Your Life Is Eternal
Rev. Kurt Lantz 7 Easter B 1 John 5:9-15
May 16, 2021 Resurrection Lutheran Church St. Catharines, ON
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
On this last Sunday of Easter, we come to the end of our Epistle readings from the First Letter of John. Throughout the season, we heard John telling us that it is God’s desire for us to have complete joy even in this life, knowing that He sent His Son into the flesh to die and rise again in the flesh so that we might know for sure that we who are in the flesh have eternal life because all of our sins are forgiven. “The blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).
We often lose joy in this life when we tell ourselves that we have lost the things that matter to us. If we have lost wife or children, parents or friends, house or home, we also lose our joy. If we have lost our health and strength, or our freedom and fellowship, or our memories and mental capacity, our joy is severely threatened.
The good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, crucified, risen, and ascended is that He recovers all of these things for us. They are not gone forever. In fact, He has so sealed the victory over all that would take these things away. That means we have never really lost them. I think this is what Jesus meant when He prayed that we may have His joy fulfilled in us (John 17:13). And so John wrote his gospel account, and his epistles, and the Book of Revelation to assure us that in the victory of Jesus which He won for us in His flesh and blood, we still have all of the things that give us joy in this life that we now live in flesh and blood.
God our Father has so loved us that He sent His Son into the flesh (John 3:16) so that we who are in the flesh are also His children (1 John 3:1). This blessed adoption that we have gives us a firm place to stand before all things that would try to take away our joy in the forgiving love we have from our heavenly Father, just like Martin Luther was able to stand firm before the emperor and the papal lawyers at the Diet of Worms being threatened with death, dishonour, and the removal of all hope in the Gospel. Nothing that happens in this world or to us can change the fact that we are God’s children even now and what we will be is not something different but a clearer expression of our present identity.
This love that God has shown to us by sending His Son into the flesh to be our Saviour, enables us to love others in the flesh (1 John 4:10-11). As Jesus loved us by sacrificing His body and blood for ours, so we can now love our brothers and sisters in meeting their bodily needs by what we do in our body. Our loving actions to them in the flesh, point to the loving action of God in sending His Son in the flesh to be the Saviour of the world.
In order that we might never forget this joyous life of forgiving love from God and active love for our neighbour while we live now in the flesh, God has provided witnesses to continually testify to us. The Spirit, the water, and the blood of Jesus testify (1 John 5:8) that in the Word of the Gospel and the water of Baptism and the Blood of Christ in the Lord’s Supper, our sins are forgiven and we have the life of Christ in us. These three witnesses that we receive with our ears and eyes and mouths continually proclaim to us while we are in the flesh that the Son of God came in the flesh that our sins would be forgiven in His death and resurrection and that we would have an eternal life of joy in Him, a joyous life that is ours even while we live here in the flesh.
God has given us eternal life in His Son. John has seen and heard and testifies that God sent His Son into the flesh, that He died and bodily rose from the dead, and that this blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin. This good news shines forth into our lives now, even and especially when things seem dark and despairing.
It becomes more obvious to us every day that this world is passing away and it is the last hour. But even now we are God’s children and so there are beautiful acts of love flowing out from us, signaling the presence of our risen and ascended Lord, who is the victor over all.
Our flesh and blood Jesus, whom John saw and heard and handled, ascended into heaven forty days after His bodily resurrection from the dead. We celebrated that Thursday evening with our Ascension Divine Service. Yet, we as God’s children, are not left as orphans (John 14:18). We have been given witnesses to constantly proclaim to us that we are still God’s children even now; that our salvation is not only for a later time when we finally get to heaven, or that it doesn’t apply to us in our daily flesh and blood lives since Jesus has ascended. No, Jesus ascended bodily into heaven so that at the right hand of the Father He can be with us in His body and blood in any time and place. His body and blood are not restricted by His ascension but all the more free to be where He points and promises.
Next Sunday will mark fifty days after our celebration of the Resurrection of Our Lord, and we will celebrate that Day of Pentecost, remembering that fifty days after His resurrection Jesus sent His Holy Spirit upon His disciples in a most visible and demonstrative way. We have the Spirit of Truth who continues to testify to us in Word and Sacrament that “God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son” (1 John 5:10).
As we live in our flesh and blood there is so much that points to defeat and despair. We see the world promoting the abortion of babies and the euthanasia of the elderly, disabled, and despondent. Death is offered as the only answer. We see death raging in a pandemic that science is struggling to control. We see death come even in its normal course as the result of regular aging and sickness. The world in which we live constantly tempts us to debase our flesh and blood in all manner of abuse and abomination, as if our flesh and blood are just destined to dissolve into the earthly elements.
There is no true joy in any of that. There is no lasting joy in the ways of the world, seeking to fulfill desires by twisting truths and deceiving people who are vulnerably searching for rescue, giving them the message that it all goes up in a puff of smoke at the end anyways.
Throughout his first epistle John has pointed us to an untwisted truth founded on what he saw with his eyes and heard with ears and handled with his hands. He has pointed us to the flesh and blood reality of the Son of God, come in the flesh to die for your sins and risen again from the dead to give you eternal life. Near the end of his gospel, John wrote, “These things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:31). And near the end of his first epistle he wrote, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13).
I often have to remind myself that I don’t just have to get through this flesh and blood life in the world and then put it all behind me for the joys of eternal life in heaven. I have eternal life now. God has given me life in His Son. And while at times it is a life of suffering and pain, it is also a life of joy even now. It is a life that shines the love of God into dark places. It is the joy of the Gospel of Jesus becoming flesh and blood to suffer and die for my sins; of Him physically rising from the dead to give my flesh and blood eternal life. That gives my flesh and blood life now meaning and significance and purpose and joy.
Although Jesus’ flesh and blood has ascended into heaven at the right hand of the Father, He is coming again in flesh and blood glory; and bringing with Him (in resurrected flesh and blood glory) all those who have died in the faith; and purifying my flesh and blood life also, not destroying it. For it even now bears some of the glory of what is to come. For the Son of God has come in the flesh, died and rose again in the flesh, to redeem this flesh and blood life of mine.
We live now in the life of Christ. We share now in His love and in His glory. We bear the cross in the flesh and it shines His love through our suffering on behalf of others. Our acts of love to help others in their need are His love flowing through us. And all of this is a witness that we have lost nothing that gives us joy in this eternal life of ours which we live in flesh and blood.
This would all go unnoticed and be considered of little value, if not for the Spirit testifying to us that this is all more than a little light from a candle in the wind that flickers unsteadily until it suddenly is no more. This is the eternal life that God has given to you in His Son, and the possibilities are only bound by His gracious and loving will to save the world.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.