In a world of sin and sorrow there is little of which we can be sure. And many of the things of which we absolutely can be sure we wish weren’t so.
For example, we will sin again. “We daily sin much, and indeed deserve nothing but punishment,” we confess with Luther in the Fifth Petition.
Not all are troubled by that reality and certainty. In fact some delight in sin and seek it out. We read of the wicked man: “Perversity is in his heart, He devises evil continually” (Prov. 6:14). “To do evil is like sport to a fool . . . ” (Prov. 10:23). Of the certainty of sin and its consequence, which is death, many have no fear–so deep the ignorance and unbelief. “When a wicked man dies, his expectations perish, and the hope of the unjust perishes” (Prov. 11:7).
On the other hand the Christian, no less a sinner by reason of his flesh and indwelling old man, confesses with Isaiah: “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips . . . ” (Isa. 6:5). And with the apostle Paul: “O wretched man that I am . . . ” (Rom. 7:24).
In spite of the certainty that we will and do sin, even as we have, the Christian has certain expectations and hopes that will not perish. These expectations and hopes are a matter of faith created by and anchored in the Word of God. The heavenly Father “made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us” (2 Cor. 5:21).
There is nothing so simple to understand, even as it is beyond reason to comprehend. The Father laid our sin upon Jesus Christ. On the face of it, this is not fair. But, thank the Lord, He was not concerned with what was fair. In the heart of our Lord was only concern for sinners. He willingly paid the debt which He did not owe, and which we owed but could not pay.
The message of Easter tells us that the heavenly Father has accepted the sacrifice of Jesus as payment for our sin. Through the death of His Son, we who were separated by sin from the Father are reconciled unto Him. Jesus was raised again for our justification. No charge can be lodged against us. No condemnation can undo us. Not even our own heart can condemn us. “For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things” (1 Jn. 3:20).
This is the confidence of the penitent sinner. With his heart he knows, assents to, and trusts in the Word and promise of the Father who “did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved” (Jn. 3:17).
In all the uncertainties of this life, in the temptation posed by the “good times,” and in the stress of affliction, as well as in the certainty of continuing evil in this world, our expectations and our hopes are certain. Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! We who believe can say with Paul: “I know whom I have believed . . . ” (2 Tim. 1:12).
I know that my Redeemer lives, and my expectations and hopes shall come to pass. The risen Lord promises: “He who believes in me, though he may die, he shall live; and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die” (Jn. 11:25-26).
So simple is the Easter message, yet so profound! The resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ is the foundation of the penitent’s expectation and hope.
From the love of Christ may we daily draw strength to overcome temptation and sin. Surely no one who rejoices in his salvation will delight in sin. But when we do fall into sin may we also remember that “if we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn. 1:9). Because Jesus died–and rose again!
Thanks be to God who turns our expectations and hopes into reality.
–Pastor Daniel Fleischer