Now we come to the Lord’s Table, when we personalize all that worship and we, from the heart, honor the Lord with our repentance, confession, faith, and trust, and obedience as we partake. But before we do that, I want to take a look at the cross, maybe from a different perspective. So if you want to look in your Bible, it’s 1 Peter chapter 2, 1 Peter chapter 2, and I’ll just make a few remarks with regard to this passage, 1 Peter chapter 2. Of course, 1 Peter is written to believers who are scattered in hostile world, and they are in the very outset of this epistle identified as aliens in the world. They’re suffering insults and persecution, and Peter writes this to encourage them.
In chapter 2 we’ll look at verse 20: “What credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds grace with God. For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wound you were healed.” Marvelous portion of Scripture, one that is one of my very favorites.
Of course, verse 24 is the central truth of the gospel: that “He . . . bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.” That is the central truth of the gospel: the substitutionary, vicarious, atoning death of Christ, by which our sins were imputed to Him. And in return, by faith in Him, His righteousness is imputed to us. We have been singing about that all evening.
We acknowledge Christ as our Savior, our Redeemer, the sacrifice for sin, the Lamb of God, providing in His death redemption, ransom, deliverance, justification, adoption, for all who believe, through His death, the one sacrificial death that satisfied divine justice, the once-for-all death of Christ that provided eternal salvation to all who believe and confess Jesus as Lord and Savior.
But there’s something more in the death of Christ beyond the substitutionary atonement that He provided, which of course is the most monumental of all features in His death. But there is something more. You might say, “Well, is that even possible?” And the answer is yes. Look at verse 21: “For you have been called for this purpose”—what purpose? To suffer for doing right, as in verse 20, to suffer patiently, with endurance; and thereby, in such enduring righteous suffering, find grace with God. You’ve been called to suffer in this world. “Since Christ also suffered for you,” you have the privilege of now suffering for Him. As Paul said, “I bear in my body the marks of Christ.” You suffer for His namesake. And in His dying, verse 21, “[He left] you an example for you to follow in His steps” in your suffering.
It is right, of course, to look at the cross as the vicarious, substitutionary, atoning death of Christ, the once-for-all death for sin in which He purchased redemption for all who would believe through all of human history. We understand the cross to be the very validation of God’s salvation plan. But we’re told here that there was something else going on on the cross. Jesus, who suffered for us, was leaving us an example for how we should suffer. Obviously we can’t suffer for our own sins, so this is not some kind of vicarious suffering which purchases redemption for us or anyone else. But clearly, since we are in the world suffering for Christ’s sake, suffering for righteousness, patiently enduring it, which finds grace with God, we need to know how to deal with that suffering. And for that, we look to Him as our example. He is the example. Since we have been called to suffer for His name, we need Him as our example.
He not only saves His people by His death on the cross, but He became on the cross the perfect example of suffering righteously and suffering unjustly with the right response. “The one,” 1 John 2:6, “who says he abides in Him ought to walk . . . as He walked.” So if you belong to Christ, you not only know Him as your Savior, but you follow Him as your example. In His dying, we could say it this way: He is the perfect example of how to live. He said, after all, “Follow Me.” And the apostle Paul said, “Follow me as I follow Christ.”
Peter’s not talking here about his living. Yes, we follow him in his living; we endeavor to walk as he walked. Peter is saying, “In His dying He is an example”—hupogrammon, a copy, something you set down and trace over to make as exact a replica as possible. He gave us a pattern for how to face unjust suffering. In His dying He gave us a pattern for living in a hostile world. He taught us how to face injustice, rejection, persecution. He is the sinless example.
In verse 22 we read, “Who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth.” In His suffering He was sinless. He was sinless in every aspect of His life, but the most severe tests, obviously in His life as a man, would be the same as the most severe tests in our lives, and that would be the tests that relentless, undeserved, brutal suffering puts us through. But in His suffering—which from a human standpoint was unjust, undeserved—He was reviled and scorned and blasphemed and mocked and spit on and beaten and whipped—and you know the rest. And in all of that, He is an example for us of how to handle suffering because He never committed a sin—a sin like questioning God, doubting God, debating with God. “Nor was [there] any deceit found in His mouth.” Nothing came out of His mouth that indicated an evil heart. He never did anything unholy; He never said anything unholy, even in the worst possible conditions. and He became our example, so that when we are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, we follow Him: We do nothing sinful; we say nothing sinful.
