We experience letdowns all the time. In a fallen world full of sin, we shouldn’t be surprised by disappointment. But this long history of letdowns met its match on Easter morning. That’s the hopeful reality we live in on this side of the death and resurrection of our Savior, Jesus Christ, as John Piper reminds us in his Easter sermon from 1988 on 1 Corinthians 15:20–28. Here’s what he said.
One of the most heartbreaking words, I think, in human language is the word closed.
You plan a day at the zoo, and Dad takes a day off, and Mom packs a special lunch, and the kids are all excited. You pile in the car. You drive half an hour, and you get to the gate, and it says Closed. And “hope deferred makes the heart sick” (Proverbs 13:12).
Or you are eleven years old and it is summertime, and the ball teams are starting to practice. And for the first time you ask, “Mom, can I play baseball this summer?” Maybe that would be a good thing this summer. And so you get a brand new glove, and Dad pitches with you in the backyard, and you go out for the team and you practice for them for two weeks. But it turns out there are too many kids for this team, and they didn’t plan for two teams, and so there has got to be a cut. And you go that afternoon and they read the roster, and you are not on it. And you take the back roads home. The coach says, “We will plan for two teams next year.” And it doesn’t help. It is closed.
Or maybe you are thirteen years old, and you start to dream about marriage. You dream about that perfect person, and what it would be like to have somebody hold you and love you more than anybody else in all the world and what that day would be like. And then one door closes and then another door closes and another door closes.
Or maybe you are at mid-career — mid-forties let’s say. And you step back, and you look at your life and your career and you say, “What do I want to accomplish here now in the next twenty years of my active professional life?” And you think it through, and you say, “I am going to stick with the firm and give it my best shot.” And so you work nights, and you work long hours on the weekend, and you work on vacations. Five years go by and you are now fifty, and they pass right over you when it comes to that advancement, and you don’t make it and the door closes on that dream career.
Or maybe for you, all the doors opened, and the relationships clicked, and you made the team. Then somewhere along the way the doctor said, “It is a rare kind of cancer.” And all the doors seem to close at once.
Or worst of all, you have made it to the top in your career. You have had the dream relationship. You have made every team and walked through every open door, and every one of them without Jesus. And now you have died and you are standing before heaven’s door and it is closed. And you say, “Lord, Lord, open to me.” And the voice comes back, “Truly, truly I say to you I never knew you”(Matthew 7:23).
The word closed is a heartbreaking word in this life and in the life to come. And I want to declare loud and clear this morning that the meaning of Easter is that God is in the business of clearing this world of heartbreak. The meaning of an empty tomb or the opening of a closed tomb is that God has begun a campaign with Jesus Christ to open a million doors of hope to people who trust in him.
The verse that I am going to focus on this morning from our text is 1 Corinthians 15:25. It is a verse that gripped me because it is so full of door-opening sovereign hope. It says, Jesus “must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.” Jesus must reign. And as I meditated on that verse, I saw four things about the reign of Jesus Christ, and I hardly had to twist and maneuver at all to get these four things to spell open — O-P-E-N:
- the opening of the reign at the resurrection of Jesus,
- the presence of the reign here and now in your life,
- the extent of the reign unto all his enemies,
- and the necessity of his reign in the deity of his Father.
And so I want to talk about those four dimensions of the reign of God this morning, and I want you, with the pen of your heart, with your will, to write O-P-E-N over the door of disappointment in your life.
I want you to take the one that has you down most now. You got it? One door — not all of them; just one closed door in your life. It might have closed yesterday, or ten years ago, or thirty years ago. And it is still closed. And I want you to write beside the door, O-P-E-N — open — right over the door of the disappointment in your life.