Big Idea: Because Jesus rose again, I can have hope for my future that gives me joy for today.
One of the greatest surprises about humanity is how much we can survive — if we have one thing: hope.
For instance, think of some of the worst conditions possible. One of those would be the people who were imprisoned in Germany through World War II. We see this in the survival of victims of the Holocaust. These people suffered brutal conditions: concentration camps, GULAGs, the most inhumane maximum-security prisons. But many of them also went through something worse. Many of them lost hope.
Viktor Frankl was one of these prisoners. He survived the war and later became a psychologist. Listen to what he wrote:
The prisoner who had lost his faith in the future—his future—was doomed. With his loss of belief in the future, he also lost his spiritual health and hold; he let himself decline and became subject to mental and physical decay. Usually this happened quite suddenly, in the form of a crisis, the symptoms of which were familiar to the experienced camp inmate.
Usually it began with a prisoner refusing one morning to get dressed and wash or to go out on the parade grounds. No entreaties, no blows, no threats had any effect. He just lay there, hardly moving. If this crisis was brought about by an illness, he refused to be taken to the sick-bay or to do anything to help himself. He simply gave up. There he remained, lying in his own excreta, and nothing bothered him anymore. (Man’s Search for Meaning)
We simply can’t live without hope. In fact, sometimes when someone dies we say that they’d given up hope. You can’t live long or very well without hope. Andy Crouch said: “Human beings can live for forty days without food, four days without water, and four minutes without air. But we cannot live for four seconds without hope.”
So today I want to talk about hope. We just watched a video that says three things:
- I’m an idiot.
- My future is incredibly bright.
- Anyone can get in on this.
Today I want to talk about the second point in the video: my future is incredibly bright. How could we say this? I don’t know all of you. I don’t know the pressures you face. I know that for some of you right now, life doesn’t seem incredibly bright.
But I can tell you that your future is incredibly bright. The reason is because of the day we’re celebrating. Let’s look at the passage we just read and discover why our future is incredibly bright.
Hope for People Like Us
First, let’s see that what we’re going to talk about is for people like us. It’s easy sometimes to think that the people in the Bible were different from us. It doesn’t help that we see images of Bible characters in stain glass windows with halos. It’s easy to begin to think that the people in the Bible were different than we are.
So let’s remember who wrote this passage. His name was Simon or Peter, one of the best friends of Jesus. I don’t know exactly what personality type Peter was, but my guess is that if he took a Myers-Briggs he’d be an ESFP — someone who’s caught up in the excitement of the moment, and who wants everyone else to feel that way too. He was bold, original, but also a little unfocused. If Peter was in this room right now you’d probably know it. You would have liked him.
What’s important to know about Peter is that he failed. He choked when it really mattered. If you talked to Peter about his biggest regret, he’d have to admit that at the moment when it really mattered, he denied Jesus, not just once but three times. He became a broken man. He lost hope in Jesus and in himself.
Fast-forward thirty years to when he wrote the words that we just read. He’d become a key leader in the church. Not only that, but he was filled with hope even when facing adversity. As Peter wrote these words, he and other followers of Jesus were at the margins of society. They were being maligned, falsely accused, and ostracized. They were being abused by overbearing bosses (2:18), threatened by unbelieving spouses (3:1, 6), and ridiculed by skeptical neighbors and associates (4:14). On the horizon loomed the possibility of a much more violent form of persecution (4:12–18). Within a short time, some of them would be imprisoned and martyred. Nero would accuse Christians like them for not only of setting the fire in Rome, but of hatred against humanity. Peter himself would be crucified upside-down. Yet he still maintained his hope.
What made the difference? The resurrection of Jesus gave Peter living hope.
How Easter Gives Us Hope
Look at what Peter wrote:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1:3-5)
Peter says that we’ve been born again to a “living hope.” Notice a couple of things:
- It’s living. It has a life of its own. It’s growing and increasing in strength, just like living things do. Whatever this is, it’s something that’s living and breathing. It’s pulsing with life.
- It’s hope. It’s important to understand what Peter’s talking about when he says hope. Hope isn’t wishful thinking, like hoping that the Leafs will win the Stanley Cup this year. That’s the problem with understanding what Peter is saying here. Usually, when we talk about hope, we’re talking about a desire for a future thing that we’re not sure we’ll attain. That’s not what Peter means. Peter is talking about something in the future that is guaranteed to happen based on something in that’s already happened in history.
Let me try to make the connection. Peter says:
According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1:3-5)
Peter bases our hope on something that’s happened in the past: the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Two thousand years ago, a group of women came to the tomb of Jesus to anoint his dead body with oil. It would be like if you went to the cemetery of someone you’d just buried to lay some flowers. Nobody expected that they would find anything except for a dead body. Instead they found an empty tomb. Later they encountered the risen Jesus. If one person encountered a dead person who came back to life, you’d doubt their sanity. You’d treat it just like you’d treat an Elvis sighting. You wouldn’t take it seriously. But over 500 people encountered the risen Jesus over a period of forty days.
