Easter 4a

Preached: April 13, 2008

Remember Jesus When You Suffer
1 Peter 2:19-25

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from Jesus Christ, our crucified and risen Savior. The Word from God through which the Holy Spirit encourages our hearts today is 1 Peter 2.

For this is [experiencing] grace: if anyone, being conscience of God, bears up under grief although suffering unjustly. For what kind of reputation is it if you endure because you do wrong and are being beaten? But if you endure because you are doing good and suffering, this is [experiencing] grace with God. For to this end you were called, since even Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example so that you walk in his footsteps. He is the one who did not sin and no deceit was found in his mouth. He is the one who, being abused, was not returning the abuse. While suffering, he was not speaking threats. But he was surrendering himself to the One who judges justly. He is the one who carried our sins himself in his body on the wood, so that having died to sin, we live for righteousness. He is the one by whose wounds we have been healed. For you were like straying sheep, but you have now returned to the Shepherd and Watcher of your souls. (1 Peter 2:19-25)

This is the Word of our Lord.

Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints washed clean in the blood of our risen Savior:

The prosperity gospel promises you a financial return. One of its promoters, Kenneth Copeland, founder of KCM, Kenneth Copland Ministries, has written “as the seeds of prosperity are planted in your mind, in your will and in your emotions…they eventually produce a great financial harvest” (How to Prosper from the Inside Out, quoted from http://www.equip.org/site/c.muI1LaMNJrE/b.2777879/k.B4F4/JAJ302.htm ). In fact KCM's envelopes each say, “"I am sowing $_____ and believing for a hundredfold return" ( quoted from http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/01/29/cbsnews_investigates/main3767305.shtml ). In fact, his ministry and five others, including Benny Hinn, Joyce Meyer, and Paula White, have been so financially prosperous that Senator Chuck Grassley from Iowa asked for their ministries detailed financial records late last year. The prosperity gospel seems to work, at least for those at the top of the food chain.

But as you well know from Scripture and from your own experience, the prosperity gospel is not from God. In fact, through his Word and Sacraments our God braces us to withstand the hardships, troubles, and losses we suffer as we follow Jesus through this world that hates our Lord and his people. These words that the Holy Spirit gave the Apostle Peter to write is one such place. When we suffer, Peter urges us to remember Jesus.

That's the theme we keep in our hearts and minds today. Remember Jesus, when you suffer. And as your remember Jesus, 1) bear up under unjust suffering, 2) follow Jesus' example of suffering, and 3) believe that Jesus suffered for your sins. For when you remember Jesus, you don't need the prosperity gospel. Jesus is your priceless treasure.

A. Bear up under unjust suffering

1) In what ways have you had to suffer unfairness?

We've all been there where others treated us unfairly. Maybe it was just a social blunder or faux pas, like not being properly thanked. Or it could've been a serious, life-changing error, like medical malpractice. Most often it's somewhere in between. For example, the way family, friends, or classmates act, can leave us feeling unfairly treated. Often feelings of unfairness flow from our work-life as well. Are others doing their fair share ? Is my compensation in line with what I'm doing? When unfairness floods over us and turns our gut inside out, we want justice, at least what we consider just. “How can I bear up and do good to them under such unfairness. You don't know how bad they make me feel.”

But Peter was writing these words for people in a more unjust and helpless situation than we will probably ever find ourselves. He wrote these words to slaves, Christian slaves serving pagan masters. That's clear from verse 18 right before the text. “Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh.” (1 Peter 2:18 NIV). So if what he writes applies to the worst unfairness, it certainly applies to us.

2) How does God want us to react when others treat us unfairly?

Now if we are in an unjust situation, we often have the freedom to move on to a new job, a new doctor, a new social setting. That can be a god-pleasing way to deal with it. Slaves could not move on. Sometimes we can, and even should, appeal to those who have oversight to help ensure fairness. That's why bosses have bosses. That's why we have police and courts and different governmental agencies. And for you children and young people, the teachers and staff at school are there to help if others treat you unfairly. But slaves had no appeal. The government gave the master all power and right over the slave.

Sometimes, like a slave, we too can be stuck in unfairness. Maybe we can't move on, at least not right away. Sometimes those in charge don't take action or can't correct the unfairness, or, to be honest, we might not even have a legitimate complaint. What do we do then? Do we gripe? Do we retaliate? Do we think, “If they're going to treat me this way, I'm going to live down to their expectations”? Do we treat them as they treat us?

What does the Holy Spirit say through the Apostle Peter? “For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is 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” (1 Peter 2:19, 20 NIV).

