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.
When Peter calls God the Father of Jesus Christ, he is telling us the most important thing God did was give us Jesus Christ. It’s as if he’s saying “Let me tell you which God I’m talking about. I’m talking about the One who gave us Jesus Christ.”
The Son was given to us because of a decision the God made, and God made this decision “according to his great mercy,” meaning: He made the decision because of what He is like. When we look at the cross, we are looking at God’s greatness, his abundance. We are looking at what God is like.
And what does that kind of mercy do? The Father’s kind, the kind that gives up a Son?
It causes birth. It causes us to be what we were not. And when we become what we were not, we are, suddenly, in possession of what we did not have: a hope that lives, an inheritance that cannot be bullied or taken.
Now, what I think is this: a hope that lives is frightening.
We do not generate it, it seems: it generates us. We cannot hold onto it because it leads us. It is the Resurrection of Jesus Christ in the heart of man and at the heart of God’s people.
I walked with a friend through a cemetery on Easter Sunday. We talked back and forth about little things. Then we looked at the graves.
Christ’s resurrections, he said, doesn’t mean the graves are empty.
And the Resurrection, since it is not, yet, our health being healed, our jobs being kept, or hearts swept perfectly clean, is always leading us. And because we have His Resurrection and still die, and because we have His Resurrection and still mourn, and because we have His Resurrection and still do not have answers, then His Resurrection is a leading and not an arrival. A summons and not a destination.
The Resurrection has us. This is astounding. This is frightening. And we must be careful.
The summons to have Christ’s Resurrection is the summons to be led the rest of your life, it is a summons that says, “You will come with me, and you will not arrive until I Arrive. You will not arrive until I come back.”
Above my desk where I write, I have an icon of Christ summoning Lazarus. Christ is sovereign and unconcerned, but Lazarus is confused. He has been given a Resurrection and it has not erased confusion. He is still wrapped in the bandages of the tomb. He cannot walk. He is scared.
I had written a story trying to imagine what Lazarus was thinking when he woke up in the tomb, when he woke up not because of a magic spell or some new technology, but because Jesus spoke to him, spoke Resurrection to him:
“My death was still in the room. It was wet and evil and soiled the bandages pulled around me.
There was a voice. I woke up because it terrified me. Jesus was a friend but the voice he used to wake me up scared me. It would have almost sounded angry if it wasn’t also glory. It was a voice that made Death and I tremble.
Lazarus come out.
I feared the voice more than death.
It was a voice that claimed more than death could, its purposes more inscrutable. It was not a voice that gave it itself a way. It held its plans close its chest.
But It was a voice that claimed, for forevermore, what was next.
And because the voice was not a strangers it terrified me more. It is a thing of terror to call the living God a friend of yours.
There were no instructions. I was wrapped so that I hobbled to an opening.
The Lord looked at me but he wouldn’t touch me.
He told other people to unwrap me, which means they had to put their hands on my death so I wouldn’t smell it, and so it would be pulled off my hair and eyes.”
Confusion, it seems, is part of the Resurrection, not outside it. When Resurrection becomes not just something that happened to Jesus but a thing that is ours, we should be frightened.
It is a frightening thing to be born, to be born and to be led, hobbling, to what things are, to be led and not arrive. To not arrive until He arrives.
The Living Hope leads us to what things really are, to what Love really is, to what Joy really is, to what Other People really are, to the Mercy at the heart of things, and the word for what things really are is called our Inheritance.
The scripture says it is an Inheritance that is kept in heaven. Heaven is where what things really are, who God really is, and who we really are, is kept under lock and key.
But Heaven was not something in the clouds, not something they thought they would ascend to, it was something headed their way, something coming.
The skies above were not the midwife of Heaven. Time was the midwife of Heaven. Heaven was not above them, it was in front of them. The inheritance would be handed over by the Future. And the Future was headed this way. The Future would arrive when Christ came again. And the inheritance would be Christ with his people, and the word for Christ with his people is glory.
Today, I went on my bike. I pedaled downtown. A few of my friends live at a personal care home downtown. They cannot leave but they can stand on the stoop, and I can stand on the sidewalk. Sometimes I sweep off the cigarette butts and sit on the second lowest step. We have not arrived. But we can come out of tombs. We can meet. We can practice our inheritance. We can practice heaven, practice what is undefiled, imperishable, un-faded. We can hang on each Word together. And wait for Christ to come back and lead us to joys that cannot be taken.