Peter has been teaching us that we’re strangers and aliens in the world. And we’re strangers and aliens in the world because our true home — the place where we really belong — is in heaven with the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour. By faith we were raised with him to the heavenly realms; and that’s where we’ll one day come in body and soul when the Lord Jesus returns. That’s our true home. But while we go on living on the earth, as aliens and strangers in the world, while we wait for our Saviour to come again, we’re to be the best citizens we can possibly be; and we’re to be the best workers we can possibly be. Whereas others will resist the civil rulers, and break their laws, Christians are to submit to the civil rulers and to whatever human authority there is. And whereas other employees will resist their boss, and will slack off during the day, Christians are to submit to their boss, even if their boss is harsh and difficult.
That’s what we were thinking about last week. Now remember, last week I said that if our boss is difficult, or if our work colleagues are difficult, and if they’re making our life a misery, and we have the opportunity to leave, then we should leave. Peter’s first readers were slaves who could not leave if their masters were harsh; they had to put up with them. But we’re not slaves; and if we’re able to leave and find another job, then we should leave. But until we do leave, and while we remain working for this difficult boss, we ought to submit to him, we ought to submit to her.
And do you remember? Peter explained that to do so — to submit to a harsh boss because we realise that the Lord has so ordered my life that he has placed this person in authority over me — to submit to a harsh boss is commendable in the sight of God. In other words, it pleases the Lord when his people bear up patiently under unjust suffering and when they suffer for doing good. And Peter went on to explain that to this we were called. When we responded to the call to put our faith in Christ in order to receive the assurance of sins forgiven and the hope of everlasting life, we were also called to live a life of suffering for doing good. And we were called to live a life of suffering for doing good, because that’s the example the Lord Jesus left for us to follow. Remember the child who follows with her pencil the outline of the letters in order to learn how to write the alphabet? Well, we’re to follow the outline of Christ’s life; we’re to follow the pattern of his life. And his life was a life of suffering for doing good.
Verses 21 to 23
For a few minutes, I want to go back to verses 21 to 23 which we dealt with briefly last week. I want to spend a little more time on those verses before moving on to verses 24 and 25 because in verses 21 to 23 Peter sets out the example the Lord Jesus left for us to follow. Notice in verse 22 how Peter quotes from Isaiah 53 to make the point that the Lord Jesus never sinned. Well, that point is stressed in several places in the Gospels. After the members of the Sanhedrin had brought the Lord Jesus to Pilate because they wanted Pilate to pass the death sentence on him, Pilate questioned the Lord Jesus and ended up concluding that this man — the Lord Jesus — had done nothing to deserve the death penalty. And while he was examining the Lord Jesus, Pilate’s wife sent him a message about a dream she had had about him. And she said: ‘Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man.’
Meanwhile Judas went to the chief priests and the elders to return the 30 pieces of silver he had received from them as payment for betraying the Lord. You see, he was filled with remorse for what he had done; and wanted to return the money, because, he said: ‘I have sinned, for I have betrayed innocent blood.’ And then there’s the testimony of the criminal on the cross? Do you remember? There were two criminals who were crucified with the Lord Jesus: one hurled insults at the Lord Jesus; but the other one said to the first criminal: ‘Don’t you fear God? We are punished justly, for we our getting what our deeds deserve [he realised he was guilty and deserved to die]. But this man [the Lord Jesus] has done nothing wrong.‘
The Lord Jesus was innocent; he had done nothing wrong; he did not deserve to be treated this way. And yet this was the way they treated him; and they abused him and insulted him and beat him and crucified him. And so he died, leaving us an example, that we should follow in his steps and be prepared to suffer unjustly, just as he suffered unjustly; and we’re to suffer for doing good, just as he suffered for doing good. So, the next time your boss is in a bad mood, and is treating you harshly and you’re thinking to yourself, ‘This is so unfair; ‘This is not right; ‘I shouldn’t have to put up with this’, remember how the Lord Jesus Christ — who never did anything wrong — was willing to suffer unjustly. And he was willing to suffer unjustly, because that was the Father’s will for him.