Verse 23 says, “And while being reviled, He did not revile in return.” The word “revile” means to abuse; vile speech casts at someone. It’s a present passive participle which means it was happening over and over and over and over and over and over. “And while being reviled, He did not revile in return; [and] while suffering [in this reviling circumstance], He uttered no threats.” He didn’t strike back. And again, the verb is a verb of continuous action; it came at Him over and over and over and over. You know the story; we read you a portion of it. He was mistreated long before that, and frequently through His life and ministry. And in His trial and all the events leading up to the final crucifixion, He was abused and maligned. He never retaliated, never gave abuse for abuse, never gave threats for threats given to Him. That’s the negative.
The positive is the end of verse 23: “But kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously.” The hardest thing for us in life, I think, is to endure unjust suffering. Back at the beginning of verse 20, we’re told by Peter that; and it’s obvious: “If . . . you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience.” You don’t get any credit for that; you deserve that. We know when we’re guilty, and we know when what’s happening to us is the chastening of the Lord. But when we are suffering for righteousness, there’s a tendency to want to fight back. But Jesus becomes our example. He just kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously. The verb means “to turn Himself over,” “deliver Himself,” “give over,” “hand over,” “commit.”
Why did He do that? Why did He not retaliate? Well for one, He knew that God was His protector. And for two, He knew that vengeance belonged to the Lord, right? We see this attitude of Jesus at the cross, and it’s revealed in His seven last sayings on the cross. In His dying He shows what it is to entrust yourself to God. In His unjust treatment, He shows us an example of one who never gave back abuse, never threatened, but committed Himself to God.
Let me just review them; I read them earlier. In His dying He shows us really how to live. First of all, the first thing He said on the cross: Luke 23:34, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” This is the first principle you see in an example. He died seeking forgiveness for the very people who were harming Him. This is an example of how we are to respond to those who treat us with revulsion and abuse when we don’t deserve it. He knew they were ignorant. He knew they didn’t understand the reality of their monstrous sin. He knew they didn’t know who He was; they didn’t know they were murdering the Prince of life, the Creator and Savior, and He knew they needed forgiveness; and that’s what He prayed for.
The forgiveness He prayed for was actually made possible by the very suffering He was undergoing, not at the hands of men` but at the hands of God. He is the perfect pattern of forgiveness because He can forgive the people who are doing the most dastardly thing that’s ever been done in the history of the world. He’s an example of how you respond to being treated with fierce evil when you don’t deserve it. You seek God’s forgiveness for the ones who are doing it to you.
The second thing He said on the cross is in Luke 23:43: “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” Amazing. With all that is going on and all that He is experiencing—and He’s experiencing things on a human level, and He’s experiencing even greater things on the divine level—He is in a position He’s never been in, and He is an eternal person. This is horror inconceivable to Him. But He turns to a thief beside Him and says, “Today you shall be with Me in paradise.”
And here’s an example of how to live even when you are being persecuted for righteousness’ sake. Number one, pray for the salvation of your persecutor, and number two, be engaged in the mission of God. And the mission of God is to bring salvation to a damned soul. In the midst of the most debilitating, all-encompassing agonies inconceivable to us, He never lost sight of the reason for His coming. “The Son of Man has come to”—do what?—“seek and save that which was lost.”
No matter what was happening to Him, He was never off mission. All the signs were yet to come—the darkness, the earthquake, the rock shattering, the graves opening, the veil splitting. All of those supernatural things hadn’t happened. Without all the signs and without a resurrection, in the most unfavorable circumstances possible, He reached out and saved a sinner. What an example. He died forgiving those who killed Him, and He drew into eternal life a hell-bound criminal. He never was off mission even in the most disastrous of circumstances in His life. That’s how to live. Even in your suffering, the mission is evangelism.
The third thing He said, John 19:26 and 27—to Mary He said, “Woman, behold, your son!” And to John the apostle, He said, “Behold, your mother!” What is that about? He demonstrates in His dying an example of expressing selfless love. If ever there was a moment when He might have been preoccupied with His own situation, when He would have had a right to call on somebody to offer comfort for Him—
Standing near the cross He sees Mary; her heart is now pierced. She’s in pain, seeing the Son she loved nailed to a cross. She’s experiencing weakness, silence, confusion. Joseph is dead, as far as we know. Crowds are jostling, soldiers are gambling. Jesus is bleeding and dying. She has no husband, she has no son, and the rest of her children didn’t believe in Jesus, according to John 7:5; they didn’t until after the Resurrection. So what’s going to happen to her? She’s a widow, no one to care for her.
