Pastor Walther / May 7, 2017 / Confirmation/Easter 4/Good Shepherd / The Shepherd’s Way / 1 Peter 2:19-25
1 Peter 2:19-25
For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.
“He committed no sin,
and no deceit was found in his mouth.”
When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
Are you comfortable? Now that’s probably a loaded question right? As I look at the confirmands, you’re sitting there not just in nice clothes, but you’re also wearing a white itchy robe. Not only that, but your family and friends and the rest of the congregation are here for you! Comfortable? Maybe not. Now, I could have asked the same question not too long ago as you were in your bed, where I’m sure you’d be comfortable. I could have asked you when you were on your spring vacation and I’m sure you would have answered differently. Unfortunately, we are never promised a comfortable life here on earth. Marketing companies try to convince you otherwise. Electronics attempt to make life more comfortable. But the reality of our lives and situations keep reminding us otherwise.
The apostle Peter wrote our section of scripture to people who were not in a very comfortable situation, to put it lightly. They were slaves. Peter was not advocating nor condoning slavery but acknowledged that this is where people were at. It was the reality of life at that time. Your situation is different. You aren’t slaves. But these words are just as much for you as they were for people shackled to their job. These words are written for you because although some adults may try and downplay your problems, you are going through experiences that we the older generations have never seen or gone through. Older generations may look at your generation and say how good you have it, but we fail to see that the issues are not any different nor any better. In fact, they’re worse. Although there are anti-bullying campaigns to stop bullying, and although we all have experienced bullying in some way, there are entirely new ways that people bully God’s people. Although there are support systems in place, the suicide rate continues to grow in your age group. It doesn’t help when the TV that you watch or society around glamorizes suicide as the only way out from depression or as revenge against the bullies. How can the world around us claim that it has the answers and that it offers comfort and hope when it only hands out the complete opposite?
Yet, why do we continue to look for comfort in the world around us, or the things that we do? Why do we tell ourselves over and over again that we know what’s best, only to be left heartbroken time and time again? The reason why we can’t find comfort in the world is because it has no comfort to give. The reason why we can’t find lasting comfort is because to the world we are nothing, we are simply used for the benefit of others.
But our God doesn’t see us that way. Whether we are slaves like in Peter’s day or confirmands, God loved the whole world so much that he didn’t let us drown in our hopelessness, he didn’t leave us alone to find comfort in a dark world by ourselves, but he gave hope to us in his Son. He came to bat for us. He came to fight for us, who have been bullied by our sin and this sinful world.
I think of bullies that I had to deal with. I was always happy to know that I had an older brother who might come to bat for me. I liked the idea that my brother could beat up whoever tried to beat me up. Our God doesn’t work like us dimwitted humans who only keep the cycle of sin going. Instead of Jesus perpetuating the cycle of sin and suffering, Jesus does what we as humans fail to do, he didn't fight back. Christ didn’t come to beat up the people who made fun of him, he didn’t come to beat us up for stabbing him in the back with our sin. Instead, he took the beating for us. He did not even strike back! Christ deserved none of it. Yet, he took our place on that cross, the cross we should each die on because of our sin. Nothing could make him forget that he had come to seek and to save that which was lost. Because Christ received the beating, we received the healing. The punishment for our sins, the hopelessness and despair without the love of God; none of those things can touch us, because we are justified: declared not guilty. We have received the forgiveness of sins.
But that knowledge of what God has done for us, the knowledge that we have been justified in God’s eyes, that is not just some trivial information for us down the road when we think we might die, but that knowledge is for us right here and right now. Peter writes: “He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness.” In other words, Christ did not die to take away our sins so that we could forget about him. Christ did not die to take away our sins so that we could live however we want. Peter actually says the complete opposite. He says there is a death involved. Death is a separation, a separation from life and from everything we know. Peter is saying that as Christians we die to sin. In other words, we are to separate from sin and to live for righteousness. The question then is, how? How do we know how to die to sin and how to live for righteousness?
Well, to answer that question, I’m going to take us back to the cold snowy months of winter. In my walk to church, if I had forgotten to bring my winter boots I would hop and jump from one foot print to another so that I wouldn’t get snow in my shoes. When I wore my winter boots, I would try and make big tracks so that someone could easily follow my footprints.
That’s what Peter is getting at here. Jesus is the pattern in our lives. He is the original footprint for us to follow and to duplicate. Our God did not only send his Son to forgive our sins and to take the beating we should have, but Jesus is also our motivation and our example, not for earning for salvation, but for living a Christian life. When we keep our eyes on him and in God’s Word we see how to die to sin and to live for him.
Can you imagine living in your home without any of the panels on the wall, without any of the furniture, but just the wood frame and roof? I mean, it works. You technically could live there, but we want to fill in what we can. In the same way, you have received a Christian framework through your Christian education. But you should want to continue to learn more about God’s word and how to express your love to God and to his people. In other words, Confirmation is not the end of your Christian life and most certainly not the end of your Christian education. You are practically laughing at God by thinking that once confirmation is done, you never have to show up to church or bible study ever again. You will want to continue to be in God’s Word strengthening your connection with God because just like the frame of a house won’t do well in a storm, we want to be ready for the suffering and the storms that we will inevitably face.
Our Good shepherd, Jesus, and his way will not always be the easy way. We see Christ’s example of suffering. We think especially of Christ’s mockery and the abuse of the Sanhedrin, of the whipping and the mockery of the soldiers, and of the crucifixion, and yet he never retaliated. We see that footprint in the snow that we will no doubt put our foot into. We will suffer as Christians. But, Peter makes this clear that this is not suffering for our bad choices. This is not suffering because you didn’t do your homework and now you’re getting a bad grade. This isn’t suffering because you got a ticket for speeding. No, this is suffering for being Christian and doing the right thing. You will be made fun of for how you live your life, how you act, and how you talk.
Our sufferings are seen differently than the world around us. Christ exalted suffering as something worthwhile when associated with His cross. In the light of his cross, sufferings become blessings. Our sufferings become blessings because they are transformed from misery into ministry. Wherever we go in our lives, we take around this hope and this joy of the cross. It has a profound effect on the way we live our lives and the way people see us living our lives. They give us opportunity to show our love for God and allow us to be witnesses to the people around us.
Without this love of Jesus, we would still be like straying sheep with no future home of peace. Christ changed everything. He changed this dreary, hopeless picture. The wandering is over. The sheep are where they belong, under the watchful eye of the shepherd who leads his flock to the fresh waters of his word and the green pastures of his love.
So many times our faith wavers and the things of this world and our sinful flesh take us away from Christ. But, thats why I love this text for this Sunday. The times that we feel like the world and the devil are attacking us, Jesus steps in as our Good shepherd. He laid down his life for us to wipe away every blemish of ours. Every doubt and thought that veered us away from Christ, every failed attempt to live by his example has been washed away. The Shepherd’s way is comfort and hope. May we live each day in the comfort that Jesus is there, guiding us and protecting us. May God bless us and bless the confirmands as we fix our eyes on our good Shepherd. Amen.
The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.