1 Peter 2:19-25 (Fourth Sunday of Easter—Series A)
“A Life Shaped by the Cross”
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield, CT
April 30, 2023
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Our text is the Epistle Reading from 1 Peter 2:
19For this finds favor, if, because of the awareness of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. 20For what kind of credit is it if you sin and are beaten and endure it? But if you are doing good and suffer you endure it, this finds favor with God. 21For into this you have been called because Christ also suffered on your behalf, leaving for you an example, in order that you might follow in His footsteps; 22Who committed no sin, neither was deceit found in His mouth, 23Who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return, when He suffered, He did not threaten, but continued entrusting Himself to the One who judges justly; 24Who Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed. 25For you were straying like sheep, but now you have turned to the Shepherd and Keeper of your souls.
The right Jesus that we worship in Spirit and truth as the Savior of all and the Lord of all is the Jesus who is risen from the dead. The right Jesus is the One who lives, the nail marks still visible in His hands and feet, His side scarred by the spear that pierced Him. Forevermore, Jesus is the Risen One who is the Crucified One. He “Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed.” It is the Crucified and Risen Jesus, who remains eternally God and Man, one Christ, who has revealed Himself to us in the Scriptures and in the breaking of the bread to not only be who He says He is, but also to deliver to you through His Gospel Word the very forgiveness of sins that His sacrifice, death, and resurrection purchased and won for you with His own blood. It is by this Gospel that you have been called by the Holy Spirit to a living faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior. It is by this Gospel that you receive the gifts of Christ’s cross. And it is in the peace of Christ, the peace that the death and resurrection of Jesus earned for you with God your Father, that your Lord and Master sends you to live the Christian life of faith and good works as His disciples and followers, indeed children of the heavenly Father, sisters and brothers of Jesus Himself.
What, then, does this look like? What does it mean that “into this you have been called because Christ suffered on your behalf, leaving for you an example, in order that you might follow in His footsteps”? It means suffering for doing good and enduring that suffering under the very care of Jesus who is your Shepherd and Keeper.
As Christians, we cannot live in an “Alice in Wonderland” fairytale. Nowhere do the Scriptures say, “Follow Christ and have a wonderful life.” Rather, the Bible says to us, from Jesus Himself, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” The life of a believer in Jesus—the living of the Christian life—is a cruciform life, a life shaped by the cross. Consider with me Jesus’ words to His disciples, and by extension, also to us, in John 15, spoken by our Lord on the night in which He was betrayed, hours before His own suffering: “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me” (John 15:18–21 ESV).
Are you familiar with the phrase, “like father, like son”? With the same understanding, “like Master, like disciple.” Jesus’ disciples, both then and today, face hostility from the unbelieving world. Several of you have shared with me over the last few months that you see Christians under attack in this country. Subtle persecutions are becoming more blatant against believers. There seems to be more of a “get in your face” attitude by unbelievers toward those who confess Christ as Lord. While certainly troublesome, it is not unexpected or out of the blue. Those who would think it easy to be a Christian fail to understand the real consequences of following Jesus Christ. As part of the cruciform life of faith, we are called to suffer and to be abused while we, as followers of Jesus, conscientiously do good to others, producing the fruits of our Spirit-given faith. As we learn from the Large Catechism of Dr. Luther, “If we would be Christians, therefore, we must surely expect and count on having the devil with all his angels and the world as our enemies [Matthew 25:41; Revelation 12:9]. They will bring every possible misfortune and grief upon us. For where God’s Word is preached, accepted, or believed and produces fruit, there the holy cross cannot be missing [Acts 14:22]. And let no one think that he shall have peace [Matthew 10:34]. He must risk whatever he has upon earth—possessions, honor, house and estate, wife and children, body and life. Now, this hurts our flesh and the old Adam [Ephesians 4:22]. The test is to be steadfast and to suffer with patience [James 5:7–8] in whatever way we are assaulted, and to let go whatever is taken from us [1 Peter 2:20–21].” And here is a reference to 1 Peter 2:20-21, “For what kind of credit is it if you sin and are beaten and endure it? But if you are doing good and suffer you endure it, this finds favor with God. For into this you have been called because Christ also suffered on your behalf, leaving for you an example, in order that you might follow in His footsteps.”
