I Peter 2:21-25
Freedom in Christ
When I took Physics my senior year of high school, our final was to go to a theme park and "answer physics questions about the rides," and then turn them in the following week. Which meant we got to go ride rollercoasters, have a blast running around being crazy, and then worry about a test a few days later. On our way home, my best friend, David, and I were joking about how I had just turned 18 and could buy lottery tickets. He had two dollars left from the trip so we decided to use that to buy one. That lottery ticket won us five dollars, two of those went into buying another lottery ticket, which won us twenty more dollars! I've never bought another lottery ticket in my life. Now, we would take winning the lottery as a very good thing. This wasn't the case during the Napoleonic wars in France. You see, men were conscripted into the French army by a lottery system. If your name was drawn, you had to go into battle. But, though it wasn't usual, if you got someone to take your place, you were exempt. One time the authorities came to a man and told him his name had been drawn. He refused to go saying, "I was killed two years ago!" They said he was crazy, yet he still claimed that it was the truth. He said, "My name was drawn two years ago and I died in action." They asked the man, "How can that be? You are alive now!" The man explained that two years ago his name had been drawn and a good friend said, "You have a big family, I have no wife, and I have no one depending on me. I will take your name and address and go in your place." The records proved the man's story true. In fact, the case was referred to Napoleon himself, and he decided that the country had no legal claim on that man. HE WAS FREE BECAUSE ANOTHER MAN DIED IN HIS PLACE.
What would this freedom allow you to do if you were in this man's place? The wages that you owed having been paid, and the ability to now live as a free person.
Peter addresses this question in I Peter 2:18-25, saying (READ I PETER 2:18-25)
Okay, we're going to be focusing on verse 24 for the next 15 minutes, because I feel like there is an unbelievably freeing Truth to be found in it. So I will ask you a similar question. What does this verse bring freedom to do?
I believe this verse brings freedom from the weight of our sins and the freedom to now live Christ-like.
First, I believe that this verse brings freedom from the weight of our sins.
When I was a freshman in high school, I had a crush on the "popular" girl of the tutorial that I was going to. Now, some of you guys might be able to remember your freshman year of high school, but high school girls only like guys with big muscles. At least this is what my freshman brain had decided. So the natural reaction to that belief was to work out. Well, my impatience to slowly build muscle left my 115-120 pound wiry body pinned underneath a 100 pound weight bar. So there I was laying on the weight bench and not being able to move. The weight on my chest made me anxious, worried, and hard to breathe. Now would be a good time to mention that I hadn't put the clamps on the bar to keep the weights on. So I didn't want to tilt the bar any for fear that the weights on one side would slide off and fling me off the bench. So I laid there what seemed like 20 minutes, but was probably only 10. Finally, I realized it was my only choice to tilt the bar. So, bracing myself, I tilted one side with all my strength, the weights flew off the one side, and I went flying off the other side of the bench landing on the bar and hurting myself.
When I read the three verses before verse 24 this is exactly how I start to feel! I Peter 2:21-23 says,
" To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth. When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he intrusted himself to him who judges justly."
When I read this I see that Christ has left an example that I am called to follow. Then I see the example… Holy Shnikies! I can't possibly do all that! Well, let's try to just take one… "He committed no sin"…. Nope. I have messed up a ton, I have made a lot of poor decisions in life that have hurt other people, I have so much sin that is weighing me down and preventing me from even starting to follow Jesus's footsteps!
We, as Christians, can't view Christ's death as an example, before we see it as a substitutionary atonement for our sins and short comings.
This is where verse 24 comes… Peter, who we know was a man of action, who's actions usually ended up in doubting or denying Jesus, knows the feeling of this weight. He would felt this weight quite literally when Jesus called him out of the boat to walk on water in Matthew 14, and having turned his gaze away from Jesus, he started to drown and feel the weight of the wind and waves crashing around him. The first part of verse 24 says, "He bore our sins in his body on the tree…" You see, Christ's suffering on the cross wasn't Him merely being an example of how to be selfless or how to suffer, but was Him being a substitutionary atonement for our sins. In fact, it couldn't only be an example. Otherwise we wouldn't even have the ability to walk in His steps! Peter is saying that Jesus bore our sins in His body on the cross, and the greek word for "bore" here is "anaphero," which means to bring or bear up, and if Jesus has already bore our sins in HIS body, has already brought them up with HIM, we no longer need to bear that burden ourselves. That burden cannot be in two places. Or in Peter's words, "He bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin…"
I believe that Peter is telling his readers in the first part of verse 24 that, just like the French man who's friend's death gave him life, Jesus has lifted our sins as Christians up from us and laid the wages of death in His grave.
