19This is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. 20For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. 21For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 22He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 24He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
Saint Peter’s opening words in our text are not easy to deal with; “This is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly.” Everyone can expect troubles and suffering in their lives. Sometimes we face troubles and experience great suffering because of what we may have done or not done. Every student knows that if their assignments are not completed, you may not pass the class. We can expect the same result for doing or not doing what we should in life. And we must also acknowledge those troubles and suffering that are common to all people. The news is filled with reports of generic disasters, tornadoes, floods, blizzards, wildfires, wars, and so on. These are things that happen to the just and the unjust, everywhere. Yes, they are a matter of sin. Then there are those troubles that come upon us because of our relationship with God. Living a decent life in word and deed has its consequences. Many are desirable, but that is not always the case. I think everyone has heard about Daniel in the lion’s den (cf. Daniel 6). Remember, Daniel’s fellow rulers were jealous of him and persuaded King Darius to make a decree forbidding anyone to pray to any god except to the king himself: those who violated the order would be thrown to the lions. Daniel continued to pray to the Lord God, three times a day. The king was forced to punish Daniel. The point is Daniel suffered for doing what was right. No, it does not seem fair. Doing good should result in blessing and reward.
However, there are the consequences “for straying like sheep” (25). We are constantly battling with temptation and our own inherent tendency to stray. When you stray from the fold of the Good Shepherd you lose the sense of security, protection, and care of the Shepherd. You assume the burden of providing your own care and security. Anxiety and worry take their place. You become vulnerable. God’s promise to provide what you will eat, drink, and wear, (cf. Mt. 6:25) are forfeited. But Peter reminds all who have strayed, through God’s living and active Word, the Lord has caused you “to be born again to a living hope” and “returned [you] to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” (cf. 25).
The people Peter’s letter addresses lived in a world that was hostile toward God’s people. They felt threatened by persecution, rejection, and poverty. Many also faced the loss of life because of their faith and loyalty to Jesus Christ. Peter tells us that we can meet those fears with the firm confidence of the “living hope” through Christ’s victory on the cross. He writes in chapter 4, “Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, [we] arm [ourselves] with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of [our] time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God” (cf. 4:1-2).
By the power of the Holy Spirit through God’s Word, we have been “returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls” (25). Through Holy Baptism in Christ, you are raised to new life with Him and made heirs of an eternal “inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you” which “by God’s power [is] being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1:4-5). Even though we still stray and fall short of the glory of God, our Shepherd, who shed His blood on the tree, restores us again and again to His fold and His care unto everlasting life. Now to Jesus Christ be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen (2 Pt. 3:18b).
Grace Lutheran Church LCMS
825 North 1st West
Cheyenne Wells, CO, 80810-0728
Sunday Service begins at 9:00AM
Reverend Steve Zandstra