The Ambassador’s Example of a Suffering Servant (1 Peter 2:21-25)
We have been talking about what it means to be an ambassador for Jesus Christ as we take this living hope out to others. We said it involves a recheck of our identity (1 Pet. 2:9-10), it involves having the objectives right (1 Pet. 2:11-12) and thirdly, it involves submission (1 Pet. 2:13-3:7). God’s given us a sub-mission, a smaller mission to be His ambassadors through submitting to those in authority over us, whether in the government or in the workplace (1 Pet. 2:13-18), even it means suffering for doing right (1 Pet. 2:19-20).
Peter has been addressing slaves in the congregation who have gotten saved and now wondering how they can be free in Christ and still be a slave to a human being. Commentator Karen Jobes notes, “Christian slaves may have wondered, or perhaps even wishfully hoped, that their new birth into a living hope would relieve them from the oppressive social expectations of their station.”Some of their masters were cruel and harsh. It was easy then to think that they should run away and not stay under that abuse.
Wait, did you just say, “Submit even in our suffering?” But don’t you know how badly I have been treated? I am deeply hurt! That’s not right what they did to me! I have a right to be angry and bitter. I want this person shown up and pay for what he/she has done to me, then I’ll feel better about it. As we are paralyzed and held captive by these thoughts, how excited do you think we are about witnessing and being an ambassador to the lost? We are more interested in ourselves and how we feel than about the gospel and reaching those who do not believe with it.
But we might be thinking how unrealistic it is to submit in suffering. No one realistically has submitted in suffering and still pleased God! I wish there was someone who walked in my shoes! Wait, Peter says, I do know someone who shows us what it means to submit under suffering and I’m going to tell you why we should follow Him along that path. Today, I want to look at why Jesus Christ is the example of submission in our suffering and how His submission gives us the power to do the same. Life may be going well for some of you, but we all face some things to varying degrees in life. Here is the first reason:
I. His submission in suffering was modeled perfectly (1 Pet. 2:21-23)
Peter begins with a “For to this you have been called.” What is the “this” is he referring to? He is referring to suffering for doing what is right and patiently enduring it. He says this is our calling. The word “call” is used a lot in 1 Peter. Notice 1 Pet. 2:9: He called us out of darkness. Back to 1 Pet. 1:15: He calls us to holiness. 1 Pet. 3:9: He calls us into blessing. Finally, look at 1 Pet. 5:10. The end result or goal of the call is eternal glory. Woohoo! Thanks for calling me into blessings and making me whole (holy) and out of darkness for a blessing and for eternal glory, God! Wait, don’t miss the fact that the pathway to blessing and glory is first and foremost the pathway of suffering. Here he says God calls us to patiently endure in light of unjust suffering.
There are a lot of teachers on television and in some big churches who would tell you that if you suffer, you are outside of God’s will. Or you suffer because you do not have enough faith. Pastor John Macarthur says, “To say that when a believer suffers he’s not claiming his available resources is foolishness. It’s heresy. If Jesus Christ was perfectly in the will of God, perfectly gifted for ministry by God, perfectly loved by God, perfectly righteous, if His faith in God was absolutely perfect and He still suffered unjustly, then what makes us think we who are so imperfect will escape it? Or what foolish ridiculous theology would concoct the idea that to suffer means you’re out of God’s will? Was Jesus out of God’s will? More than that, was He out of God’s will when He died on the cross? What a foolish absurd thought.”
So take note of this: following Christ means following Him in suffering. Peter says in 1 Pet. 2:21-23 that there were three ways Jesus modeled submission perfectly:
a) He modeled how to walk in suffering (v.21-22a)
Notice that Christ suffered for us, “leaving you an example.” Peter uses the word “suffer” instead of “died.” This is because he is focusing on Jesus’ life of sufferings that led to His death. The word “example” is found only here in the New Testament. The word is used “of children who trace over the letters of the alphabet in order to learn to write the letters correctly.” It is the amateur sketcher copying a model sketch with the intent to learn. I don’t know if they still do this in school, but have you ever traced something by taking a blank sheet of paper and putting it over the drawing or letters you wanted to trace? You carefully look at every line and make sure you don’t miss anything. So you don’t sit there and admire it, you trace it line by line.
Notice how personal this call is with the several references to “you.” In fact, the “you” in “leaving you an example” is literally translated “YOU are left this example” emphasizing the personal nature of this call, especially to the slaves. These slaves were the lowest class of the Greco-Roman society, feeling a loss of power and status, especially under their cruel masters. But “Peter here makes the point that God sent his Son as one who would seemingly have so little sociopolitical power that he would end up dying a slave’s death by crucifixion.”