Whatever happened was so powerful that it changed a bunch of skeptics and failures like Peter into fearless witnesses.
Charles Colson was Richard Nixon’s righthand man during Watergate. In prison he became a Christian. Reflecting on the resurrection, he said this:
I know the resurrection is a fact, and Watergate proved it to me. How? Because 12 men testified they had seen Jesus raised from the dead, then they proclaimed that truth for 40 years, never once denying it. Every one was beaten, tortured, stoned and put in prison. They would not have endured that if it weren’t true. Watergate embroiled 12 of the most powerful men in the world-and they couldn’t keep a lie for three weeks. You’re telling me 12 apostles could keep a lie for 40 years? Absolutely impossible.
The resurrection happened. Our living hope isn’t based on a wish or a myth. It’s based on a historic fact. In fact, when people tell me that all religions are the same, and you just have to accept them on fact, it drives me crazy. We don’t follow Jesus for no reason. Nobody did. His early disciples certainly didn’t. They followed Jesus because he rose from the dead just as he said he would. Look at the evidence! I love how one person put it:
The evidence for Jesus’ resurrection is so strong that nobody would question it except for two things: First, it is a very unusual event. And second, if you believe it happened, you have to change the way you live. (Wolfhart Pannenberg)
On the basis of what happened in the past, Peter has hope for the future. If the resurrection is true, Peter says, we have confidence in the “inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” Why can we have this confidence? A few reasons:
- Because Jesus has shown that he has a track record of keeping promises. He told us that he would rise again, and he did. He told us that he’s giving us an inheritance, and he will.
- Because the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is at work protecting you. Peter says you’re being guarded. Who is guarding you? The Holy Spirit — the same Holy Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead (Ephesians 1:19-20).
Your future is as sure as the resurrection. That’s what gave Peter hope. Peter was about as hopeless as anyone has ever been. He’d watched his entire faith system collapse. He also lost complete confidence in himself, because he failed. Then he encountered the risen Jesus, and it changed everything. Peter the skeptic became Peter the unstoppable.
I want to look at a painting with you today that gives will give us a picture of what we need to do.
In John 20 we read that Peter and John, two former followers of Jesus, heard that the tomb was empty. At that point they had no explanation. It hadn’t yet occurred to them that Jesus could have risen from the dead. We read that they went racing to the tomb, but John was the better runner and got there first.
I love this 1898 painting of Peter and John, though, because it tells us exactly what we need to do too. Like Peter and John, we need to run, at our own speeds, to the cross. Some of us are going to get there faster than others. We’re going to arrive with all kinds of doubts and questions. But we must run there. We must examine what happened on Easter Sunday morning, because it will form the basis of our hope for the future. If the tomb really was empty, and if Jesus really is alive, then it changes everything about our future. Our future is as sure as what happened on Easter Sunday morning. It changes everything.
How This Hope Helps Us Now
Before I finish, I want to look at how this helps us today. Peter writes:
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:6-7)
I mentioned some of the troubles that these people were going through. Life wasn’t easy for them. But their future hope based on the reality of the resurrection allowed them to have joy even in the middle of suffering. The resurrection covers the past, present, and future:
- In the past, we can know it really happened
- In the future, we can know that our future is secure
- In the present, therefore, we can have joy, even when life is hard
I once booked a series of hotels on the way to Florida. I booked through one of those sites that doesn’t let you know which exact hotel you’re booking. We knew our starting place was okay, and we knew our final destination was great, but we didn’t know what was in the middle.
The first night, the place was incredible. I was getting all kinds of admiration from my family for picking such a great place. The second night was a big step down, but it was tolerable. The third night we stayed in a total dump. We weren’t even sure that we wanted to check into the place. The thing that kept us going is that we knew what was coming next. We could endure the temporary suffering because it was on the way to something much better.
Peter says that we can endure what’s happening here, “for a little while,” even if we’re being tested by “various trials.” Why? Because we know what’s coming. D.A. Carson says:
But 50 billion years from now, if I may speak of eternity in the categories of time, our 3 score years and 10 will seem like a little while. In other words, if we really have the faith to see the dimensions, the dimensionlessness of the inheritance that is going to be ours, then whatever sufferings we may have to face here seem temporary, transient.
This means that, whatever is happening now, you can endure it. Not only can you endure it, but you can endure it with joy — not a joy that lives in denial, but a joy that sees the big picture and brings hope to today. You can have a living hope even in the middle of trials.
And so, let’s finish as we began.
- I’m an idiot. You are too.
- My future is incredibly bright. And yours can be too. Why? Because Jesus lived the perfect life that we should have lived and died the perfect death that we deserved. We only have to receive such mercy with the empty hand of faith. Jesus rose again, I can have hope for my future that gives me joy for today.
- Anyone can get in on this. Since it is all of mercy, no one deserves it and yet it is available to all. Since the gospel is all grace and mercy, it can be for anyone, regardless of how idiotic you may be! It can be for you, says Ray, “if it’s not too far beneath you.” Like me, you can run to the empty tomb. Run with all of your doubts and questions. But run. And be prepared to meet the risen Jesus, who will change everything.