Midweek 3 Sermon
The Patient Lamb of God
1 Peter 2:21–24
March 23, 2011
“Lamb of God, Pure and Holy”—that beautiful Lenten hymn (LSB 434) ties all our sermons together this season. Tonight, our meditation takes a more personal turn as our concentration shifts to the third line of the hymn: “ever patient and lowly.” So we fix our attention on “the patient Lamb of God.”
In our text St. Peter speaks of the example of Jesus, and we are all ears. God knows the school of hard knocks leaves us battered and bruised much of the time, and most of those injuries we have not deserved. Despite our best efforts to play by the rules and lead a godly life, we often end up with the short end of the stick. So while we are licking our wounds, we wonder: Is there another way, perhaps? Could Jesus provide us with a model of how to handle undeserved opposition? Maybe a dose of what He dished out in the temple against the money changers would prove helpful. Maybe a whip and a few well-chosen angry words would teach people a thing or two. Just what do you do when you do good and suffer for it? Is there another way?
But St. Peter leaves us no wiggle room. Want to know what to do when you suffer for doing good? Suffer, that’s what. “To this you were called,” writes St. Peter, “because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps” (1 Peter 2:21). The patient Lamb of God, you see, does not mean just a lamb who is tolerant and enduring. “Patient” means “suffering.” Tonight we consider the suffering Lamb of God. He is our example, writes St. Peter. He is the one who suffered for us.
And this suffering Lamb of God is not just a pattern or a mentor in suffering. Jesus wrote the book on suffering, and He wrote it in His own blood. He, the one who suffered for us, has called us to suffering. “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me,” says Jesus. Christians ought not be surprised when suffering comes their way; it is part of the deal. Along with Jesus comes His cross. You cannot have a Jesus who doesn’t suffer. There simply is no Jesus like that. The very reason He left His Father’s throne and came down from glory was to lower Himself all the way to death, even death on a cross. Jesus came to lay down His life as a ransom for sinners. This is the measure of His love, and the Father’s love, for a lost and fallen world. “In this is love,” wrote St. John, “not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and gave His Son as the payment for our sins” (1 John 4:10).
Yes, this Jesus whom we love is the patient Lamb of God, the suffering Lamb of God who suffered for us. He left us an example, that we should follow in His steps. Make no mistake about it, those footsteps are marked by hardship and suffering. “Come, follow Me,” says Jesus. Then He walked the sorrowful road to the cross. The very fact that we follow Jesus will get us in trouble. It gets us in trouble with the devil, but also with an ungodly and unbelieving world. We get in trouble with the devil and the world because they are allied against Jesus, and we are aligned with Jesus—we belong to Him. It should not surprise us, then, that the going can get tough in this world, because the enemies of Jesus are enemies of His friends too.
We keep wondering what went wrong when things go bad in our life; we think that if we are on God’s side everything should be fine and dandy. Not so, says St. Peter. “To this you were called,” (1 Peter 2:21). Because Christ suffered for you, you ought to expect to suffer when you have done nothing wrong. This is the life you have inherited because you belong to Jesus. Following in His steps means you share in His sufferings because you have the same enemies He has. These very sufferings, therefore, are the mark of authentic Christian faith; they show that you belong to Jesus, the patient Lamb of God.
“He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in His mouth” (1 Peter 2:22). Ok, but that’s only half the story. These words are quoted from the prophet Isaiah, where we see the full extent of the trials of the suffering Messiah: “He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in His death, though He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth” (Isaiah 53:9). It is a package deal, this patient love of Jesus for His Church. It includes not only suffering but also death. That is how we confess it in the baptismal creed: “He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried.”
So when we read the Passion history in these Lenten services, it is not so we can feel sorry for Jesus and all He went through at the hands of those bad people. Those cunning enemies of Jesus didn’t do Him in. Rather, it was the deliberate plan of God to make Jesus the victim of our sin so we could go free. “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquity. The chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and with His stripes we are healed” (see Isaiah 53:5).
The phrase “the Passion of the Christ” means His suffering and all that it included. St. Peter gives us the shorthand version: “When they hurled their insults at Him, He did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats. Instead, He entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23). That about sums up the suffering of Jesus. From His first words at the cross until His last, Jesus’ sole concern was to do the Father’s will in giving His body and shedding His blood for the forgiveness of our sins. He did not utter a word in self-defense or revenge from the beginning to the end. Instead, Jesus began by saying, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). And He ended by saying, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit” (Luke 23:46).
Now that is love for you. Love never seeks its own way but pours itself out for others. At the cross we see Love incarnate pouring Himself out for the sins of the entire world. This is a patient love, a suffering love. Having loved His own, Jesus loved them all the way to death, even the death of the cross. That is the measure of His love, this patient Lamb of God, this suffering Lamb.
We do not enjoy suffering and hardship. And we Christians don’t seek out suffering. We will take it when it comes our way because we know it goes with the territory. As Peter says, “To this we were called, because Christ suffered for us, leaving us an example that we should follow in His steps” (1 Peter 2:21). But suffering is never an end in itself.
The suffering of Jesus on His cross was not for its own sake. St. Peter reminds us when he writes: “He himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness” (1 Peter 2:24).
The reason Jesus was sacrificed is that He was the sin-bearer—but not His sins; rather, He bore our sins. All our selfishness, all our pride and arrogance, all our impenitence, all our stubborn refusal to love God above all things and our neighbors as ourselves, all our impatience and petty irritation with God and other people, all our refusal to let God be God, and all our prideful attempts to build ourselves up by tearing others down—each and every one of these sins of ours deserve death. So it is no wonder that Jesus died, though He is God who cannot die. For He is our sin-bearer, who bore all our sins in His own body.
And when Jesus, the patient Lamb of God, bore our sins in His suffering and death, He bore them all away. He removed once and for all the death penalty that stood against us. In a mysterious way, we died, too, in that death of His. St. Peter explains it this way: “so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness” (1 Peter 2:24). Here is where Christ’s patience becomes our patience: since by the grace of God all our impatience and ungodliness was given to Jesus in His death, He has taken it all away and given us His own righteousness. We have not just a new way of life, but a whole new life. When we are insulted, we need not retaliate; when we suffer, we need not threaten. And that’s good to know.
You may have suffered a lot because of the words or actions of others over the years, and you are not alone. Many of us are among the walking wounded. It is a tough, dark world out there. In such a world people get hurt. But remember that when Jesus was wounded for your transgressions, He also took your hurt with Him to His cross. By His wounds you have been healed. Your hurt comes to an end in Him who cried out in triumph that day at Calvary: “It is finished!” You need not carry your hurt with you any longer. Jesus bears your grief’s and carries all your sorrows. There is healing in His holy body and most precious blood.
A whole new life in Christ and His righteousness is yours, then. Take it and go with it into life. Live in Him as He is alive in you—this patient Lamb of God who bore all your sins in His own body on the tree. By His wounds you have been healed.