Let’s be clear here. He is not saying we should suffer for sin. He is not telling us to purposely make ourselves suffer to walk as Jesus walked. Some people every Good Friday around the world get crucified…literally! This is not what is being said here. But he is telling us our response and attitude to when we do suffer should be like that of Jesus.
Notice follow in His “steps.” This is literally “footprints” or “tracks.” It is like when it snows a lot and someone walks on it, leaving imprints of their feet and then you put your feet on the same places and follow them. Following Jesus to glory means walking the path of suffering. His footprints are beckoning us to follow Him. You accepted Him as Savior, now follow Him as Lord. The word “follow” means “to follow upon, to devote oneself to that which is followed, and so it denotes a close and diligent following.” So in “copying Christ” you need to stay close to Him. Just like the student tracing the sketch, the further you move away, the harder and sloppier your ability is to reproduce the original. And if everyone at church was all about “tracing their lines” from Christ and not from each other, I think there will be more unity and power. How did Jesus walk? Let’s trace something in John’s Gospel quickly about how Jesus walked (John 4:34, 5:30, 6:38, 7:18, 8:30, 9:4, 14;31, 15:10). The goal of His life can be summed up this way: Jesus lived with a determination to honor God and do His work. How did accomplish that goal: A dependence on God the Father for every word He spoke and did. This is how we should walk too!
Anyone ever have a “What would Jesus do?” bracelet or product of some sort? Well that concept actually came from a newspaper man named Charles Sheldon. In 1896 he “wrote a novel based on an unusual premise: What would it be like if in every situation we asked, “What would Jesus do?” He describes a year in the life of an American city where everyone in the city—doctors, lawyers, merchants, salespeople, teachers, students, clergy, and newspaper editors—made that question the basis for all their decisions. In His Steps became an instant bestseller. Though largely forgotten today, it led directly—many years and many steps later—to the WWJD bracelets that were so popular several years ago.”
The phrase “in his steps” were taken from 1 Pet. 2:21. However, here it is not talking directly about how would Jesus drive or how would Jesus play, but what did Jesus do when He was treated unfairly and suffered unjustly. In fact, look at the beginning of verse 22: “He committed no sin.” This is referring to the conduct of Christ. Not in a single instance did He commit a sin. He modeled how to walk in suffering perfectly. Wow, what a tough act to follow right?
b) He modeled how to talk in suffering (1 Pet. 2:22b)
In the next few verses, Peter goes back to Isaiah 53 which is called “The Suffering Servant” passage. Peter says in 1 Pet. 2:22 that Jesus did not commit sin, neither in deed nor in word. The word “deceit” means “any type of sin of the tongue. And the tongue sins by deception, innuendo, slander, a myriad of ways. But no wickedness came out of His mouth, no wickedness ever came across His tongue. He committed no sin by act and He spoke no sin by mouth.” Now why did he have to mention that there was no sin in His mouth? Why didn’t Peter stop at “He committed no sin.” Well, where does sin most easily show up? The mouth! The heart speaks through the mouth. Jesus said, “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Matt. 15:18-19). That is amazing that no sin came out of His mouth, even undergoing the hardest of torture. He never bent the facts to win an argument or get His way.
We can probably relate more to Paul in Acts 23:1-5. I laugh every time I read this. He is arrested and he is standing before the council when someone strikes Paul on the mouth and he replies, “God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall!” I can relate to Paul. We get hurt, we retaliate and often from our mouth. Peter himself is the poster boy of someone who is not able to control his mouth. But neither Paul nor Peter is not our standard, Jesus is.
And what do we do when someone criticizes or starts a rumor about us? We start fuming. The fangs come out and we are all about defending ourselves. Let us keep our eyes on Jesus. Let us follow Him closely. He is the perfect model of submission in His walk and in His talk. One commentator says, “If Jesus as the servant of the Lord did not sin or use guile, despite suffering intensely as the righteous one, then believers should follow his example and refrain from sinning or using deceit when they are mistreated as Christ’s disciples.” He modeled how to talk (or not to) in suffering perfectly. Lastly,
c) He modeled how to trust in suffering (1 Pet. 2:23)
1 Pet. 2:22 is what Jesus did not do. 1 Pet. 2:23 is what Jesus did do. Notice, “he continued entrusting Himself to him who judges justly.” Entrust is in the present tense, meaning He continually did it. The word means, “to hand over to or to convey something to someone particularly a right or an authority.” He had a continual mindset of God and His justice.
