Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Lent Mid-Week 2

Lenten Mid-Week Two[1]
February 20, 2008
Text: 1 Peter 2:21-24:
For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an
example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit
found in his mouth. When 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. He
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 (ESV).

Jesus Christ, our Lamb of God, pure and holy, who on the cross didst suffer, is also ever patient in His suffering on our behalf (cf. LSB 434). And in this way He has left an example for us in our own suffering. Jesus is not an example of how we save ourselves. He saves us. He is not an example of how we merit God’s favor. Jesus has merited God’s eternal love and favor for us. But He is an example of how we as Christians should bear the holy cross, the trials and temptations that God, in His love and wisdom, allows us to undergo as we live our earthly lives, fulfill our vocations, and await our deliverance. We should bear our cross patiently, as Jesus did. We should suffer patiently, following in the steps of our Lord, entrusting ourselves to Him who judges justly.

God is the One who alone judges justly. Jesus patiently endured His suffering by entrusting Himself to God, the eternal and just Judge, to whom belongs vengeance for evil and reward for good on the Last Day. In other words, Jesus could suffer patiently because He knew He was in God’s hands. He knew the end of the story. He knew that God would judge Him righteous and raise Him from the dead and seat Him at His right hand. Therefore suffer He did. He suffered for you and for me. He suffered for our sins. St. Peter quotes Isaiah 53, the great “Suffering Servant” chapter of the Bible, in our text: “And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth” (v. 9). These words, and all of Isaiah 53, speak of Christ our Lord. He suffers all manner of evil and even death at the hands of sinners, unjustly, having done no evil and spoken no evil Himself. He does so because in this way, as Isaiah says in the same chapter, He bears our griefs, carries our sorrows, is wounded for our transgressions, and crushed for our iniquities. Upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and by His stripes, His wounds, we are healed (vv. 4-5). Christ does not die primarily to be an example for us, although He is that. He dies first and foremost as the sacrificial Lamb of atonement, the payment for our sins. We put Him on the cross by our sin. On the cross He dies for every last person in the world who has ever lived or ever will live. That includes you and me. God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21). All your sins were placed upon the head of Jesus on Good Friday. That includes the sin of impatience in suffering.

Before Jesus is your example, He is your sacrifice of atonement. He bore your sins in His body on the tree. He died for all those times you did not bear the cross patiently, all the times you refused to follow Jesus even unto death. He died for all those times you refused to die to the self, sacrifice yourself for others, and even bear unjust punishment from your enemies. When there was deceit in your mouth, there was none in His. When you reviled those who persecuted you, He did not revile, but blessed. When you threatened those who threatened you, He did not threaten, but prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). When you refused to turn the other cheek, He gave His cheeks to those who pull out the beard; He hid not His face from disgrace and spitting (Is. 50:6). He fulfilled God’s holy and righteous Law in your place. He patiently endured suffering both as your sacrifice and when you could not. And here is the good news for you. In Baptism, you are given all the credit for His perfect righteousness and His patient endurance, His active and passive righteousness we call them in Christian theology, and His sin-atoning death covers you. Your sins are washed away and you are pronounced righteous in Christ.

But there is even more than that. You are also given power to live a new life in Christ. You die to sin and live to righteousness. You are given the Holy Spirit, who not only calls you to faith, He also sanctifies you, makes you holy, and gives you power to bear the cross patiently. In this way, Jesus is your example. What you could not do, He has done for you, and now gives you power to do yourself. He gives you power to turn the other cheek. He gives you power to bless those who curse you. He gives you power to take up your cross and follow Him. You do so entrusting yourself to God who judges justly. You know the end of the story. You know that He has pronounced you righteous on account of Christ and will raise you from the dead. You know that you, also, will stand before the throne of God and of the Lamb and worship with the choir of saints and angels. In the mean time, you hurt, it is true. But you know that your Lord Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, pure and holy, has borne your griefs, and by His wounds you have been healed. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

[1] This sermon is based on Lamb of God, Pure and Holy (St. Louis: Concordia, 2008). Though the sermon is mine, I am indebted to the authors for many of the ideas expressed here.

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