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Easter 3 – 1 Peter 2:21-25

by pastorjuhl ~ May 11th, 2013

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

            Blessed Martin Luther says about today’s Epistle: “A Christian, just because he is a Christian, is subjected to the dear cross, so that he must suffer at the hands of men and of the devil, who plagues and terrifies him with tribulation, persecution, poverty, and illness and inwardly, in his heart, with his poisonous darts. The cross is the Christians’ sign and watchword in their holy, precious, noble, and blessed calling, which is taking them to heaven. To such a calling we must render full due and accept as good whatever it brings.”

Bummer! Why did Saint Paul have to say that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God? Aren’t Christians supposed to live their best life now? Whatever happened to victorious Christian living? Isn’t everything hunky-dory now that Jesus is raised from the dead? The victory is won! Eternal life is ours because Jesus lives!

This is true, but consider also that so long as you are here on earth, you are not clothed in God’s colors, but in the colors of the devil. The devil’s children should be bound in chains and should suffer all manner of misfortune. The devil’s children have all the world’s pleasures. They are wealthy and powerful. They enjoy honor and money to the full. They even put on God’s clothes and take God’s name as though they were God’s favorites.

What about us Christians? We are the heretics. We are under God’s wrath, not them. Everything is backwards. We are called children of the devil, and the devil’s offspring are called God’s children. That smarts. Heaven, earth, and all creatures cry out in complaining protest. They are unwilling to be subjected to vanity and to suffer that the wicked abuse them to the dishonor of God.

We are still sinners according to the flesh. We deserve all the earthly suffering that comes our way. We also deserve eternal damnation. In repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, through the daily appropriation of the forgiveness of sins, suffering is no longer a punishment of sin properly understood. The true punishment of sin is not every earthly calamity that happens to us, but eternal damnation. That’s hard to swallow every time something bad happens to us.

The cross is with us every step of the way this side of Paradise because of Jesus, the Sin-Bearer, whom we confess as God and Savior. The confession of Christ entails persecution. Saint Paul tells Saint Timothy, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.

Not a lot of joy there, eh? There is joy in bearing the cross because Christ first bore the cross for you. Your burden is made light in His burden. This is what Saint Peter means when he says that Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in His steps. You need not go looking for a cross to bear. Crosses will find you. Perhaps you are bearing a few right now. Crosses look like a sick spouse, or an unbelieving spouse. Crosses look like slavery to an addiction. Crosses look like failures among family and friends.

Imposing a cross on yourself is as bad as trying to save yourself from sin and wrath. You can’t do either thing. Consider Jesus Christ, Who came into this world as God made flesh in order to bear a cross His Father imposed on Him for the life of the world. Jesus is the sinless Lamb of God, the Scapegoat Who bears the sins of the world upon His back. He goes uncomplaining forth into the wilderness of sin and death to suffer what you deserve because of your rebellious, disobedient nature. Jesus is the ultimate example of cross bearing because only He can bear your sin to death in order that you might have forgiveness and life.

He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in His mouth. Sin and deceit cling to everything we think, say, and do. Christ never sinned. Christ never lied. Nevertheless, He bore in His body the punishment you deserve for sin and deceit. By His stripes you are healed.

When He was reviled, He did not revile in return. Those who stood under His cross and mocked Him look a lot like you. Consider all the times you misuse the Name of the Lord your God. Consider all the times you remained silent when you could have spoken to defend and speak well of Christ, the hope in you for eternal life. Nevertheless, Jesus sought you out when you strayed from Him and when your mouth spoke evil of Him. He carried you back to the flock, forgiving your sin, washing you clean in baptismal water, and feeding you with His Holy Body and Blood.

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. Never once did Jesus threaten His Father for forsaking Him. Never once did Jesus call it quits in His work of salvation, from His humble birth to His callous death.

As Jesus died to sin and lived to righteousness, so do we as we follow Him through the valley of the shadow of death to eternal life. We bear our crosses with Christian patience, praying that they may be taken from us. Perhaps they will. Perhaps they won’t. All crosses find their end in Jesus Christ, the firstborn from the dead, Who will raise this imperfect body and make it a perfect body. When the mortal body is cast aside and changed, all crosses will end, especially the greatest cross of all that awaits us: the cross of death. Death has been swallowed up in victory.

God forgives you and remits the eternal punishment for the sake of Christ the Lord, desiring that you patiently endure the lesser suffering for the utter mortification of the sins inherent in your flesh and blood. Christ has gone before and left you an example of perfect patience under the most intense suffering, an example equaled nowhere in the world. The Supreme Majesty, God’s own Son, suffered in the most humiliating manner the extremity of torture, pain, and anguish in body and soul, something intolerable to mere human nature; and that innocently, and for us condemned sinners – for us strangers now made friends in His blood and righteousness.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

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