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1 Peter 2:22-25
For those of you who have raised sheep and know exactly what they are like, bear with me as I present a hypothetical situation.
Suppose that you had some sheep that you were caring for. Suppose some of those sheep seemed to find a way every day to wander off and get themselves in trouble. Not only did they waste a lot of your time because you had to go looking for them every day, but when you found them, if they were tangled in a bush or a fence and couldn’t get themselves free, they would snap at you when you tried to help them. Sooner or later you would be very tempted to stop going after them. You would be very tempted to think, “I’m done. I’m not chasing after them anymore. Let them learn the hard way. Let them fend for themselves. If they starve or get eaten by a predator, so be it. I’ve done everything I can for them.” If you told others about your struggles with your wandering, recalcitrant sheep they would agree with your decision and maybe wonder why you chased after them as long as you did.
What might be a hypothetical and unrealistic picture of real sheep, is spot on true for those Peter calls sheep. He says, you were like sheep going astray. He is echoing the words of God given to Isaiah where it also says, each of us has turned to his own way. (Isa. 53:6 NIBO) You and I are these wandering sheep. You and I, by nature, always thinking the grass is greener, that life would be better outside of the fences of God’s commands. By nature, we all think that we know better than God. By nature, his word, his ways seem like foolishness and his commands seem burdensome. We want to do our own thing, to go our own way. We don’t realize that when we do, we are easy prey for Satan the roaring lion who wants to devour us. We don’t realize that we are not equipped to fight off Satan’s attacks on our own. We don’t realize how helpless we really are on our own. We are the ones who have the natural tendency to snap at those who come to try to rescue us when we get ourselves in trouble. By nature, We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way. (Isa. 53:6 NIBO) God would have every right to say, “I’m done. I’m not chasing after them anymore. Let them learn the hard way. Let them fend for themselves. I’ve done everything I can for them.”
Because we realize this, the fact that Jesus pictures himself as the Good Shepherd really hits home. We know if the roles were reversed, we would not leave the ninety-nine sheep to go and search for the one lamb that kept purposefully wandering off. But even if we might imagine ourselves doing that, there is no way we can imagine ourselves doing what Jesus did to rescue us.
He didn’t just leave ninety-nine sheep behind to go searching for us. He left the glory of heaven. He didn’t use his power as God to find us. He chose to live life as we do, subject to temptation and danger and pain. And as he lived his life on earth, Peter says, He did not commit a sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth. (22) He never did anything wrong. In fact, he never even said anything sinful. Just think of that! As a child he never sassed his parents. When he hurt himself he never let out a curse. James says that the absolute hardest thing to tame in the world is not a wild horse, it’s our tongues. So he says, (Jam 3:2) If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check.
Not only that, but the reason Peter is bringing this up is that he is talking to slaves who had abusive masters. He was talking to people who were suffering for trying to do what was right; trying to do God’s will. He was talking to people who, even though they were doing their best to do the right thing, were being insulted, threatened and beaten. They were wondering if they might be justified in fighting back or telling a lie in order to avoid a beating, or even just calling down a curse on those who were abusing them. After all, everyone would agree, even God would agree, that they were being mistreated!
When Jesus came looking for us, his wandering sheep, he suffered unjustly. Even though he never said or did anything wrong, he was insulted, threatened and beaten. How did he respond? When he was insulted, he did not insult in return. When he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.(23) What does that mean? It means that he put himself in God’s hands. He did what the Bible suggests. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Rom. 12:17-21 NIBO) In fact, instead of calling down a curse on those who treated him unjustly, he prayed “Father Forgiven Them.”
But that’s still not the most amazing thing our Good Shepherd endured in order to rescue his wandering sheep. 24He himself carried our sins in his body on the tree. Or as Isaiah says, he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities. (Isa. 53:5 NIBO) He actually sacrificed himself for us, for wandering sheep. He willingly gave up his life for us. While we were yet sinners Christ died for us, so that his innocent blood shed on the cross would wash away the record of every curse we have spoken, every lie or deceitful statement we have ever made, every time we purposefully wandered away from God thinking life would be better without him and his fences. By his wounds we are healed. Isn’t that amazing! He did not commit a single sin, yet he offered to take the beating we deserved for all our sins. Whatever wounds we received while we were wandering, the scratches from the thorns of temptation, the scars from the claws of the lion Satan; all our wounds are completely healed by the power of Jesus. In fact, because he rose from the dead with a glorified body, we look forward to the time when we too will be raised with a glorified body that no longer suffers from the effects of sin.
Our Good Shepherd came to rescue us. He didn’t give up, even when he was insulted, cursed, beaten and abused. He did everything he had to do in order to rescue sheep that didn’t want to be rescued.
As the Holy Spirit holds this before our eyes, he changes our hearts. He opens our eyes so that we see how much our Good Shepherd loves us. He brings us to understand that there is no better place to be than with our Good Shepherd who always provides green pastures, and living water, who is always there to defend us from the attacks of the roaring lion. He brings to faith, to trust that our Good Shepherd Jesus is better than any other shepherd. Only he can restore our soul. Only he can heal up the wounds we bring on ourselves by our sins. Only he can lead us on the path of righteousness now, and one day, lead us through the narrow door into the glory of heaven with him. He is the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls!
Jesus, our Good Shepherd, laid down his life for us. He endured insults and unjust pain and suffering to rescue us. He did these things not just so that we might live with him in the glory of heaven, but also, Peter says, so that we would be dead to sins and alive to righteousness. He did all these things so that, out of gratitude for all he has done for us, we would no longer try to go our own way. He did all these things so that, out of gratitude for all he has done for us, we would no longer live for ourselves but for the one who died for us and rose again.
Peter says to those slaves who had unbelieving and cruel masters, don’t retaliate. Remember what Jesus suffered for you, and then follow in his steps. He says to us, when we think we are being treated unfairly, or when we are insulted or laughed at, or persecuted because of our faith in Jesus, don’t repay evil with evil. Remember what Jesus suffered for you. Remember that the sufferings of this life are like a pin prick on the timeline of your life that will continue for all eternity in the glory of heaven with Jesus. When temptation comes around looking to get you to wander away from the Good Shepherd, act like an opossum. Be dead to sin. When opportunities present themselves for you to serve God in your neighbor, to help them with some need, to defend them from slander or gossip, remember that in Jesus you are alive to righteousness. Righteousness is fearing, loving and trusting in God above all things, and serving your neighbor in love.
What a gracious and loving Shepherd we have. He never gives up on us, his sheep who love to wander. As you think about all he has done for you, you can rejoice that he has a place just for you in the green pastures of heaven. In the meantime, be inspired to follow in his steps. Live your life as one who is dead to sins and alive to righteousness.