We know one of the cries from the cross was, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” (Luke 23:46). However, He prayed this continuously as people “reviled” him. This word has the idea “to use abusive, vile language over and over against someone, or “to pile abuse on someone.” It describes an extremely harsh kind of verbal abuse that could be more aggravating than physical abuse.” Look at the great patience of God! With every lash of the whip, Jesus said, “Father, you see this. I commit myself to you.” With every spittle on His face, Jesus said, “Father, I am yours. I commit myself to you.” With every push, every mocking scorn, every beating and every amount of torture, He trusted His Father. John Macarthur adds, “That He did not revile in return is all the more remarkable when one considers the just, righteous, powerful, and legitimate threats He could have issued in response (cf. Matt. 26:53). As the sovereign, omnipotent Son of God and the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, Jesus could have blasted His cruel, unbelieving enemies into eternal hell with one word from His mouth (cf. Luke 12:5; Heb. 10:29–31).” Jesus trusted. A.W. Tozer says, “If we can trust the sufferings of Christ for our sake then we can trust Christ when we suffer for His sake.”
One unknown author says, “It is a mark of deepest and truest humility to see ourselves condemned without cause, and to be silent under it. To be silent under insult and wrong is a very noble imitation of our Lord. When we remember in how many ways He suffered, who in no way deserved it, where are our senses when we feel called to defend and excuse ourselves?” The cross is an “I” crossed out! He modeled for us how to trust God perfectly through suffering. Really to be honest, the words “model,” “pattern” or even “example” is too weak a word as though it is one of many. He is not an example, but THE paradigm we are called to follow.
Now when you hear all this, you might wonder, “How can I follow you in your footsteps when you were perfect?! I’m so sinful and there is no way not to revile back and defend my rights and there is deceit in my mouth all the time! Jot this important point down:
II. His sacrifice imparted the power to submit in suffering (1 Pet. 2:24)
At first reading of this verse, I was thinking, “What does this have to do with submission?” Then it hit me that Peter knows that we are powerless to walk as Jesus walked and that when Jesus died on the cross, He gave us enablement to live up to His calling. Going back to the idea of footprints in the snow, who here has the biggest shoe size and cares to admit it without shame? I am an 11. Anyone have feet bigger than that? Now if I go out in 12 inches of snow and hop like a bunny in the snow, making huge strides and then I take Annabelle out there and tell her to follow my footprints exactly, it’s impossible right! But what if I pick up Annabelle into the air and back down again and again so that she could put her feet in each one? So she followed in my footsteps not only because I gave her steps to follow, but because I also enabled her to do so by lifting her up. That’s what our Lord does. He’s the One who hoists me up and allows me, if I’ll let Him, to follow in His footsteps. He is not only our example, but He is also our enabler.
Up to this point, the fact that Jesus modeled submission in suffering and His call to follow Him will make us feel like a baby called to make huge strides in the footprints of the snow. So not only did Christ live the perfect life we could never live, but He died so that He can enable us to live the life He has called us to live through Him.
How did He make this enablement possible? “He himself,” emphasizing how voluntarily He “bore” or suffered the penalty for our sin as our substitute. Notice Peter says that Jesus died on a “tree.” Warren Wiersbe notes, “The Jewish people did not crucify criminals; they stoned them to death. But if the victim was especially evil, his dead body was hung on a tree until evening, as a mark of shame (Deut. 21:23). Jesus died on a tree—a cross—and bore the curse of the Law (Gal. 3:13).”
Now what was the purpose of His substitutionary sacrifice? Notice “so that.” That shows purpose. He died so that we might die to sin. John Macarthur says, “Union with Christ in His death and resurrection does not change only believers’ standing before God (who declares them righteous, since their sins have been paid for and removed from them), but it also changes their nature—they are not only justified but sanctified, transformed from sinners into saints (2 Cor. 5:17; Titus 3:5; James 1:18).” Here is the enabling power of God to live for Him made possible by the death of Christ. Jesus bore the penalty of sin (justification) and is breaking the power of sin (sanctification) and will one day destroy the presence of sin forever (glorified).
So following Christ is not simply imitation, but impartation. Listen to Oswald Chambers: “Sanctification means the impartation of the holy qualities of Jesus Christ. It is His patience, His love, His holiness, His faith, His purity, His godliness, that is manifested in and through every sanctified soul. Sanctification is not drawing from Jesus the power to be holy; it is drawing from Jesus the holiness that was manifested in Him, and He manifests it in me. Sanctification is an impartation, not an imitation.” So if you are just trying to imitate Christ, you are missing the point. Jesus has imparted His life in you. Christ in you, is the hope of glory (Col. 1:27). I don’t want to imitate Christ. I want Him to live His life through me!
