“God Does the Verbs”
Easter 2, April 27, 2014
Blessed in the Verbs
Text: 1 Peter 1:3–9
My friends, you have received the the salvation of your soul. Yes, in light of Good Friday, Jesus’ three-day rest in the tomb, His glorious descent, where He proclaimed His victory to those who were there, and His triumphant rising from the dead, your salvation is won; it is sure; it is firm, founded on what Christ has done, for you!
That’s what Jesus’ Resurrection says, isn’t it? It’s done. It’s all done. All the actions necessary for your salvation Jesus Christ has done, accomplished. Jesus’ Resurrection is the culmination, God’s stamp of approval, His exclamation point, on a whole lot of action verbs: promised, sent, lived, fulfilled, died, rose.
Prior to salvation you were dead in your sins. And you know as well as I that dead people do no action verbs. Dead men tell no tales. Dead men don’t wear plaid. Dead people have no power within them whatsoever. The grave holds what is in very securely. None has escaped, except Enoch and Elijah, Jesus and a handful of others whom Jesus, His prophets, and His apostles raised back to life.
Like Lazarus (Jn 11:38–44). Lazarus had been in the grave four days, and there was an odor. There was no formaldehyde. Israel is on the same latitude as Savannah, Ga., and so the forces of nature quickly took their course. Lazarus was dead, and Jesus raised him. It’s not as though while in the grave Lazarus’s ears responded to Jesus’ voice. Jesus’ Word has its own power to animate and bring to life. Jesus’ voice, His Word, is a Word that “gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist” (Rom 4:17).
Now try and follow me here. Without Jesus in here, without the Holy Spirit in here, it is darker in here than Lazarus’ tomb. It is back-of-the-closet dark, basement dark, cave with no lights on dark. For Scripture tells us that Jesus and His gifts are spiritually understood, and without the Spirit we do not naturally receive things that come from the Spirit (1 Cor 2:14). And so, Jesus Christ and all He offers are seen as foolishness to the unbeliever (1 Cor 1:23, 25). And, if you can stand it, it is darker in here than that. Our spirit within us fights, resists the Holy Spirit’s work (Gal 5:17). Now this is a lost “ness,” a death “ness” that is deeper than physical death, for our spiritual darkness actively and willfully fights against Jesus and the good gifts He offers sinners.
There is another way to look at this. Most of us resist going to the hospital until the pain gets the upper hand. Last November I had a situation. I was in a lot of pain. The pain got worse each day. But being German, being a Pastor, I thought it would go away, or at worst, I could deal with it. But it got so bad I finally had to go to the ER. We do our best to stay away, for going to the hospital humbles us, we then have to admit that we are not always able to care for ourselves. When we finally go to the doctor, the ER, it’s because we realize—somewhat grudgingly—that help can only come from the outside. It’s so humbling to acknowledge that we need help from outside ourselves.
Spiritually, we just can’t accept the truth that we are the problem and as such we are incapable of healing ourselves. This is most certainly humbling. Our condition is so bad that our Savior, Jesus, came from the outside to rescue us from ourselves.
A lot of people out there, and maybe some in here, would say that they are pretty good, that people are basically good, and maybe we just need a little help now and then. In this way we would be no different from our personal computers! To keep them safely running, we install an antivirus program that protects our computer from viruses. Those who think of themselves as basically good believe all they need to do is purchase an anti-sin program. And so, on occasion, they run out and purchase a self-help anti-sin book that would supply them with six easy steps to stop swearing or a foolproof manner in which to put off sins of lust, or any number of such things.
When an antivirus program is no longer able to rescue the computer, a complete overhaul is needed. Disk cleanup and defragmenting are incapable of solving this problem. The computer can only be helped from the outside. What does the Information Technology savior do? The Information Technology savior rebuilds the computer from the bottom up. Through a death and resurrection of sorts, the entire operating system is deleted and then methodically reinstalled along with all application software.
The Bible states: In our mothers’ wombs we were conceived in sin (Ps 51:5), born spiritually dead (Eph 2:1, 4–5), fighting the Spirit of Christ (Gal 5:17), incapable of pleasing Jesus (Rom 8:6–8), not accepting what comes from the Spirit (1 Cor 2:14), viewing the cross as foolishness (1 Cor 1:23, 25). No action we were ever going to take, no verb we could ever do—try, try harder, work, work harder, pray, pray harder—could fix that. We needed help from the outside.
Computers are saved by the Information Technology savior, who administers a type of death and resurrection to the computer. Real-life sinners are reborn and rebuilt as the Savior, Jesus, administers His life-giving death and resurrection delivered in Holy Baptism.
Do you want deliverance from the power of sin that lurks within your body? Are you seeking rescue from the grave? Do you cry out to be released from the guilt of past infractions that keep you in restless tossing and turning turmoil through the night? Then hear what Jesus Christ has done for you!
Peter was still living in the glow of Easter years later when he wrote his first epistle. All the apostles went out on their missions in the Book of Acts and beyond in the glow of Easter, on the energy of deeds accomplished, work done, verbs of action done by Jesus, their Lord. Listen and hear how Peter writes to us. Listen to the verbs.
According to mercy, that is, according to unearned kindness and goodness, Jesus has caused you to be:
“Born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (v 3), pause;
“To an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading” (v 4), pause;
“Kept in heaven for you” (v 4), pause;
“Who by God’s power are guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (v 5), pause.
All this and more is what Jesus has done for you. He serves you because He loves you! That is why we Lutherans call this time on Sunday morning the Divine Service. Here, around certain gifts, the Divine, Jesus, serves you with forgiveness of sins, mercy, truth, and the gift of life eternal.
Our Lord Jesus is the subject of the verbs. He, Jesus Christ, the Resurrected One, is serving you, preparing for you an inheritance that is unspoiled, undefiled, kept just for you.
It’s Really All about the Verbs!
“He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” (v 3)
“You have an “inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.” (v 4)
“Who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” (v 5)