Sermon for Sunday, May 3, 2020

                                     Healed by His Wounds

I Peter 2:19-25

Being persecuted for their faith was an inescapable fact of life for those to whom Peter addresses his epistle. Yet strange and wonderful things were happening. Slaves were being converted AND slave owners.  They were fellow Christians. Much the same as we might find a corporate executive sitting next to his company’s janitor at a church meeting or Christian concert today, slave and owner could be found worshiping together in this baby church.

The New Testament, for many reasons, does not encourage abolition, but rather instructs slaves to remain obedient to their masters as a testimony to them and to the world of the transforming power of Christ. The Gospel message is itself revolutionary, the message that “every man is precious in the sight of God…God loves every man.” From I Peter and from Paul’s letter to Philemon, we hear a new and radical message — slave and master are brothers in Christ; both of them are bound by their new faith to follow the same life-style of righteousness.

But to the converted slave whose master is an unbeliever, Peter talks about receiving unfair treatment at the hands of the master. As to unjust suffering in general, we are unlikely to suffer because of our faith, unlike the Christians to whom Peter was writing. Yet, contrary to the “health and wealth gospel” heresy being preached in some quarters today, Christians DO endure suffering in spite of their faith. Suffering is “no respecter of persons”; it “falls on the just and the unjust” alike, just as rain and sunshine do. The question is not, “Do Christians suffer?” The question is, “What is the Christian’s response when suffering?” As Peter points out, there is virtue only when one suffers unjustly for one’s faith (verses 19-20).

In the final analysis, however, whatever we may be called to endure pales in comparison to the suffering Jesus endured on our behalf. And the injustice of the only perfect Man suffering the shame of the cross on behalf of sinful mankind should cause us to follow gladly in His steps out of gratitude for His selfless sacrifice.

It would do us well to come to an understanding of the efficacy of our ‘suffering’ in the light of Jesus’ peerless example.

I.  Our Suffering…

A. Is inevitable – pain is part of human experience. To one degree or another, all of us experience it.  We live in a fallen world. One result of Adam’s fall is that pain is a universal human experience. None of us are exempt from suffering pain, heartache, disappointment, discouragement.

B. But let’s look at reality. Some pain is deserved – (verse 20). Much of human pain is self-inflicted; we bring it upon ourselves. Part of the reason our society is facing the problems that we face today is that people are unwilling to accept the consequences of the choices that they make. We want to be inoculated against the results of the decisions we make.

1. We inoculate our children against disease like measles, mumps, chicken pox, polio, etc. By getting a shot or taking certain medicine, we can practically guarantee that we don’t contract certain diseases.

2. But that has led us to believe that we can shield our children–and ourselves–from anything undesirable or uncomfortable. We want to have sex outside of marriage, but we don’t want to face the consequences–practice “safe sex”; when that doesn’t work and you get pregnant, get an abortion; or if you get AIDS, demand that the government produce a cure. We see some evidence of this attitude in the way some have handled the precautions recommended to deal with COVID-19. We are unaccustomed to being exposed to this kind of risk.

3. We want to spend money without regard for proper stewardship like tithing or saving, but when we dig ourselves into a hole we want the lottery, or government, or Publishers’ Clearing House to save us.  And we even dare to pray for God’s help when we have dishonored Him by our failure to tithe.

4. We want the freedom to watch anything and everything on television, the movies, videos and Premium Channels. But when we discover that our values and morals have been formed by the Simpsons rather than the Sermon on the Mount, when we speak the language of violence and vulgarity more easily than we can voice a prayer aloud, and we find ourselves knowing the TV Guide better than the ten commandments, we have brought upon ourselves the pain that the world’s values always produce.

God’s word makes it plain that when we suffer for our own wrongdoing, it is commendable to “face the music” with a consciousness that God’s creation includes laws which we violate at our peril. God will not suspend the law of gravity to protect me if I choose foolishly to walk off a cliff. Neither will He suspend the moral laws of His creation to protect me from a willful violation of His commands. Rather, the painful consequences of our willful disobedience should bring us humbly and penitently back to God.

C. But some of the pain that we suffer is unjust – (verse 19).  

1.We may suffer because of the deeds of others; parents know well the heartache that our children can bring. There are times when the actions of bosses or co-workers go beyond inconveniencing us and cause us emotional distress. Many of the diseases we suffer are not self-inflicted–it is not punishment. The suffering is not “deserved.”