Remember your God. Keep him in your conscience. Remember your God when you suffer. Bear up not as a stoic who is simply resigned to the situation. Bear up not as wimp who is too scared or too weak to do anything about it. Bear up as one who is conscience of God. Bear up trusting your God to care for you as his dear child through faith in Jesus. Bear up knowing that your life is a witness that reflects back on him whom you call your Father. Return their unfairness with good. “If you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God” (1 Peter 2:20 NIV).

B. Follow Jesus' example of suffering

1) How did Jesus endure unjust suffering?

In short, follow Jesus' example of suffering. This is what you were called to. You weren't called to have a life of financial gain and earthly happiness, as the prosperity gospel promises. You were called to follow Jesus. Follow his example of bearing up under unjust suffering. “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps” (1 Peter 2:21 NIV).

If you want to copy a drawing, you can place it under a piece of paper and then trace the lines. Jesus is that drawing under the paper. Our lives are to trace him as our example. Or think of a young boy following his dad through the snow jumping from one footprint to the next. Walk in Jesus' footprints, even when he leads you through suffering.

Peter takes us to the injustice of Jesus' trials before Annas, Caiaphas, and Pontius Pilate. There you see unfairness! His words echo the prophecies in Isaiah 53 that describe Jesus as a lamb led to slaughter, silent before it's shearers. “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth” (1 Peter 1:22 NIV), he quotes Isaiah. Jesus had done no wrong.

But how they unfairly accused him! Hear those false witnesses shout out against him. Others mock him, make fun of him, spit on him. But “when they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate” (1 Peter 1:23 NIV). Follow Jesus' example. The soldiers crowned him with thorns and beat him on the head. They nailed him to the cross. Did he shout threats at them or mumble under his breath? Not at all. “When he suffered, he made no threats” (1 Peter 2:23 NIV). Follow his example

But what did he do? “Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23 NIV). Follow his example. Entrust your troubles, your sufferings, your injustices, your losses into the hands of your heavenly Father. And leave them there. He judges justly. Nothing is hidden from his sight. Nothing is beyond his wisdom. Nothing is too great for his power. He is your good and merciful Father in heaven. For Jesus suffered for you to bring you into his family. Take it to your Father in prayer. Lay it before his throne. Entrust it to Him who judges justly, just as Jesus did.

C. Believe that Jesus suffered for your sins

1) How does Peter show that Jesus is more than just an example?

But how can we do that? How can we follow his example? How can we quietly suffer, entrusting all to our heavenly Father? How? Because Jesus is more than an example. Because of what he has done for you as your Savior.

Peter hinted at this earlier in verse 21 when he wrote, “Christ suffered for you” (1 Peter 2:21 NIV). Now he expands on what that means.“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24 NIV). Jesus suffered not merely as an example. He suffered for you, in your place, as your Substitute.

What precious words when we face unjust suffering! Look to the cross. See Jesus crucified in your place. See him hung on the tree for you. See his body carrying all your sins. For he is the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. Unjust suffering leaves us feeling unloved, but in the cross you have the assurance and promise of God's great love for you. He sacrificed his Son for you! Unjust suffering leaves us feeling helpless, but in the cross you see God taking care of your greatest need. All your sins have been paid for. Forgiveness and eternal life is his free gift to you through Jesus. His wounds spiritually heal you.

Some have gutted this life-giving message. My wife heard on the radio this past week, a couple of women who claimed to be Christians. They said that our sins are not bad enough that Jesus had to die for them. Rather Jesus was simply a good man who suffered at the hands of wicked people. They reduce him to only an example. Then he is no Savior, and we have no reason to bear up under unjust suffering.

But the Bible-truth is: Jesus suffered for your sins. He suffered for you in your place as your Substitute. That's how great your sin is; that's how much greater a Savior he is. “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5 NIV).

2) Where do we find the strength to bear up under unjust suffering as Jesus did?

Now since he has nailed your sins to the cross in his body, you have died to sin. Sin longer has power over you. Sin still tempts us to give in to griping, threatening, retaliating, especially when we unfairly suffer. But in Jesus you have the power to say no. For just as he has been raised from the dead, so also you have new life -- new life to live in righteousness, to do good even when others treat you unfairly.

For as your risen Savior, Jesus is your Shepherd. He laid down his life for you and has taken it up again. He watches over your soul. He has called you and me, straying sheep though we were, into his flock. In Baptism he made you his lamb. His shepherd-voice calls to you through his Word. He feeds your soul with his body and blood in the Lord's Supper. Under your Shepherd's great care and protection, we have no need to gripe or threaten or retaliate. He will take care of you. “For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” (1 Peter 2:25 NIV).

So no matter your situation in life, no matter how unfair life can be at times, all you need is Jesus. Remember Jesus, your Shepherd, who has suffered for your sins and now watches over your soul. Amen.

Pastor Gregg Bitter

St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
859 5th Street
Hancock, MN 56244
(320) 392-5313