And then there’s John, that most intimate of all disciples, that most tender disciple who is crushed and fearful and massively disappointed. And Jesus knows the pain of Mary, and He knows the pain of John, and unconcerned with His own pain and His own agony, He puts the two of them together and says, “John, take care of Mary. Mary, you have a new son, John.” This is the selflessness of Christ, which is an example to us. In the direst circumstance, what are you preoccupied with? You should be seeking the forgiveness of the people who are harming you. You should stay on mission and never lose sight of the fact that you’re here to lead people to salvation, and you should be completely absorbed in the needs of others, no matter how difficult your life might appear.
But He’s an example in His fourth words as well. The fourth thing from the cross is Matthew 27:46, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” What does that show? I think it tells us this: that He died understanding the horror of sin. He died understanding the horror of sin; He knew what it did. Whatever the mystery of that separation is—and it’s unfathomable to me—He felt the horrors of sin. In Matthew 26, He feels the judgment coming. In the garden He sweats, as it were, great drops of blood. The apostle Paul said, “He became a curse.” And the fierceness of His hatred of sin caused Him to say to the Father, “If there’s any way to take this cup and remove it, do that. Nevertheless, Your will, not Mine.”
He’s a perfect example of forgiving those who persecuted Him, He’s a perfect example of evangelizing those even in the most difficult circumstance, He’s the perfect example of loving others when you’re suffering more than they are, and He’s the perfect example of resisting sin. We are more susceptible to sinning when we are under the assault and attack of sin. He shows His hatred of sin.
The fifth thing He said is in John 19:28. He said, “I thirst.” What does that tell us? That He died experiencing suffering so He could sympathize. He died experiencing suffering—human suffering: thirst. He knew what it was to be thirsty, hungry, sleepless, weary, weak, tempted. In fact, “He was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” What was the point of that? So “that He might be a merciful and faithful high priest” who could come to us in our suffering and offer us comfort—because He had been there.
And the sixth thing He said from the cross, John 19:30, “It is finished!” I love this. He gives us an example of one—very important—who died having completed the work God gave Him to do. He died having completed the work God gave Him to do. “He appeared,” 1 John 3:5 says, “to take away sin” by the sacrifice of Himself, by paying the debt. He did that.
What kind of an example is He? He’s an example in His dying of how to live: forgiving those who hate you and persecute you for righteousness’ sake, evangelizing no matter how hard the circumstances, selflessly loving others and making sure their needs are met even though yours are more severe, resisting sin, sympathizing, and finishing the work that God gave you to do.
And finally, the capstone, the last thing He said on the cross is in Luke 23:46. He said, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.” All of this comes together at this point. This is what Peter was saying: He died as He lived, completely trusting the faithfulness of His Father. That’s what Peter says, doesn’t he, at the end of verse 23: “He kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously.” He trusted God. This is the culmination of everything. He could do all the rest because He trusted God, who promised to deliver Him. He knew that He would die, He knew that He would be buried, He knew that He would rise in three days, He knew that He would ascend to the right hand of the Father.
This is all beautifully summed up in Hebrews 12. Listen to verses 1 to 3: “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us”—this is the writer of Hebrews calling us to the same kind of endurance in a hostile world—“fixing our eyes on Jesus”—He’s our example—“the author and perfecter of faith”—and here’s what I want you to hear—“who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame.”
Why did He endure all that? Why did He handle the suffering the way He did? Because He knew that on the other side was joy. How did He know that? Because that was the promise of the Father, and He trusted the Father. We are to live as He died—forgiving, evangelizing, loving, resisting sin, sympathizing, finishing; and in all of it, trusting God in the moments of hell’s most vicious assaults and Satan’s most dangerous efforts, because set before us by the promise of God is eternal joy, as it was for Him.
Our Father, we thank You for the treasure of the truth that grips our minds and hearts and allows us to face life even in its most difficult expressions. Thank You for giving us such a magnificent evening together. So many people have enriched our evening: those who sang, those who played instruments, and then reaching back into the centuries, even up until the very modern day, people who wrote these magnificent tributes to the Savior that fill our hearts with joy, as we worship and sing and offer our humble praise. Thank You for all the richness that converged on us in this hour in the sweet fellowship of those around us, who are of like precious faith and who love the Lord that we love. And we’ve offered to You our humble worship tonight, trusting that it’s acceptable to You because we come in the name and in the merits of Jesus Christ. In His name we pray. And everyone said, “Amen.”
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