Second, I believe that this verse brings freedom to now live like Christ.
This one time three days before this past New Years, I was ministering to youth by way of a highly competitive basketball game. It was a spontaneous game that I found myself playing in Chocos. Just when I decided to teach one of them about humility by jumping up and knocking his shot out of the air, I missed the ball and landed on the side of my foot. This resulted in me breaking my foot and my new Chocos, and has left me in a boot with crutches for the past several weeks. This is the state I feel like we live in today as Christians. We hold onto past mistakes or feelings of inadequacy and make excuses why we aren't/or can't live righteously. We use these excuses as crutches as we hobble through a life we were meant to run through as if to win a race.
Galatians 2:19-20 says, "through the Law I died to the Law, that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me."
Once we see that "Jesus Christ himself has already bore our sins in HIS body so that we can die to them, and that it is Him who lives in us, we need to throw our crutches away, and recognize that Jesus's death on the cross has taken our brokenness and separated us from it. Leviticus gives us an amazing picture of this in Leviticus 16:20-22. The priests would have two goats when they sacrificed. One would be the actual sacrifice and the other would be a scape-goat. The priest would lay his hands on this goat and confess the people's sins, another man would take it into the wilderness and let it go, and the goat would never be seen again. Because Christ bore our sins on the cross, we are now separated from our old selves, and now that Christ lives in us, we now have the ability to live like him.
Verse 24 says, "He himself bore our sins in his body on a tree, that we might die to sin and live for righteousness."
Once the French man's friend died in his place, he now had the freedom to live a life apart from that death. But it's still very important that we don't become careless with how we are walking, because when we lose focus of Christ, we can put ourselves in hard and tempting places.
I was nine and had just moved out to the country a mile from Hickman County and an exit from Bucksnort from the suburbs of Nashville. I saw my sisters and my brother crowded around something on our back porch so I ran out to see. There, was the biggest Luna Moth I had ever seen in my entire life! It was sitting there with four huge bodies bearing down on it. They were about to touch it! Again, in my mind I knew that if you touched a moth's wings that it couldn't fly, and therefore it would die. So I burst into their human cage and told them to back away. No sooner had I done that, the moth started to fly away. There I stood, it felt like several minutes, watching the beautiful creature that I had just freed from the enemies that were bearing down on it fly into having life again. Then, out of what seemed to be another dimension, Tennessee's state bird mockingly swooped across my vision taking the moth and it's life right out of the sky. My nine year old self was devastated.
So, while verse 24 tells us a vital truth about how we are able to walk in Christ's footsteps, don't forget the three verses that lay before it. Now that we are no longer bearing the weight of our sins, and we are no longer relying on our own power to live righteously, it is important to keep your eyes on how Christ lived to know which footstep's are His, and which are your flesh.
So, let's get practical. The challenge for us in these first verses, now that we know we have the power through Christ to follow them, is to keep our focus on Him. Just like tightrope walkers who don't focus on each individual step, but keep their eyes on the end goal, we too have to keep our gaze on Jesus, because it is Him who is the substitutionary atonement that has freed us from our sins, set us apart from them, and has given us the freedom to walk in His footsteps.
So, now that we have freedom from the weight of past mistakes, and now that we know we're not relying on our own power, but Christ's power in us, we can walk out of this room today with confidence. When we're confronted with sin, we know that we have the power of Christ in us to resist it. Whatever we say, we know that we have the power of Christ in us for it to be filled with truth. When someone hurls insults at us, we now have the power of Christ in us to respond in mercy. When we suffer, we know that we have the power of Christ, who suffered death on a cross, to make it through. So as we walk through each day, moment, and second of our lives we know that we have the power of Christ in us to entrust ourselves to him who judges justly and to return our gaze to the shepherd and overseer of our souls.