1 Peter 1:3-5
Some time ago, I read a story about a man and his nagging wife who visited the Holy Land. While in Jerusalem, the wife suddenly died. The funeral company told the husband that it would cost $45,000 to ship her body to the United States for burial but only $500 to bury her in Jerusalem. The husband insisted on sending the body home. Shocked, the undertaker asked the husband, “Sir, why don’t you bury your wife here in Jerusalem and save the money?” The husband replied, “A long time ago, a man was buried here, and three days later, he rose from the dead. I can’t take any chance.”
For a Christian, the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is not a matter to be scorned. Instead, it should be celebrated as an unprecedented historical event carrying enormous significance for our faith and practice. One theologian, N. T. Wright, thought Easter was such a “big deal” for Christians that he wrote an 850-page tome titled “The Resurrection of the Son of God,” the third volume in the series on "Christian Origins and the Question of God." Frank Morison, an English journalist, set out to investigate the last seven days of Jesus’ life and show that the resurrection story recorded by the gospel writers is purely a myth. But he emerged from his investigation a changed man, convinced of the validity of the biblical record, and authored a book titled “Who Moved the Stone?” He called his book “The book that refused to be written.”
It is not an exaggeration to say that Christianity stands or falls with the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul gets to the crux: “If Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable” (1 Cor. 15:14–19 NKJV).
In this message, I want to draw your attention to three truths from 1 Peter 1:3–5 (ESV) that herald why Easter is so amazing. We read: "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."
From these verses, we learn three blessings that flow out of the resurrection of Jesus that make Easter so unique.
First, the resurrection of Jesus heralds our everlasting life in Christ. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again. . . through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” The resurrection of Jesus authenticates our rebirth from spiritual deadness. The Bible teaches that Jesus rose from the grave to make us right with God (Rom. 4:25).
Jesus’ resurrection declares that we, too, will rise from the grave and put on immortality (1 Cor. 15:54). The Bible says, “He [Jesus] has broken the power of death and brought the life and immortality to light through the gospel!” (2 Tim. 1:10 NET). The everlasting life promised to all who believe in Jesus Christ is actualized when Christ returns, and the dead in Christ are raised to testify to the final victory over death. Though our life on earth is subject to decay and death, we bear the seal of the Holy Spirit, who dwells in us, to guarantee everlasting life in Christ (2 Cor. 1:22; 5:5).
An excellent illustration of this truth is found in the gospel of John, chapter 11, where we read about Lazarus’ resurrection from the grave. When Jesus heard that Lazarus was sick, he purposely delayed going to Bethany to ensure that Lazarus had died. By the time Jesus arrived in Bethany, Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days. When Martha, Lazarus’ sister, heard Jesus was coming, she went to greet Jesus. When she met Jesus, she said to Him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now, God will give you anything you ask.” Jesus said, “Your brother will rise and be alive again.” Martha thought Jesus was referring to the resurrection of the dead on the last day. But Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection. I am life. Everyone who believes in me will have life, even if they die. And everyone who lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:25–26 ERV). Jesus’ point was that all who believe in Him could live their lives knowing that physical death has no final say, and they are guaranteed everlasting life.
Second, the resurrection of Jesus heralds our enlivening hope in Christ. “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.” Our life in Christ leads to living hope that the world knows nothing about. The hope of a Christian is rooted in a person—Jesus Christ (1 Tim. 1:1). Hence it abides forever and remains in us like the anchor of a ship, directed upward into the heavenly temple’s inner sanctuary (God’s presence), keeping us strong. This living hope enables us to joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory and rejoice when we encounter problems and trials. It will not lead to disappointment because we know God loves us dearly (Rom. 5:2–5).
The Cape of Good Hope is a rocky headland on the Atlantic coast at the southernmost point of South Africa. It was initially called the “Cape of Storms” by the Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias in 1488 because of treacherous weather conditions and stormy waters. The cape was also notorious for its fierce winds and currents, making navigation difficult and dangerous. Many ships were wrecked in that area for years. But in 1488, King John II of Portugal commissioned Dias to find a new sea route to India for trade relations. Dias encountered severe stormy waters and the rocky coastline of the Cape of Storms, but he managed to continue his journey eastward, eventually reaching the coast of present-day Mozambique. King John II changed the name of Cape of Storms to Cape of Good Hope to give the Portuguese explorers hope that it was possible to go around the cape and find trade routes to the east. In 1498, the Portuguese sailor Vasco de Gama successfully sailed around the Cape of Good Hope and saw beyond the raging storms a tremendously calm sea and the shores of India.
Death is the Cape of Storms for humanity, wrecking all our hopes and keeping us wondering what lay beyond the grave. The resurrection of Jesus proves that death is not the final word, nor is it an unknowable mystery to a Christian. His resurrection and appearance in His glorified body have turned our “Cape of Storms” into a “Cape of Good Hope.” This hope we have in Christ causes us to wait eagerly for the day when God will reveal His glory and give us our rights as His adopted children, including the new bodies He has promised us (Rom. 8:23).
All who have this hope purify themselves and remain ready for the return of Jesus (1 John 3:3). The hope of eternal life Christ’s followers have is not a dream or cheery optimism. It is a qualitatively different hope, undergirded by unwavering confidence; therefore, the Bible calls it good hope (2 Thess. 2:16), blessed hope (Titus 2:13), and a better hope (Heb. 7:19).
Finally, from our text, we learn that the resurrection of Jesus heralds our enduring inheritance in Christ. Through the resurrection of Jesus, we are made partakers of an inheritance that is "imperishable, undefiled, and unfading." Our inheritance is not temporal but spiritual. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Eph. 1:3). The content of our inheritance is inestimable. They include all the riches of the kingdom of God (Matt. 25:34; James 2:5) because of our position as heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17). Earthly riches are corrupt and perishable. But our heavenly inheritance is imperishable, does not fail, or where no thief approaches, nor moth destroys (Luke 12:33).
Martin Luther once said, “I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God’s hands, that I still possess.” The heavenly inheritance is available to all who put themselves into the hands of God in self-abandonment. The Bible says that we are a royal priesthood, a holy people called out of darkness into the marvelous light of God (1 Peter 2:9). Our inheritance includes our identification as sons and daughters of God and as kings and priests to reign on earth (Rev. 5:10).
The cross of Jesus is glorious, but its splendor and meaning are displayed more radiantly by the resurrection of Jesus. Many years ago, the evangelist Billy Graham was in the former Soviet Union to preach the gospel. On his way to the airport to return to the United States, the Russian Orthodox bishop accompanied Graham. Dr. Graham told him, “You have listened to many of my sermons. Do you have any suggestions?” The Russian bishop replied. “Yes. Emphasize the resurrection more. You preach the cross, and that is central to the Gospel. But without the Resurrection, the Cross would not have full meaning.”
Yes, the Easter message should thunder from every pulpit throughout the year, not just Easter Sunday. When preached in the anointing of the Holy Spirit, it will delight those who belong to Christ. And invigorated by the resurrection power of Christ working in them, they will know Christ more profoundly (Phil. 3:10). For the unsaved, the resurrection of Christ is a warning. The Bible says, “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:30–31 NKJV).
Friend, do you know the risen Jesus as your Lord and Savior? If you don’t, I invite you to surrender your life to Christ today and receive the blessings of Easter: everlasting life, enlivening hope, and enduring inheritance.