Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Sunday, May 11, 2014
Healed, by His Wounds - May 11, 2014 - Fourth Sunday of Easter/Mother’s Day - Text: 1 Peter 2:19-25
This morning we celebrate Good Shepherd Sunday, so called because our Gospel reading is the reading of Jesus our Good Shepherd. Today is also our secular holiday of Mother’s Day and so we extend cordial greetings to the mothers who are with us this morning as we say, “Happy Mother’s Day.”
The image of sheep and shepherds has long been used in our church as a way to help us to understand how our Lord cares for us. We are His sheep and He is our Good Shepherd. We even use this imagery in our own congregations, that is we call our local minister our pastor or our shepherd. Certainly I include myself as one of God’s sheep here on this earth. Jesus is our Good Shepherd who cares for us and shows how much He loves us in this fact that He gave the ultimate sacrifice of Himself for us. And just as sheep tend to get into trouble, following where their nose leads, following the sheep in front of them into trouble, getting into one “mess” after another, even after the shepherd just rescued them from one “mess,” even so, we continue through this life getting into trouble, following where our will and whim leads us, following other sinners into sin and getting into trouble and one mess after another, perhaps even asking God, “What have you done for me lately?”
In our text for this morning Peter continues talking to us about the trials and tribulations, the troubles of this world. There is a difference between the troubles that we bring on ourselves and troubles that are brought upon us. Peter distinguishes between just suffering and unjust suffering. Just suffering is suffering for when we do wrong. When we do wrong, we get punished, that is justice. If I disobey the speed limit sign and get caught, I get a ticket. If I take something from someone without asking and get caught I get punished. Yet, even if I do not get caught when I do wrong, very often my own conscience will punish me and bother me.
Even the one thief on the cross recognized this just and unjust punishment. He recognized that he and the other thief were receiving their just reward, the punishment for their sins, but Jesus was being punished unjustly. Jesus never sinned. Jesus was perfect. Certainly we cannot imagine perfection, because we have never experienced perfection. We may only be able to imagine perfection to a small degree, but Jesus was perfect and yet, in His perfection, He bore the punishment for our sins.
Peter speaks about just suffering and about unjust suffering. We begin reading at verse nineteen, “19For this 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” (v. 19-20). Again, as we have said, when we are punished for doing wrong, that is just punishment. But, when we are punished for doing right, that is unjust punishment. There are many in our world today who suffer such unjust punishments. There are many who have been, who are, and who will continue to be punished simply for the fact that they believe in Jesus, that is there are many people in our world who suffer simply because they are Christians.
Peter encourages us in this same way. Although, at this time, we may not suffer to a great extent for being Christians, there may come a day, anytime soon when we may have to suffer for our faith. It may one day (soon) be illegal to make the exclusive claim we have made for so long, that is that faith in Jesus alone saves. It may not be too far off that we will be punished, fined or imprisoned for expressing the belief that certain immoral acts are wrong and sin, such as homosexual behavior, abortion, and the like. If and when this time may come, that is to suffer for doing good, we are to count this as a gracious thing in God’s sight.
Peter gives us the example of Christ. We continue reading at verse twenty-one, “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” (v. 21-24).
Unlike you and me, Jesus was conceived and born in perfection. Jesus lived perfectly. He never did anything wrong. He always did what was right. He never had original sin, because He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit. He never had actual sin. He never sinned sins of commission, doing anything that was wrong, thinking anything that was wrong, or speaking anything that was wrong. He never sinned sins of omission, not helping, thinking or speaking the best. He never sinned in thought, word or deed. He was perfect.
Only because Jesus was perfect was He able to do for us what He did, namely that He was then able to take our sins upon Himself. He became sin for us. He became our substitute. He took our sins upon Himself in order to pay the price for our sins. The price for sin was set in the Garden of Eden, eternal spiritual death or hell. Jesus paid that price for us, for you and for me as well as for all people of all places of all times. He paid the price for sin completely.