And Peter goes on to remind us how the Lord did not retaliate or make threats when he was being insulted and when he suffered at their hands. Think of when the Lord was before the Sanhedrin, and they brought in all these false witnesses to testify lies about him. And the high priest stood up and said to the Lord Jesus: ‘Are you not going to answer?’ And Matthew tells us: ‘But Jesus remained silent.’ Again, when he was before Pilate, the chief priests and the elders accused him of many things. But Matthew tells us: ‘he gave no answer.’ Pilate even said to him: ‘Don’t your hear the testimony they’re bringing against you?’ He was saying: Come on! Speak up! Defend yourself! But Matthew tells us: ‘But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge….’
When the soldiers mocked him and beat him and nailed him to the cross, he did not retaliate and he did not threaten them; instead what did he do? He prayed for them; he prayed that God would forgive them. And when the crowds around the cross mocked him, and when that first criminal hurled insults at him, he said nothing in retaliation. Well, the next time someone at work mocks you or insults you or accuses you falsely, and you’re ready to raise your voice in protest, remember how the Lord Jesus Christ was silent before his accusers and how he prayed for those who were hurting him. He was willing to suffer their insults because that was the Father’s will for him.
Now let me say again: If you have the opportunity to leave and to find another job, take it. But until that time comes, we’re to put up with unjust suffering and we’re to be willing to suffer for doing good, because it’s commendable in God’s sight when we follow the example of the Lord Jesus Christ and when we entrust ourselves to our Heavenly Father who rules over all and who always judges justly and who always does what is right.
But let’s move on now to verses 24 and 25. And remember, Peter is still thinking about how we’re to behave in the workplace and how we’re to be prepared to suffer unjustly and we’re to be prepared to suffer for doing good.
Peter has already mentioned how the Lord committed no sin. And I’ve referred to the testimony of various people in the Gospels who said that the Lord Jesus was innocent and had done nothing wrong. So, if that’s true — and it is true — if it’s true that he committed no sin, why did he suffer and die on the cross? If he wasn’t being punished for his own sins, whose sins was he being punished for? And the answer is there in verse 24:
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree….
When the Lord Jesus was crucified on the tree, on the cross, he was bearing our sins. Think of your sins as a burden on your back. We were thinking about this not so long ago, and how in the book, The Pilgrim’s Progress, the Pilgrim is weighed down by a great burden; it’s the knowledge of his sin and guilt. And he cannot bear carrying this burden and he wants more than anything else to be delivered from this burden. Well, it’s a picture of us all, because we all carry this great burden of our sin and guilt on our back. And it’s a great and unbearably burden which you have to get rid of, because if you don’t get rid of it, it will drag you down all the way to hell.
But here’s the good news: the Lord Jesus Christ bore our sins in his body. All our sins were placed on his shoulders, and the burden of our guilt was laid on him. He had done nothing wrong; he did not deserve to suffer like this; but he took the blame for what we have done wrong, and he took the punishment that we deserve for our sins, and he suffered and died in our place, so that all who repent and believe in him may receive the forgiveness of sins and the hope of everlasting life. And we can receive the forgiveness of sins and the hope of everlasting life because he has bore our sins and the punishment we deserve when he suffered and died on the cross.
And notice how Peter refers to the cross as a tree. Why did he do that? Well, perhaps he was thinking of that verse in Deuteronomy 21 where it says that whoever is executed and their body is hung up on a tree is under God’s curse; the curse of God’s wrath. And so, when the Lord Jesus was hung up on this tree-like cross, it was to make clear to us that the curse of God’s wrath which we deserve for all our sins and disobedience, the curse we deserve for all the ways we fall short of doing God’s will, was laid on him. And because the curse of God’s wrath was laid on him, so now all who repent and believe in the Lord Jesus receive, not the curse we deserve, but the blessing of God, which we don’t deserve. And the blessing of God is the forgiveness of our sins and the gift of eternal life.
