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IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF THE GOOD SHEPHERD

The central truth of the Christian faith is , “1 Peter 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree; … . By his wounds, you have been healed. It is that by God’s grace we are saved. Jesus showed this love toward us in not seeking vengeance, but forgiveness:  23 when he was insulted, he did not insult in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten but entrusted himself to the one who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree

This is why being a Christian also means that we expect to suffer as Christians so that the grace of God is manifest.

The Lord is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

The sermon for The Third Sunday of Easter, April 18, 2021, Pastor Edward Bryant. Faith & Our Savior Lutheran Churches, Medford & Grants Pass, Oregon.

1 Peter 2:21–25 (CSB)

21 For you were called to this, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. 22 He did not commit sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth;, 23 when he was insulted, he did not insult in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten but entrusted himself to the one who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree; so that, having died to sins, we might live for righteousness. By his wounds, you have been healed. 25 For you were like sheep going astray,, but you have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

Dear fellow redeemed:  Next week’s sermon will be on 1 Peter 2 that leads up to this lesson.  That section talks about living in this world and its brokenness while still keeping our focus on our eternity with Christ.  So when our reading begins, “For you were called to this” Peter is saying, “You were called to suffer for doing good.”  That is what happens when we live as Christ’s own in a corrupt world.

That is where we pick up our reading today, as Peter tells us that because we have been called to faith, called to Christ, even in the face of suffering,

WE FOLLOW IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF THE GOOD SHEPHERD

  1. We Live Under the Cross
  2. We Live Redeemed and Dead to Sin
  3. We Live Under the Good Shepherd’s Watchful Care – Through His Word
  1. We Live Under the Cross

The usual picture of the Good Shepherd is a romantic one, preserving the charm and the pleasantness while leaving out everything dark and hurtful.  It is easy to say that we would like to follow in the footsteps of someone who carries such a clean and cuddly and cute little bundle of fluff.  But remember, when we say that Jesus is the good shepherd, He Himself reminds us that He gave His life for the sheep.

We are the sheep who were lost and ready to be devoured.  He is the good shepherd who found us in our sins and fought off that wolf, the devil, as he accused us of our sins before God.  He rescued us, but not before He himself was mortally injured and gave up His life.

But because He is good, He not only suffered for protecting us, and not only paid the atonement price for our sins, death was not able to hold Him.  So Romans 4:25 “He was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” (Romans 4:25, CSB)

Now Peter is talking writing just as real opposition was rising against Christianity, as the Christians were being identified as something other than a sect of the Jews (who were under Imperial protection).  Nero had used the Christians as a scapegoat for terrible calamities in Rome and this “great idea” of persecuting the Christians was spreading to the provinces.

Part of what Peter is doing is comforting the believers by reminding them that their Good Shepherd continues to watch over them, and that we have an eternal and joyful dwelling place with Him.  But He is also reminding the Christians that just as Jesus was called to suffer for doing good, so we too are called to do the same thing.  because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. 22 He

did not commit sin, and
no deceit was found in his mouth;
23 when he was insulted, he did not insult in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten but entrusted himself to the one who judges justly.

So when we suffer, as Christians, when we suffer because we stand up not only for what is right and true and virtuous, but also because we are gracious and forgiving, how are we to respond?  Like Jesus?  23 when he was insulted, he did not insult in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten but entrusted himself to the one who judges justly.

What if the Christians had found those who turned in believers for torture and death and slit their throats in the middle of the night?  Perhaps they could have started whispering campaigns to ruin the traitors’ reputations and get them in trouble with the Roman authorities. Wouldn’t that have been fine!  They would have had a reputation like the so-called “Christians” fighting in Ireland and using terrorism to bring down the government, or in the Balkans, wiping out villages of Muslims in retaliation for previous atrocities.

As it was, the Christians got the reputation for suffering injustice. What were they remembered for? They were remembered for their hospitals and orphanages and for their hospitality and generosity.

The essence of our faith is Justification by GRACE through Faith.  God has dealt with us in undeserved love.  Christ dealt with His enemies in undeserved love. This is the way we are to treat one another.  This is the way we are to treat our enemies, even when they use the instruments of justice to treat us unjustly.  This is the way we are to treat one another in our families and in the church.

(Just for the record, this has nothing to do with the way that the government is to carry on its work of defending its citizens and punishing criminals.  Peter is talking about our individual role as Christians.)

2.   We Live Redeemed and Dead to Sin

You and I have been given a true view of our situation before God that is wildly at odds with our intuition, our expectations, and the general view of the world.  God has revealed to us in His word that every sin has been redeemed upon the cross. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree; … . By his wounds, you have been healed.

That means my sins, your sins, the sins of our friends, our family, and even our enemies.  Our calling in life is to proclaim this to the world.

As corrupt and licentious as the world has become, the world still must deal with the problem of sin.  However else it may be defined, it is the fallenness of man that is the problem.

The only solution that is enough is the solution that God Himself has provided.  Only God’s grace is enough, the only thing ever enough to give us hope is that 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree; … . By his wounds, you have been healed.

This is the central truth of all time.

This is the central truth of our lives.  This is what we live for, and he bore our sins and gave us his righteousness so that, having died to sins, we might live for righteousness. What does that mean for us, it means that we truly love our Savior, and for his sake do live in some measure according to the righteousness He has given us.

Because we have the righteousness that is from God, and is by faith, we start every day as a Christian with a perfectly blank slate. Before God you are credited with no sin, only the good and virtuous things you have done out of love for him. I can’t say it enough: Remember that you are forgiven!

So, as a result of the righteousness given me, I am sad that sin is part of my life.  I’m sure you are, too.  There are the inadvertent lapses, there are the sins that are so appealing to our flesh and so overcome our weaknesses that we fall into them all too frequently- but then turn away from them again.  There are the secret sins about which only our Savior knows.  But this is not what we live for.

The phrase “die to sin” in the Greek is actually more like, “cease to exist.”  We don’t exist to sin, but to serve, and to love, and to give, and to hope – we exist for all that is righteousness.  And that existence is fulfilled in Christ and in eternity.

3.   We Live Under the Good Shepherd’s Watchful Care – Through His Word

This is what it means to belong to the Good Shepherd, who has made us his own, redeeming us on the Cross. 25 For you were like sheep going astray,, but you have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.  [you have turned around to be with the Shepherd and Overseer of your Souls]

This closing verse is the one that links everything back to the Good Shepherd.  Our calling to live under the cross, to live in grace, not giving evil for evil, but undeservedly loving others, our calling to live in the reality of our redemption instead of living to appease our sinful nature – all of this is because we follow the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for us.

And He is still our good shepherd, giving us guidance through this valley of life in which it seems death rules and ends everything, unto Heaven itself, which is the very definition of life.

He leads us through this book, which is inspired and without error.  It is His living word, and it is truth.  Therefore it is not surprising that the world hates it, and rails against it.  But for all that, it is the living Word of God, and kindles faith in human hearts.  Through it our Good shepherd leads us through the deadly gloom and shade of this sin-cursed life to the new-made world of Heaven.

May we follow Him!

AMEN.