1st Peter 1:3-4:
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,...
Here is this phrase again. Jesus spoke it to Nicodemus as recorded in John 3:3. What does it mean? Nicodemus was confused by the phrase. He thought that he had to be physically reborn; like to become a baby and start over. Both Jesus and Peter do not refer to a physical rebirth. A physical rebirth will leave all of us in the same condition in which we started.
And what condition is that? Sinful, that's what. Flesh gives birth to flesh. Flesh is sin. It is the condition that every human being is in. And the sinful condition leads to death and separation from God.
I don't want to be separated from God. And that is why is it SO IMPORTANT for you and me to realize this rebirth of which Peter and Jesus speak has nothing to do with me and you. I has everything to do with God.
Look again at what Peter says, "According to His great mercy, He HAS CAUSED US to be born again." (Emphasis mine) This rebirth is not from ourselves. It is a gift from God. It is a living hope. It is something that is beyond ourselves. It is something that COMES FROM GOD. And this living hope came to us by means of and through Jesus' resurrection. Because He lives, we will live also with Him.
New Life that We Have:
When we believe in what Jesus did for us, we have a new life. This means the old was crucified. It is dead and buried. It was buried with Jesus. And there the old human sinful life stays. From that a new person, man and woman, boy and girl, arises from the grave. We arise from the grave forgiven and reborn. No longer does the sinful human nature and its' traps and will and schemes hold us. No longer does the devil influence us. He is DEAD AND BURIED along with our sinful nature. Jesus crushed that snake's head.
New Life we Will Have:
And this rebirth and new that we have is an inheritance that God gives to His children. To you and I who believe, this new life, this forever life, is kept for us in heaven. It is perfect, eternal, unspoiled, and it continues to shine brightly. We, by means of faith, lay claim to it. And we wait for it.
And we wait for it when we serve God. We don't sit on our hands waiting for Jesus to come back. We wait for it by living with the living hope of life. We have great opportunities to show and share this life with those who do not yet realize it.
Is to discern how to live in this born again life, especially in the time and challenges we face now. And let's dialogue on what and how we live in this new life today. Will you join me in conversation?
But the angel said to the women, “Stop being afraid [translation mine], for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay."
Soon and Very Soon:
In five days we will celebrate the climax to the greatest story ever told. We will celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. We will celebrate that Jesus died to save us from sin, death, hell, and the influence of Satan. We will celebrate that Jesus rose to life again and through His resurrection, we have life with Him now as well as forever.
In five days we will experience the great mercy that is God through Jesus.
Gloom and Sadness:
Yet for Mary and all the other followers of Jesus at the time, Easter was a distant hope. It wasn't a hope even. It was more of a wish. To them, at that time, after Jesus was betrayed, arrested, denied, abandoned, and crucified. To them, at that time, there was only a sliver of hope left. Their friend, their teacher, and their Lord was dead.
Yet Mary went to the tomb. It was her intent, along with the other women recorded in the other Gospel accounts, to finish the burial process that Joseph and Nicodemus could not finish. Much to her surprise the guards had fainted, the tombstone was rolled away, and an angel of the Lord was sitting on it waiting for her.
The Good News:
The angel, who was recognizing the fear and confusion welling up in her, said to her, "Stop being afraid, Mary. Let me replace that fear with joy by inviting you to see where Jesus used to be. He is no longer dead. He is alive! Go and look. Experience joy by knowing that your friend, your teacher, and your Lord IS ALIVE!"
Did Mary's fear "just disappear?" Not right away, no. As Matthew records later in the account, Mary and the others left the tomb with "fear and great joy!" So when did the fear finally pass? When she "ran" into Jesus. Jesus used the same phrase, "Stop being afraid." Once she met Jesus, face to face, did the fear finally pass. You can sense the calm that came over her after she was with Jesus. It could have been like the weight of the world was now off of her shoulders. She could finally be at peace.
Grace and Love Override Fear:
And it is the same with us. In many ways the fear we experience at the threshold of the unknown tries to dominate our lives. The ability to think through a situation or problem goes away because we are afraid more than we are thinking.
What are the unknowns? In the case of this COVID-19 scare, "How many more have to get sick and die?" "How much longer is this economic nightmare going to last?" "Am I going to catch it and die?"
That is why is so wonderful to hear God and His angel say to us, "Stop being afraid." God knows that we are afraid. He also knows that there is faith in each believer as well. So, when He says to us, "Stop being afraid," He is saying to you and I, "I know you're afraid. You don't have to be any longer. I am with you. I have saved you. I will bring down your anxiety and lift up your faith and trust in Me to take you through this trial. I am sending the Holy Spirit to you to remind you of all I have done for you. Now, let go of your fear and let me have it. I have you."
With God saying that to us, what great joy that brings. This joy permeates our entire being and gives to us His peace, that passes all of our fears and understanding. It does, and will, keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Pastor Robert Hemsath joined Faith Lutheran Church and School as the Senior Pastor in January 2017. Pastor Hemsath comes to FLC from Christ the King Lutheran Church in Waxahachie, TX. He has also served congregations in Aberdeen, ID and Pocatello, ID. He has been a Lutheran pastor for the past 20 years.