2. Or we may suffer because of our stand for righteousness. While we do not have to face the prospect of death or imprisonment because of our testimony, as Peter’s first readers did, there are situations where a stand for truth places us in the seat of ridicule. There are circumstances where we lose a promotion at work because we refuse to lie, or drink, or cover up the theft of a co-worker. And, sadly, there areplaces in the world today where Christians endure imprisonment and torture because of their faith.

3. Jesus said, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” And Peter says, “It is commendable before God if you suffer for doing good.”

D. Since some pain and suffering comes our way simply because we are fallen creatures, and since we recognize that a courageous stand for Christian truth may add to that suffering, it is an encouragement to know that some goodmay come out of our suffering:

1. Personal growth and deepening of understanding; developing perseverance. Nobody chooses to suffer–at least nobody who is in their right mind. But I have been amazed at the quality of saintliness that I have encountered in those who have suffered much pain.  

– -Hazel in Findlay Ohio who was the sweetest saint I have met, in spite of a bitter invalid husband in physical pain and a mentally retarded adult son who required constant attention

–Jeanne in Old Orchard Beach Maine whose crippling arthritis caused her severe pain, but who faithfully witnessed to her fellow residents in the nursing home.

2. These saints, and others like them, give witness to others of the power and strength that is available in Christ. And they are ordinary saints like you and me. It is their pain that is extraordinary, not their faith and certainly not God’s power. We, too, can see the pain of life’s experiences as an opportunity to testify to those who do not know Jesus, to show how God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness.

3. The gospel may be advanced, as with Stephen’s martyrdom. When we endure suffering as true soldiers of Jesus Christ, others will notice and want to experience the same power that we experience to face and conquer “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.”

Yet, no matter how much benefit we can extract from our own circumstances of pain, the matchless work of grace accomplished by the suffering of Christ remains not only a wonder to consider, but a reminder to spur us on to endurance.

II.  Christ’s suffering…

A. …was endured without retaliation, without threats, without vengeance. (verse 23)

B. …was not for His own sin, but for ours. (verses 22, 24) His suffering was the ultimate injustice. He who knew no sin became sin for our sakes.

C. …was for the purpose of bringing us to righteousness. (verse 24b) He became sin so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness.

D. …accomplishes our healing. (verse 24c) Notice that Peter uses the past tense: “have been healed.”  His atoning sacrifice was an act of healing; our healing has already been accomplished. All we need do is appropriate it.

Notice that the title of this message is “Healed by His Wounds.” Yet all this time I have been talking about suffering. Where does the ‘healing part’ come in? I have just now mentioned that Jesus’ suffering accomplishes our healing, but what does that mean?

III.  Our healing…  

A. Is too often viewed too narrowly. Jesus’ healing is not just physical healing. Nor ought we think only in terms of spiritual healing. Part of the holiness message is that we need to see ourselves more “wholistically.” When human beings suffer, it is often tragic. We wish that the suffering could be avoided, the tragedy averted. But healing often is a matter of seeing things from God’s perspective. If the cause of our suffering is not removed, like Paul’s thorn in the flesh, then we need to “own it” and “use it” for the glory of God. And in doing so, healing occurs–whether or not the “thorn” remains!

B. One of the reasons we consider suffering tragic is that so little good comes of it. Even in stating above that “some good comes” from our own suffering, it is important that we search for “the good” amidst the pain to make the suffering seem worthwhile. And, truth be told, we would rather discover this good by means other than suffering. But healing comes when we discern what God wants us to understand about ourselves, about Him and about the suffering that we must endure.

Peter boldly asserts to his suffering readers that Jesus’ unjustsuffering was designed for a glorious outcome. Recalling the words of Isaiah, he says that Jesus’ wounds bring healing: death to our sins, birth to our righteousness, and a life of health and wholeness. We are healed by His wounds.

Turn to John 21 – verse 15. During Peter’s three-fold restoration by Jesus’ giving him three opportunities to affirm his love for Christ, Jesus says, “Feed my lambs,” “Take care of my sheep,” “Feed my sheep.” Jesus is telling the fisherman to become a shepherd. And Peter took it seriously – he says in 1:25 “you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” Peter had suffered the pain of Jesus’ accusing look in Pilate’s courtyard and the biting reminder of his three-fold denial on the sea-shore. But Peter knew the healing balm of the Shepherd who had lovingly restored him to the fold.

Let Jesus do that for you here today. Trapped in sin? Jesus is the cure! Tossed by doubt, struggles, temptations and the like? Return to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. It is by Jesus’ wounds that you have already been healed–claim it as your own healing today!

Choruses:        Touch me again; He was wounded for our transgressions

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