This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it (Psalm 118:24).
Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed!
Now what? After all, Easter Sunday was last week. Last week you heard heart-pounding testimonies that Jesus is alive, but you will not hear this testimony repeated today. Last week you sang beloved Easter hymns and responded with heartwarming Bible verses, but some of those hymns you will not sing today. Last week your heart fluttered with the joy of knowing peace with God. Yet, that was all last week and six days stand between last Sunday and this Sunday. Six days that trumpeted cancer treatments and doctor appointments and school deadlines and global anxiety and stress from family and fears of nuclear war and— anything but that peace you experienced on Easter. It can leaving you feeling that Easter lasts only one day. That Easter Sunday gives you joy and peace and a reason to sing, but when Sunday ends, you pack Easter’s joy away in boxes for another year.
Treating Easter like a one-day event can rob you of its lasting joy for today (and tomorrow and the day after). In fact, if you ever read through the entire New Testament, you will realize that every Bible writer treats Easter as more than just a one-day event. You see that today. The events of that first Easter fill every part of life, Making Every Day Easter Day! You carry joy in every situation because You are born into a living hope.
Look again at our reading from 1 Peter. Blessed (or Praise) be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to his great mercy, has caused us to be born again. See the life you live now. At one time, you lived in the darkness of uncertainty— not sure how you stand before God, not sure if you will enter heaven, not sure if you are living a truly fulfilling life as God would have it. But you have clarity now. Your way of life has changed. Not because you chose to have life with God, but because [as Peter says] God, in his mercy, chose to give you new life! He uses baptism to create faith in your heart and he strengthens you in faith through his Word and sacrament.
So, even though the first Easter Sunday happened thousands of years ago, God’s Word continues whisking you and me back to the empty tomb. There you see a lifeless body regain life. Jesus lives again to declare the wages owed to God for sin paid in full. If a debt is fully repaid, then there is no more debt. If sin’s consequences are fully repaid, then there is no more consequence of death.
That is why, in verse 6, Peter says: In this you rejoice… You rejoice that Jesus makes God at peace with you. When Peter says “rejoice,” he does not mean singing hymns, but rather jumping up and down and fist-pumping as though your favorite team just won a championship. You “rejoice”— not just for one day, but for every day, every moment, all the time!
Yes, you can rejoice even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials. Is that what you do? Look over last week. Did you wake up every day knowing that a risen Jesus means eternity in heaven and a risen Jesus means God-for-you? Did this deep, lasting, satisfying joy trump every trouble that entered life?
It is not easy to jump and shout for joy when you endure various trials, is it? Your sibling gets sick— and she is a Christian. To you, it seems she did nothing to deserve this struggle. She is not a drunk or argumentative. She is kind, loving, and supportive. You wonder if she struggles because God is angry with her. Cancer enters your life. You don’t know why. You ate healthy, exercised, and watched what kind of stuff you inhaled. You even go through months of exhausting treatments. Yet, you wonder if God really cares about you enough to heal your body. You obey God’s command and you worship here, but you don’t feel any different. You still mourn the death of your spouse. Yes, you know she lives in heaven, but you still hurt inside. You still have no God-sent answer as to whether you should move or you should stay. You daily deal with the increase of evil in the world, the increase of people avoiding worship, the insults you absorb because of what you believe, the pressure to compromise your beliefs and tolerate false teaching, the battle inside between the lifestyle you want to live versus what Scripture so clearly and plainly teaches, and the thought of approaching death. All these troubles and trials suffocate any whimper of joy.
What is it that makes it difficult to rejoice even when you are going through a challenge? Could it be that you doubt God is with you? Could it be that your focus is attached to fixing a problem yourself? Could it be that you are looking away from Easter? The more our attention drifts away from the empty tomb, the more you will doubt if God really loves you at all.
Peter knows this can happen. He knows that you can experience grief and a debilitating illness and that you can hurt sometimes. If you notice, he never says: “Ignore your problems and put on a brave face.” No. Peter does not leave “Rejoice!” hanging by itself. Rather, he reveals the reason you and I can rejoice— even if we encounter trials.
Listen again to our words: 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. Go home and search the internet for “raw gold” and you will be amazed by what you see. Gold just mined up from the earth looks like a dull, jagged, gray rock. It is not the glistening, shiny-yellow, smooth material with which we are familiar. Someone heats a fire to 1,100 degrees, throws the chunk of gold into a pot, and everything melts. The dirt covering the gold melts off and floats on top of the golden puddle. Any bugs, twigs, or grass stuck in the gold incinerate. After burning away all the impurities, you are left with pure gold; you are left with a better, more valuable product.
The troubles you face in life refine faith. The greater the intensity, the more you despair of yourself. By that I mean, instead of looking to your mind for deliverance, turn to the risen Lord who brings you peace.
Let any fear that God has abandoned you melt away when you see Jesus return to his disciples (and return to you through his Word). He would have every right to leave us for questioning the sincerity of his love, but he remains to forgive you and me. Let the thoughts that God is angry with you disintegrate when you hear Jesus say: “Peace be with you. If you are forgiven, you are forgiven indeed!” Let worries about the future or griefs in the present find comfort in a Savior who says: “I am alive.” Jesus lives to prove that he is the Savior who comes to take away the sins of the world! Your life will go through this world and into eternity!
The fact that Jesus lives now means you can Make Every Day Easter Day! Why? Because you run to the cross of Jesus again and again. There you discover a Savior who loves you so much that he removes every sinful impurity so that you can be his priceless treasure. You carry this joy in every situation. You can be confident of this because you are born into a living hope.
Already, in this life, God promises in six different ways that you can be sure you are his child. He calls eternal life an inheritance. At your baptism, God etched your name into the book of eternal life. The sign of the cross made on your head and heart marks you as his child—not an orphan or a stranger, but his!
In case you are still uncertain about that, then listen to him call this inheritance imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. God’s promise does not decay or rot over time. His guarantee is not untrustworthy. God is not a lawyer who changes terminology. God never forgets what he promises you. Your confidence that Jesus always stands beside you is living. It will never change, never fade, never expire. Even if your life-situations change, God’s guarantee to be with you never changes.
Then this inheritance is kept in heaven for you. If a business owner puts money in his safe and leaves, he expects to return and find the money still there. God secures your guarantee of life in heaven. If God is protecting it, then you can be sure it remains there for you.
Yet, you not only look forward to life with God. Rather, if God loves you so much that he prepares eternity for you, then you can be sure he stands beside you in every trouble. You, by God’s power, are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. Imagine military men forming a circle to keep an official safe. God constantly guards you against all danger, delivers you from trouble, and strengthens your faith through his Word. At just the right time, heaven will be revealed (either on the Last Day or at the moment you leave this worldly life).
Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. Persevere through every struggle because you are not alone. By faith you trust God is with you always, even to the end of the age. So, the more trouble presses into you, the more you look up to God who helps you. Run to him in prayer, constantly pleading and trusting. He lives to put your heart and mind at peace. This is your living hope.
Make Every Day Easter Day even if last week was Easter. The days and months might change, but the new life Jesus wins for you never changes. Your life situations might pose new challenges, but God constantly stands beside you. New fears and doubts may creep up. Yet, run to the Word, be assured of God’s love in baptism and communion, flee to him in prayer. Light and momentary trials stretch you to trust and rely on your God in ways you might never have done before. All this makes the testing of your faith far more valuable than the gold our world cherishes.
Easter is more than just a one-day event. Jesus is not still dead and in his tomb. He has not re-entered his tomb a second time. He lives—and he lives now! He lives for you to Make Every Day Easter Day! You carry joy in every situation because You are born into a living hope.
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