Our Living Savior Gives a Living Hope
A Hope that Endures Suffering
A sermon based on 1 Peter 2:19-25
Sunday, May 11, 2014 – Easter 4A
Anybody here own a Timex watch? Remember what the Timex slogan is? Timex: It takes a lickin' but keeps on tickin'. Timex branded themselves as tough, durable, dependable, able to take the most rigorous beating and still perform.
I recently watched a vintage Timex commercial on YouTube. It was from a time when commercials were filmed live. The host took a Timex watch and strapped it to the propeller of a boat motor, submerged watch and motor into a tank full of water and ran the engine as fast and as hard as it could go. And when they were done, well, the watch fell off the prop, so they couldn't show you the watch very well, but when the cameraman zoomed in on the watch at the bottom of the tank, sure enough, it was still ticking away.
How about you? Do you take a licking and keep on ticking? When the going gets tough, do you toughen up and get going? Or do you sometimes fold under the pressure. The truth is, that we often fold under very little pressure, like when we have an opportunity to grow in our faith at Bible class or sleep in a little later, we too often fold. When we have the opportunity to serve someone else or get our own way, we fold. We fold to our sinful nature far too often, let alone any external persecution. And for our sinful selfishness we deserve much suffering.
But Jesus took a licking for us on Calvary's cross. And he kept on ticking afterwards when he rose from the dead. These truths give us a sure and certain hope that is willing, even glad, to endure much suffering, to take a lickin' and keep on tickin'. Our text for this morning is from 1 Peter 2:19-25…
19 For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God. 20 But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. 21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. 22 "He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth."
23 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. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
I. Follow Jesus and Take A Licking
What's your job? Well, you might answer that question by telling me where you work or the name of the company that issues your paycheck. But that answer would be incomplete, wouldn't it?
If you're a parent, you also have the job of taking care of your kids (even your adult kids sometimes), right? If you're married, you have the job of providing for your spouse's needs (even before yours are met). And as Christians, you all have the job of sharing your faith with others, of supporting the work of the Gospel, of doing the work of the Gospel, and of suffering for the sake of the Gospel. That's your job.
If you follow Jesus, and I understand that everyone here claims to follow him, then persecution will follow. "But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called…" This is your vocation, Peter says; your job. You may be called to suffer in big ways: by losing a job for sharing your faith, by being imprisoned if Christianity becomes illegal, by being killed for your faith should persecution increase in our land.
But then again, we may not be stoned like Stephen or crucified like Peter. But we will still stuffer as Christians even if it is in smaller way. Moms, (happy Mother's Day, by the way), but you have had to sacrifice your wants and needs to change a diaper, to make a meal, to clean up afterwards. You could neglect your kids, but you serve them at your own expense.
Dads, kids, singles, everyone else, you too have made sacrifices to serve others. You may not have had to take up a cross the way Peter did to follow Jesus, but you've had your share of splinters. It may not be a boulder of martyrdom that crushes you, but the pebble in your shoe of choosing to serve others instead of yourself each day. You will suffer if you follow Jesus. It's not optional. It's' your calling.
Now, if you heard our text and you initially thought as I did, "Well, I don't really suffer all that much," well… if we're not facing persecution, if everyone likes us, if live is comfortable and good all the time, well, maybe it's because we're too quiet about Jesus. Maybe we avoid suffering by hiding our faith. Maybe we avoid suffering by indulging the sinful nature. Maybe we avoid the suffering by not serving others instead of ourselves.
But when we choose to avoid the suffering—and it is a choice that we make--then we deserve to also avoid the blessing of heaven. Remember the story of the Little Red Hen? She sought help from all the other animals to make her loaf of bread, but they all refused to help. When the fresh bread was hot out of the oven and ready to head, the Little Red Hen refused the bread to all the other animals.
That's what we deserve. We deserve suffering. We deserve hunger for not helping make the bread. We deserve the hangover, the speeding ticket, the health problems from too much sitting, working, eating, smoking, drinking. "How is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it?"
And we deserve far worse suffering than anything we can imagine in this life. Jesus warned, "Whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven." (Matthew 10:33) And for all the times we've tried to save our plush, comfortable lives to avoid any pain or persecution, we deserve to lose our lives forever.
You know, it's always kind of bugged me a bit when I hear someone who's suffering say that they've been through hell. I know it's meant to be hyperbole, but I can't help but think, "This person clearly doesn't understand the torment hell."
Well, to be fair, neither do I. And thank God that you and I will never understand how horrible hell really is, because Jesus took a licking for us…
II. Follow Jesus who Took A Licking
Oliver Cromwell, the Lord Protector of England, once sentenced a man to death at the sound of the bell that tolled every evening to signal curfew. But this young man had a special lady friend who loved him very much. She went to Cromwell to plead for the pardon of her beloved, but she was quickly and harshly refused. But she didn't give up.