And so, that’s why it’s vital for every one of us to repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. We’re to turn in repentance from our old life of sin and we’re to turn in faith to the Lord Jesus Christ, because he’s the only Saviour; he’s the only one who can save us from the curse of God’s wrath which we deserve for our sins. And he can save us because he bore our sins in his body on the tree.
But, of course, Peter doesn’t stop there, does he? He goes on to say that the Lord Jesus bore our sins in his body on the tree so that we might die to sin and live for righteousness. You see, one of the reasons why he died on the cross was to free us from the penalty we deserve for our sins; he took the blame for us, so that we might receive the forgiveness of sins and the hope of everlasting life. That’s what Peter is referring to in verse 24 when he says that by his wounds we are healed. When he refers to our healing, he’s referring to the forgiveness of our sins, which we receive because he was wounded in our place. So, every one who believes in him is freed from the penalty we deserve for our sins.
However, another reason why he died on the cross was to free us from the power of sin. Think of sin as a wicked taskmaster who is always trying to get us to do what it wants. And so, in the workplace, sin tries to get us to throw insults back at our boss whenever he insults us; and to retaliate whenever our boss is harsh with us; and to makes threats when we feel under threat; sin makes us want to be lazy at work so that we’re tempted to come in late and to go home early and to waste time during the day; sin makes us want to be dishonest in work and to do everything that is wrong. But whenever we trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, he enables us to put to death that old way of life, when sin came naturally to us; and he raises us up to live a new kind of life in which we — more and more — want to do only what is right. That’s what ‘living for righteousness’ means here: it means living a life when we only want — more and more — to do what is right in the sight of God.
And so, every day, when we go into the workplace, we’re looking to the Lord Jesus Christ for the help we need to live this new life of righteousness. Every day, we’re looking to him to help us to say ‘no’ to all that is sinful and ungodly; and we’re looking to him to help us to live a life that is pleasing to him and which is pleasing to our Father in heaven.
But then look at verse 25 now, because what an encouragement this gives to us. Peter says to his readers:
You were like sheep going astray.
He’s referring to their life before they repented and believed in Christ. So, instead of walking in the ways of the Lord, following him along the narrow path that leads to everlasting life, they had gone astray and were heading for destruction. But now you have returned, says Peter. In other words, they heard the gospel message, and the Lord enabled them to repent and to believe the good news and to trust in Christ for salvation. But to whom did they return? To whom did they come? They came to the Shepherd and Overseer of their souls. He’s referring to the Lord Jesus, the Good Shepherd. And by calling him our Shepherd and Overseer Peter is reminding us that when we go into work, and wherever else we may go, the Lord Jesus Christ is watching over us; he’s watching over us to guard us and to defend us and to keep us safe forever.
Think of the sheep who has gone astray. He’s wandered away from the Shepherd and has wandered off into the wilderness where they are all kinds of dangers and where they are all kinds of wild animals to harm him, and because he’s wandered away from the shepherd, there’s no one around the protect him. Well, if that sheep had any brains — and sheep are not known for their brains, but if that sheep had any brains, he would turn around and run back as fast as possible to the shepherd, because the shepherd is the only one who is able to protect that sheep from all the dangers he might encounter. And so, if a bear comes along, or a lion is near, or if a wolf howls in the night, the sheep is not afraid, because his shepherd is near.
Perhaps we look upon the people at work as our enemies. They might not be bears or lions or wolves, but they’re out to get us; and they’re out to hurt us. But we needn’t be afraid of them, because the Good Shepherd is watching over us, and with his rod he’s able to pull us out of danger; and with his staff he’s able to defend us from our enemies. And no matter what trouble we may face, we’re to trust that his goodness and mercy shall follow us all the days of our life in this world; and then one day, one day, we’ll come to dwell with him for ever and ever in his heavenly house, which is our true home. And when we come into our true home, he’ll say to us: Well done! Well done! I saw how, for my sake, you bore up under the pain of unjust suffering. Well done! I saw how, for my sake, you suffered for doing good and you endured it all. Well done! I saw how, for my sake, you lived a life of righteousness. Well done, because you followed my example when I suffered and died for you.