April 1, 2018
Pastor Timothy J. Spaude
Text: 1 Peter 3:18-19
“ONLY JESUS COULD GET UP SO EARLY!”
1 Peter 3:18-19 (NIV) “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, 19through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison.”
For our Lenten and Holy Week worship services this year we have been looking at things only Jesus could or would do. We understand that with things like being worth enough to pay for sins or cleansing His Father’s Temple. Today’s theme you might want to challenge. Only Jesus could get up so early. Lots of people get up early. Many don’t like to. What time did you have to get up to be ready for a Sunrise service? For you children, did you really want to? I remember the days with dread when I had an early morning paper route and some show shoveling jobs. Oh the dread when you went to bed with it snowing knowing how much earlier you would have to get up. But dairy farmers do that every day. So do bakers and anyone else with a job that needs to be done before normal folk are getting out of bed.
So what’s so special about Jesus that we would be forced to exclaim only Jesus could get up so early? And He did get up early that first Easter. The women who went to the tomb to give Jesus’ body a proper burial got up early but when they got to Jesus’ tomb, they were too late. Jesus was gone. He beat them. But the women were not the only ones who got beat on Easter morn, the Devil and demons did. In the Apostles’ Creed we profess, “I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into Hell. The third day He rose again from the dead.” We want to focus on one of the truths proclaimed in it. Jesus descended into Hell. When did He do that? If you believe the Apostles Creed was set up to be chronological you would say His descent took place after His burial but before His resurrection. The truth of the matter is we don’t know. The Bible does not say. The second truth of the matter is, the exact time Jesus did this does not matter. Why and what Jesus was doing does.
Why did Jesus get up so early? It was because He had defeated Satan. Now I’m not sure if there can be any such thing as glee in Hell. If there is it must certainly be classified as unholy glee. But have you ever stopped to think about what was going on in Hell the day Jesus died? Remember this is the Devil and the demons who tried to kill Jesus as a baby boy, using Herod’s paranoia to cause the death of so many baby boys at Bethlehem. This is the Devil and demons who tempted Jesus throughout His life trying to get Him to disqualify Himself as Savior by sinning. This is the Devil and the demons who coordinated the chief priests’ jealousy with Judas’ greed and Pilate’s wimpiness thinking that by to killing Jesus they would get rid of the Savior of the world. Their plot seemed to work to perfection and Jesus died. What were they thinking? I’m sure they were thinking they won. I’m sure they were thinking they got rid of the world’s only chance for salvation. And they were wrong.
On a day like today some newspapers and TV stations like to try to have some fun with some headlines that people are likely to believe but aren’t true. Like in 1933 when The Madison Capital Times ran a headline and picture about the collapse of the state Capitol building due to a buildup of hot air. Many people fell for that April Fool’s joke. But the Bible defines a fool as one who says there is no God. We could add to that definition someone who thinks he can take God on and win. That definition fits the Devil who thought he could beat God’s plan to save people. But the joke was on Satan. Jesus got up early on Easter morn because he defeated Satan. As Peter reminds us, “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.” Jesus’s death was God’s plan, not the Devil’s. His once and for all sacrifice brought us back to God. The Devil no longer has any claim on sinners. Jesus got up so early because He won.
And to proclaim that victory. Our text is one of the few places in the Bible that references Jesus’ descent into Hell. The time frame is after He died to pay for sins, after He was put to death in the body and after He was made alive by the Spirit. But what did He do? He went and preached to the spirits in prison. The real key to understanding this verse is the word translated “preached.” That word can be confusing because normally we hear that word and think of what I’m doing now and what my goal is. I am preaching God’s words and God’s truths with the goal that anyone who does not yet believe in Jesus will repent and be saved and that those who are already believers will be built up by God’s Word to have the comfort of faith and the will and desire to be more useful in service to God.
If that’s what Jesus were doing we would by quite confused. The devil and the demons who follow him cannot be converted. God’s Word makes it clear that Hell is their eternity. The souls of those who have died rejecting Jesus are also in Hell. They don’t get any second chances. God’s Word is clear in that area too. It’s given a man once to die, then, right then, you face judgment. It would have been better if the Bible translators had used the first meaning of the word translated here, “preached.” The first meaning is “proclaimed.” Jesus descended to Hell to proclaim to the devils in Hell.
What did He proclaim? Victory! We don’t know the words Jesus used to proclaim the victory. Did He remind them of when He said, “No one takes my life from me rather I lay it down of my own accord.” Did He say, “What do you think I meant when I said I am the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep?” Did He remind them that God works all things for the good of those who love Him, even the evil plotted by the Devil? Did He show them how His resurrection was the proof to all the world that Jesus had won the victory? Did their unholy glee turn to hisses, boos, gnashing of teeth and uttering curses that they been foiled again? We don’t know. We’ve not been told. But we do know that by His descent into Hell after sin had been paid for Jesus proclaimed His victory over sin death and Hell. He triumphed over them.
Remember that. Remember that when your enemy the Devil has tricked you into falling into sin. It’s never too late to go to Jesus in repentance. He will not push you away. He will love you and forgive you and remind you that it was for the unrighteous that He died. Remember that when in your struggle against sin you fall in weakness and feel like it’s no use, you’ll never get it right. You triumphed with Jesus. His victory is already yours and He has the power to turn the Devil on his head. Remember that when it looks like evil is triumphing in your country, your place of work, your family, your own life. God really does know how to work all things for the good of those who love Him. He even used plotting, jealousy and greed to bring about the salvation of the world. Don’t let your chin drop when things don’t seem to be going God’s way. Don’t give up and God forbid we switch sides. Triumph with Jesus! Let the victory He won power your faith no matter what you are facing.
And let the victory Jesus won continue to be proclaimed. When the NCAA tournament is all said and done a certain group of fans will, if permitted, fill the playing floor to celebrate their team’s victory. They will spend lots of money on hats, T-shirts and other things that proclaim their championship. They will have a year of bragging rights in the college basketball ranks. The victory we have with Jesus is better. It’s once and for all. Never again will the Devil have a chance to beat Jesus. Since we belong to Jesus we have bragging rights forever, but not for ourselves. For Him. Let him who boasts boast in the Lord. We do that when we wear His victory in our lives, fighting against sin because Jesus already beat it for us. Getting right back up every time we fall, confident of forgiveness because Jesus already won it for us. Refusing to be pessimistic despairing people because God takes even the worst looking circumstances, the death of His Son, and turns them into great victories. We do that when we consider it an honor to hear that victory and proclaim that victory. Isn’t that why you got up so early? Amen.