She went next to the man who rang the nightly bell and pleaded with him to neglect his duty that evening. But her plea fell on deaf ears, literally. From the many years of ringing the bell he had gone deaf and, not understanding what this mad woman was trying to say, he went to faithfully do his duty.
But she still didn't give up. She ran up the bell tower and leapt to the clapper of the bell, hugging it tightly. The bell ringer pulled the rope again and again and she was repeatedly crushed between the bell and the clapper. But she didn't let go. Finally, when the deaf man was done sounding the curfew call, he let go of the rope and retired for the evening. Thought badly beaten and bruised, the young woman made her way down the bell tower and to Lord Cromwell and her beloved.
"Why hasn't the curfew bell tolled yet?" Cromwell demanded.
And she, staggering to the scene explained why the curfew bell would not toll that night. And Cromwell, filled with pity and compassion, pardoned that young man in appreciation of the love that young woman showed him that night.
That's sort of what Jesus did for you and me—but on a much grander scale. He took a licking for you and me. Humbly, quietly, patiently, knowing full well what it would cost him, Jesus went to the cross. With no thought of retaliation he instead cried out, "Father, forgive them!" (Luke 23:34) No threats were made to his aggressors, but, "Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly." "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit," he cried. (Luke 23:46)
And by that act,
"He… bore our sins in his body on the tree… by his wounds you have been healed." Now, "You have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls." Or, literally in the Greek, "You have [been] returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls." You have been rescued from Satan, from death, from hell, and have been brought back to God.
You are forgiven for wimping out when the pressure was too great. You are forgiven for giving up when the stakes were too high. You are forgiven for your cowardice and just plain apathy. You are pardoned, rescued from hell, because he took the beating for you, because he endured hell itself.
And that pardon moves us to endure all kinds of suffering for him who suffered for us. "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness…" Imagine how dedicated that rescued young man was to that woman who had saved his life? We are that dedicated to Jesus—and more!—for saving our lives from hell…
III. Follow Jesus and Keep on Ticking
Right now Judah is learning how to write his letters. And he's really getting pretty good. One of the tools Becky uses to teach him during his "school time" as they call it, is a dry-erase book. It has all the letters of the alphabet printed in very, very light grey that's just barely visible, but just enough. With his dry erase marker Judah can trace the letters by the pattern that's there for him to follow. And he's almost got them all down.
Now, Jesus saved you from hell by his suffering. That's the most important result. But Peter says he did something else for you by his suffering: He gave you an example. "But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example…"
Literally what the Greek word translated "example" means, a pattern you trace over. (That's how ancient children would learn their Greek letters.) So we mimic our lives after Jesus. We trace the pattern he set.
"Suffer like me," he says. "Trace your life over mine." So what does that look like? Well, for starters, expect unfair treatment. It will come. Don't be selfish, willingly suffer for others. Don't retaliate. Make no threats. But forgive your persecutors just like Jesus did from the cross, just like Stephen did beneath the flying stones. Commit your spirit into the Father's hands.
And you, unlike Jesus, can rejoice that you're not alone in the struggle. Jesus took a licking, but he kept on ticking… Or at least, starting ticking again when he came back to life after he died – after his ticker stopped ticking. And Jesus lives today still. He lives forever. He lives to be your Good Shepherd, the Overseer of your souls.
And he promises that he won't ever leave you or forsake you. He promises that he'll never let you face more than you can handle. Or if it is too much to bear, he'll provide a way out. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
If you do suffer, he promise that he will use that suffering to strengthen your faith, just as sore muscles grow stronger. He will use that suffering to hone and sharpen your faith, as a stone sharpens a knife. He will use that suffering to help you focus on him, as a gardener prunes away what hinders the plant from producing more and better fruit.
And he will bring you through that suffering, which will be over soon enough, and take you into glory. And through that suffering he will bring others to glory too as they see your response to such unjust suffering.
So endure, dear friends! Take a licking, but keep on ticking. And when you fail, go back to the Gospel. Remember that he's not just your example, but he's your Savior, your Good Shepherd. And remember that no one learned the alphabet in one sitting. You're still learning.
And when you do focus on the empty cross and on the empty tomb and on what your Savior lovingly accomplished for you… well… you'll be even tougher than a Timex. You'll be able to take a licking and keep on ticking, because you know that your Savior lives! And because he lives, you too will live forever. You'll keep on ticking into eternity! In Jesus' name, dear friends, amen!