Like our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, so are we as His disciples who confess Christ with our mouth even as we believe in our hearts, living the life of faith and good works under the cross, enduring the suffering caused by the enemies of Christ and His people—the devil and the world. Into this you have been called, namely, to suffer wrong just as Christ did. In a great paradox, something that seems so contradictory but is nevertheless true, as Christians, the more we are wronged, the better it is for us. “If you are doing good and suffer and you endure it, this finds favor with God.” We walk literally in the footsteps of Jesus through suffering into glory.
Christians live out their faith in the midst of suffering. We bear a cross for the sake of the Gospel, whatever that cross might be, and this is a holy, precious, noble, and blessed calling because we Christians face such sufferings from the devil and the world of unbelievers with God’s strength. Christ Jesus suffered on your behalf. He suffered at the hands of the devil and the world. He suffered the hellish punishment for your sins on the cross, reviled, mocked, threatened, beaten, and murdered. He bore our sins in His body on that cursed tree so that you might die to sin and live to righteousness. Jesus’ wounds have healed you from your sins. Jesus’ wounds have rescued you from sin, death, and the devil with His holy, precious blood so that, by grace alone, you have been called by the Holy Spirit through the Gospel to believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Master. You have become His disciples who follow in His footsteps through suffering to the glory of the age to come.
Whatever we suffer in this life for the sake of Jesus and the true Gospel of His life, death, and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins truly pales in comparison to what our Lord suffered for us. As we first receive Jesus as our Savior, only then are we able to receive Him as an example for us to follow when we, like our Lord and Master, face suffering because of His name and for the sake of the Gospel. “If the master takes the lead and steps into the mire, it stands to reason that the servant will follow.”
And what is the example that our Savior Jesus Christ has given to us as we follow Him in living the Christian life under the form of the cross and face sufferings from the world? Jesus committed no sin, neither was deceit found in His mouth, not even in the face of completely undeserved suffering and abuse. By the grace of God, may the same be said of us when we are in the thick of suffering. May God the Holy Spirit preserve us from sinning. Jesus, when He was reviled, did not revile in return, when He suffered, He did not threaten, but continued entrusting Himself to the One who judges justly—the heavenly Father. By the grace of God, may the same be said of us when we are in the thick of suffering for His Name. May God the Holy Spirit give us the strength to endure suffering for doing good, to bear up under the abuse that comes because we belong to Christ Jesus, ever trusting in our heavenly Father.
Should God allow us this cross to carry, know that He has promised to give to you the strength to bear it by faith. Jesus Christ is your Good Shepherd. He is the Keeper of your life. He has called you by name in your Baptism. He has brought you into His fold through the Gospel. He cares for you in the midst of suffering as you follow in His footsteps to the glory of the age to come. As with Jesus, there was a cross and suffering before the glory, so it shall be with His disciples. The cross comes first and then the glory of life everlasting.
By the Holy Spirit, we are empowered by the Gospel to endure suffering as we continue to do good to others, bearing the fruits of our most holy faith, following the example of our Lord and Master whose disciples we are. Ignatius of Antioch, who died for his Christian faith around AD 110, illustrated what this looks like in the lives of Christians. He wrote, “Pray continually for the rest of mankind as well, that they may find God, for there is in them hope for repentance. Therefore allow them to be instructed by you, at least by your deeds. In response to their anger, be gentle; in response to their boasts, be humble; in response to their slander, offer prayers; in response to their errors, be ‘steadfast in the faith’; in response to their cruelty, be gentle; do not be eager to retaliate against them. Let us show ourselves their brothers by our forbearance, and let us be eager to be imitators of the Lord, to see who can be the more wronged, who the more cheated, who the more rejected, in order that no weed of the devil might be found among you, but that with complete purity and self-control you may abide in Christ Jesus physically and spiritually.”
Imitators of the Lord Jesus, walking in His footsteps, bearing the cross of suffering and abuse for His name’s sake, even as He is with us with His power and grace as our Shepherd and Keeper. That is who we are as Christians as we make our way through this world toward the life of the world to come. In all our weakness, we pray that we would reflect Christ’s servant life and follow in His footsteps, enduring cross and strife, as our Lord gives to us by grace the ability to reach out to our enemies with the power of the Gospel, which works faith and saves eternally. God grant us this steadfastness of faith and life as we live under the care of Christ in a life shaped by the cross. Amen.
 Paul Timothy McCain, ed., Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions (St. Louis: Concordia, 2005), 416.
 Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 30: The Catholic Epistles, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 30 (St. Louis: Concordia, 1999), 85.
 The Apostolic Fathers, Second Edition, trans. by J.B. Lightfoot and J.R. Harmer, ed. Michael W. Holmes (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1989), 89-90.