Then he says sin was a sickness in our soul. We were diseased from the top of our head to the bottom of our feet, but here was the irony of all ironies. Theodoret comments: “A new and strange method of healing. The doctor suffered the cost, and the sick received the healing.” I don’t think he is referring to physical healing, but spiritual healing. Peter wants these slaves, some who have deep wounds from their cruel masters, to look at the wounds of their Savior. By identifying with Him in His suffering, they die to the sin of retaliating and self-reliance.
You might not be going through any real suffering, but the more and more we allow the life of Christ to run our lives during the green pastures, the better we will be when we do have valley times. So Jesus modeled submission perfectly and His sacrifice imparts the power for us to submit in suffering as well. One last thing:
III. His submission now promises us His care and protection in suffering (1 Pet. 2:25)
Peter again goes back to Isaiah 53: “All we like sheep have gone astray; each of us has turned his own way” (Is. 53:6). Peter reminds those in suffering that they were like sheep who “need the constant protection of a shepherd or they will wander away, following their noses and sometimes getting into great danger. People can be like that, wandering through life in whatever direction circumstances might take them. But that was in the past; now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. At conversion, each believer returns from going his or her own way (the way of sin). Peter described God as a “Shepherd” who tirelessly looks after the sheep, guiding and protecting them (see Psalm 23:1–4; Ezekiel 34:11–16; Luke 15:5–7; John 10:11–16).”
What Peter is saying is that we must resist the temptation in suffering to be our own shepherds and go our own way. We must trust the Shepherd who became the Lamb of God who took away our sins. We must constantly and continually come back to His tracks, His steps and follow close. If He went to that extreme out of love and care for us, in dying for us, He can surely take us through this valley now and take us to the place where suffering will end forever. He is our Shepherd and Overseer, which refers “literally to one who sees or watches over others and so describes one who looks over, who inspects…who superintends or who exercises oversight or care over.” So stay close to this good Shepherd who laid down His life for His sheep (John 10:11) and trust Him to care for you now and allow Him to shepherd you, to oversee you, manage you when you can’t manage yourself, carry you when all you want to do is lie down, strengthen you when you are weak and impart His life and power within you to live the life He has called you to live.
Peter may also have been thinking about his own failures and how he returned to the shepherd in John 21. After Jesus reinstated Peter to ministry again, essentially saying, “I think you are the right man for the job,” Jesus told Peter “Follow me” (John 21:19). In other words, in order to be a good leader, you must first be my follower and let me Shepherd your life as you shepherd others.
Tony Evans shares the story of a father and son: They were riding in a wagon, trying to outrace a prairie fire, and the prairie fire was catching up with them. They were soon going to be caught because the fire was moving so rapidly. The father and son got out of the wagon. As the fire raced to them, the father dug a little ditch and set fire in a circle around him, his son, and the wagon. He burned a big space. As the fire came upon them, the fire raged.
“Dad, we’ve got to get out of here.”
“No, son, stand.”
“But Dad, the fire.”
“Son, trust me. Stand.”
“Yeah, but we’ve got to run.”
“No, we don’t, son. All you’ve got to do is trust your father and stand.”
“How can I stand when I’m surrounded by fire?”
“Because, son, this place where we are standing has already been burned once. I just set it afire. There is nothing left. All the fire can do is come up around us. It can’t touch us. Once the ground has been burned, it can’t be burned again.”
Jesus was burned once. If you stand on Christ and His accomplishment on the cross, you can’t be burned again. But we want to try to outrun the fire. We want to try to beat the Evil One. We want to try and work to avoid the fire, when all we have to do is stand on the atoning work of Jesus Christ.
As I close here, I was challenged with this message by the Lord asking me: “Will you follow me no matter where I take you in life?” Even through green pastures, but also deep, dark valleys? Sometimes it is trusting Him even with tough people in our lives. Growth usually comes from two sources: people and pain. Sometimes it is painful people! But the issue always is “Do you trust me?” And how can we trust Him? He shows you His wounds and asks you to give Him your hurts. You then take your wounded heart and put it in His wounded hands, you will find amazing freedom and power to keep going and keep serving Him and grow in a deeper love for Him. How many of us would lift our hearts to Him, asking Him to lift us higher and place our feet on His footprints? How many of us need His life to live through us with every circumstance we face? How many of us need to return today to the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls?
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