Sunday, April 14, 2024

Sermon for the Third Sunday of Easter - 1 Pt 2:21-25


Easter 3

                                                                                      1 Pt 2:21-25



          As many of you know, televangelist Joel Osteen is the author of the book, “Your Best Life Now.” Osteen’s basic message is that God wants to bless you and make you happy if you are faithful and trust him.  It has been a very successful message.  Osteen’s book was #1 on the New York Times best sellers list, and has sold eight million copies.

          If the truth of a theology were proven by the results it produced, then Osteen would be living proof that his theology is exactly right.  Because Osteen clearly is living his best life now.  He is conservatively estimated to be worth around $50 million dollars.  Osteen’s house is a 17,000 square foot mansion that cost $10.5 million dollars.  His church, Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas has a weekly attendance of 45,000 people.  This is possible because the church – a former professional basketball stadium – holds almost 17,000 people.

          However, what you don’t find at Lakewood Church is a cross – it’s nowhere to be seen in the worship area.  And in this fact we find an indication that Osteen’s message is very different from what we hear from St. Peter this morning.  The apostle says that believing in Jesus and trusting in God does not spare us from suffering and hardship.  Instead, Jesus provides the model and pattern we are to follow in the midst of suffering.  However, we are blessed to walk in this way, because Christ is the One who died for our sins and has given us the living hope of the resurrection.

          Peter begins our text by saying, “For to this you have been called.”  To find out what we have been called to, we need to look back at the previous verses.  There Peter writes: “Slaves, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.”

          The apostle tells Christians who are slaves to obey their masters.  They are to do so, even when those masters are unjust – even when this involves suffering.  Peter says that when a Christian suffers unjustly and endures because of trust in God, this is a pleasing thing in God’s eyes.

          To endure unjust suffering. That is what Peter says is our calling.  He says this is so because of Jesus Christ. We hear in our text, “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.”

          Now, of course, thankfully you and I aren’t slaves.  But before we think that we are somehow exempt from Peter’s words, we need to recognize that in the next chapter the apostle says to all Christians, “For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God's will, than for doing evil.”  And there, Peter provides the exact same reason as he writes, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous.” Peter may be talking to slaves in our text, but he shares a truth of the Chirstian life that applies to everyone.

          In this letter, Peter wants us first to know that God has called us to be his own.  Earlier in this chapter he said, But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”

          God called you and made you his own.  He did it through his word.  Peter says, “you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God.” Through the water and Word of baptism the Holy Spirit gave you rebirth. He gave you new life as you became a child of God.

          God has called us to be his own. He has given us new life. And that means that now we seek to live according to God’s will.  Peter says, “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.’”

          Yet living in God’s way is no guarantee that things are going to be easy.  Peter has just said that Christians may suffer unjustly even when they are doing what is right.  Beyond that, in this letter the apostle says that we will suffer because we are doing what is right.  He describes how those around us will revile us because of what is right.

          Our world today will let you do pretty much whatever you want.  People believe they have the personal freedom to act as they choose. What it won’t allow you to do is to express opinions that contradict the world. What happens if you tell your family member that living together outside of marriage is sinful? What happens if you say that homosexuality is sinful and wrong?  What happens if you say that men are men, and women and women? 

          And what happens if you say that Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation?  To share Christ and the exclusive claims of the Christian faith often brings disdain in this world.  Peter speaks directly about this when he says, “If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.”

          Following Christ may mean suffering and hardship.  So why would anyone want to do so?  Why would anyone want to walk in those footsteps?  Peter says that it is because “Christ also suffered for you.”  The Chrisian life flows out of what Jesus Christ had done for us.

          Jesus, the Son of God, had no sin of his own. Peter says, “He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.”  The Father sent his Son into the world to carry out the mission of salvation for us. Jesus Christ was obedient to the Father’s will he as submitted himself to suffering on our behalf.  We hear in our text, “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.”

          Jesus had no sins. But we do.  Peter says, “For you were straying like sheep.”  In thought, word, and deed we stray from God’s ways.  That is why Jesus went to the cross.  Peter tells us, “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 took our sins as his own. By his death he has freed us from sin.  Peter says that we have been ransomed “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.”  Christ suffered for us in order to win forgiveness.

          Jesus Christ died for us.  But that was not the end of God’s saving work in Christ. Peter begins this letter by saying, “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, God raised Jesus. 

In Christ, God has conquered both sin and death.  Now he has exalted our Lord.  Peter says that the risen Christ 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.”  The Lord Jesus has ascended, and promised that he will return on the Last Day.

Those who believe in Jesus Christ may suffer for doing what is right; for believing what is right; and for saying what is right.  But Peter states this morning, “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.”

We follow Christ, even when it involves suffering, because he has suffered for us in order to give us forgiveness.  He suffered and died, but that was not all.  Instead, in his resurrection he has given us hope.  We know that in Christ victory is ours because he has defeated death. We will share in his victory on the Last Day when the Lord raises us from the dead and gives us a share in his resurrection.

This future keeps us going.  It gives us confidence to face the challenges of living as a Christian in this world.  Peter 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.”  We follow in Christ’s footsteps because we know where they lead.  They may involve suffering and difficulty now, but they lead to resurrection and life with God on the Last Day.
















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