1 Pet 1:13-21
Not doubt, you have noticed that things have gotten more expensive recently. The inflation rate in February 2021 was 1.7%. The inflation rate last month was 7.9%, the highest it has been in four decades. We are all experiencing the pain of having to pay more at the gas pump and grocery store.
In our text tonight, the apostle Peter also describes a kind of inflationary reality. He says “you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” The apostle tells us that our salvation was more costly than any amount of money. Instead, it cost the very highest price – the suffering and death of our Lord Jesus.
In our text, Peter is urging his readers to leave behind the ways they lived in the past. Instead, we need to live as those who live in the holiness that reflects our holy God. He says, “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’”
The reason that Christians will seek to live in this way is because of what God has done for us in Jesus Christ. Last week as we considered the Second Article of the Apostles’ Creed, we focused on the person of Jesus Christ. Scripture teaches us that our Lord is “true God, begotten of his Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary.” Tonight we focus on the work that Jesus has carried out for us. The events of this work are the very things that Lent prepares us to remember.
Peter says that “you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers.” People are ransomed because they are held captive. They are ransomed so that they may be free. This is the truth that the Small Catechism expresses in its explanation of the Second Article when it says that Jesus Christ “has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil.”
If there was only the First Article in the Creed, then life would be great – it would be very good. But it is not that way because the sin of Adam and Eve brought sin and death, and subjected us to the devil. Apart from Christ, we are lost and condemned people. It’s not just that we sin and die. Apart from Christ, the devil is our lord. We belong to him from the moment of our conception as sinful people. We are powerless against him. In fact, his power is so insidious that apart from God’s action we don’t even recognize that he rules us, even as he drags us down the path that leads to eternal damnation.
But God sent his Son into the world through the incarnation as he was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He came to ransom us – to redeem us – to free us from sin, death and the power of the devil. That meant winning the forgiveness of sins. Peter says in our text that “you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.”
The apostle describes Jesus as a sacrifice. Those animals offered in sacrifices to God in the Old Testament had to be without blemish. We mentioned last Wednesday that the Son of God took on a human nature that is like us in all ways except one – he had no sin. Jesus Christ was the holy and sinless one, who was then sacrificed on the cross bearing the sins of all people.
At the beginning of the season of Epiphany we saw how Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River as he took on the role of the Servant of the Lord – the suffering Servant sent to bear our sins. Peter picks up this idea in the next chapter when he writes: “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.”
Jesus redeemed us with “His holy precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death.” He was the sacrifice that freed us as he received God’s wrath and judgement against our sin. During Lent we prepare to follow Jesus on his way to the cross. He goes to drink the cup of God’s wrath against us. He goes because it is Father’s will by which God’s love saves us.
It makes no sense from our perspective. St. Paul told the Romans, “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person--though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die-- but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
The obedient suffering and death of Jesus was the revelation of God’s saving love. By his precious blood shed on the cross, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot, he won forgiveness for all our sins. With the sacrifice offered, his dead body was take down from the cross and buried in a tomb before sundown on Friday.
Yet Christ’s work did not end in winning the forgiveness of sins. He was also the One through whom God defeated death itself. Peter began this letter by writing, “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.” On Easter - on the third day - God raised Jesus from the dead. Jesus defeated death by passing through it. Now by his resurrection he has given us a living hope.
The Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead has called you to faith. Peter says in this letter that “you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God.” Forgiven and born again you have been redeemed from the power of the devil and you now belong to Jesus – he is your Lord.
In the Second Article we confess: “The third day He rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty. From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.” Having conquered death, the risen Lord ascended. As Peter says in chapter three, Jesus is the One “who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.”
When Jesus ascended, the angels said to his disciples, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” Our expectation - our hope – is now fixed on the return of Jesus Christ on the Last Day. Peter says in our text, “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
The grace that will be brought to us at the revelation of Jesus Christ on the Last Day is that he will raise and transform our bodies to be like his. St. Paul told the Philippians that “we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.”
Everything Jesus did was directed towards the events of Holy Week. It was all aimed at the cross where he ransomed us with his precious blood – by his suffering and death in our place. But the cross was not the end of his saving work, for in his resurrection he has defeated death. Ascended into heaven as the exalted Lord, we now belong to him. He is our Lord. And so we set our hope fully on the grace that will be brought to us at the revelation of Jesus Christ on the Last Day.