Jesus, who was perfect, suffered unjustly for our sin. Even the thief on the cross recognized that Jesus was innocent, that He was righteous, that He did not deserve what He was getting, but that it was for him and for our sins that Jesus died.
Jesus died. God died. Jesus paid the price for the sins of all the people who had lived and sinned up to this point in history. He also paid the price for the sins of all people who would live and sin after Him. Jesus bore the sins of all, including and especially He bore your sins and my sins.
Peter uses the sheep and shepherd imagery also. He says we were straying sheep. We finish reading the text, verse twenty-five, “25For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” (v. 25). If you know anything about sheep you know that they tend to stray. Their eyesight is not very good and so they have a tendency to follow the sheep directly in front of them. They like to eat and so they tend to stray wherever their nose leads.
Jesus is the Good Shepherd. Our Gospel reading brings this out. There is a difference between a hired hand and a good shepherd. Jesus is our Good Shepherd. Jesus calls men to be undershepherds, that is to be pastors in our congregations. There are some pastors who truly are hired hands and there are pastors who truly are shepherds who care for their sheep. Understanding that we pastors too are human, but caring for you often entails the not so pleasant tasks that many of us relate to parenting, correcting the sheep when they err. Please understand that just as a parent corrects their child or children out of love, so pastors are to correct their sheep out of love. To not correct the sheep, to let the sheep roam and stray into any mischief, false doctrine and the like and especially to lead the sheep into false doctrine and teaching is not the work of a shepherd, but a hireling.
Jesus is our Good Shepherd and He models what it is to be shepherds in the flock, in the congregation. Again, Jesus is perfect, we pastors are not so perfect. Jesus finds us and brings us back into the sheepfold. Pastors, as well as those of us who are brothers and sisters in Christ are to likewise imperfectly follow His example and care for one another.
Ultimately, Jesus is the one who watches over us. I cannot look into your hearts, but Jesus can and He does. He is the great Good Shepherd and He does care for us as He has cared for us as He ultimately showed His caring in the giving of His life for ours.
And so, in good Lutheran fashion we ask, “What does this mean?” First and foremost, because of our sinful nature, being conceived and born in sin, sinning in thought, word and deed, sinning sins of omission and commission, we understand that we are deserving only of a just punishment for our sins. We are deserving of eternal spiritual death, hell.
However, we have not, we will not, nor will we ever receive what we deserve. We will never receive eternal spiritual death because Jesus paid that price for our sins. That is what He suffered on the cross. That is why He took our sins upon Himself. That is the price He paid for us. Because of His great love for us.
Peter tells us, by His wounds we are healed, that is, by Jesus wounds, by His suffering and death we are healed, that is we are healed spiritually, our sins are forgiven. Two weeks ago we heard Jesus say words of peace to His disciples and to us. His peace is true peace. His peace is not simply a moment or two of calm and quiet, or even serenity, but His peace is true peace, the heart of which is the forgiveness of sins. Without forgiveness there is no peace. You know how it is, when you do something wrong your conscience bothers you. Jesus gives the peace of forgiveness which calms the troubled conscience. By His wounds we are healed.
And now, because we have been redeemed, bought back, traded for, forgiven, make just, righteous and holy in God’s eyes, by faith in Jesus, faith given to us through His means of grace, now, we rejoice in our sufferings, because when we suffer for doing good, especially when we suffer for being Christians, we give glory to God.
We might rightly confess, we are unworthy. We are unworthy of all that our Lord has done for us, does for us and will continue to do for us. We are unworthy that He should even care for us. We are unworthy and yet He makes us worthy. We gives us life. He gave His life so that we might have life. He gives us faith. He gives us forgiveness. He gives us eternal life. He gives, He gives, He gives and we are given to. Indeed, by His wounds we are healed. Thanks be to God and to Him be the glory for Jesus’ sake. Amen.