Oh, we had a lord, but our master was the sin and death we inherited from Adam and Eve through our parents. But we cannot get away with blaming past generations for our plight. We ourselves fell into failing to live as God intended for our life, that’s what sin is. We became trapped and living under its tyranny. One thing which the scriptures do not do is whitewash what is true. Scripture tells us the truth about ourselves. A Psalmist describes it thus, “The snares of death bound me, Sheol held me in its grip. Anguish and torment held me fast.” The prophet Jonah describes what happened to him when he ran away from his Lord, “The waters closed in over me; the deep surrounded me; weeds were wrapped around my head.” Or we might use the image of bullying. One that sticks with me took place in a Middle School boys restroom stall. A boy was kneeling beside the toilet and someone was jumping on his back and it was all being videoed. Trapped and living under tyranny. These are “futile, useless, ways of living inherited from our ancestors,” writes Peter. In Ecclesiastes, the preacher begins his sermon, “Vanity of vanities, vanity of vanities! All is vanity.” Did not Martin Luther teach us in his catechism, that all this describes “me, a lost and condemned creature.”
But scripture also tells us the truth about what God has done for us. As the song says, “Our God is an awesome, “ and Peter calls upon us to live in awe of God. God in his grace has given us reason to rejoice with joy beyond words. Here’s why, before the foundation of the world God had a plan to redeem us. Through the ages prophets and even angels searched and inquired about the details of his plan. Though they preached of God’s coming grace in Christ’s suffering and glory But they did not live to see it. It’s only in these last times that it was revealed through the revelation of Jesus Christ, true God and true man, born of the Virgin Mary. That is my Lord.
He is “My Lord, who has redeemed me a lost and condemned creature.” Notice how Luther writes, “redeemed me.” He did it for me. He did it for you. “Purchased and won (that is delivered) 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.” In the Roman world a slave could be redeemed by paying money to a god or goddess at a temple and thus would be freed from slavery to a human master and would be now owned by the god or goddess, a god represented by a marble statue. That’s not how our redemption was gained. Peter finds the pattern for our redemption in Israel’s delivery from slavery to the Egyptians in the time of Moses. The evening before they were delivered, the Israelites were directed to kill a healthy lamb, smear it’s blood above the door, so that the angel of death would Passover those houses. And when Israel left their houses the next day, they passed through the blood which had saved them
That is how we were delivered from the trap of futility of life and the bullying of sin, guilt and death. We pass under the blood of Jesus Christ. “That I might be (wholly) his own and live under him in His kingdom…even as he is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity.” Christ brings us to the Father by overcoming sin, death, and the devil, which would keep us from coming to the Father. Martin Luther once described Jesus’ work as putting me back on the Father’s lap. Yaroslav Vajda picks up on that idea in his baptism hymn, “See this wonder in the making: God himself this child is taking As a lamb safe in his keeping, his to be, awake or sleeping. Far more tender than a mother, Far more caring than a father, God, into Your arms we place him, With in your love and peace embrace him.” God in Christ does this, “That I may be his own and live under him in his kingdom.” Delivered from the tyranny of sin, guilt and death. Redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ.
Having been born again as new creatures, son or daughter of God, having our faith and hope in God, both Peter and Luther urge us to take the next step. That is to live as the children of God that we are. Peter writes, “Love one another earnestly from a pure heart.” Luther taught us to “serve God in everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness.”
There may be times in our life when we are as bewildered as those two disciples on way to Emmaus. We too may ask, “What shall I do?” We may not recognize the one who walks through life with us. But through His Spirit, Jesus opens the scriptures to us as he did for them and in the breaking of the bread they recognized him and saw who he truly was, so it is for us also; there in the breaking of the bread and drinking of the wine is my Lord. As Peter concluded, “This word is the good news that was preached to you.” Luther asserts, “This is most certainly true.”