Summary: Sermon 9 in a study in 1 & 2 Peter
“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, 22 WHO COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS ANY DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH; 23 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; 24 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 wounds you were healed. 25 For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.”
HIS EXAMPLE OUR EXAMPLE
I will have to ask you to forgive me if it seems that I refer too often to the difference between the pre-Pentecost Peter and the man that the Lord eventually made of him.
But you see, each time I come back to the book of the Acts and then especially to these letters of the Apostle to the churches, written in the final years of his life, I have to be once more astounded and give praise to God for His power to make all things new.
It may be that the transformation in the Apostle Peter touches me the way it does because I was very much like the old Peter. In fact, I am still too much like the old Peter and not as much like the new as I should be; as I would like to be. But I too know what it’s like to make vows to the Lord that I would later break, and to turn my back on the Lord when He had been so good and so gracious to me, and to be restored by His love and called back to service for Him because – as I said – of His power to make all things new.
So when I think of the Peter who chided Jesus for talking about going to the cross, and of the Peter who brashly chopped off the ear of a servant more in a panic than out of courage, and of the Peter who declared he would follow His Lord to the death and then denied Him repeatedly in His darkest hour, and then come to these epistles and read words such as these we are looking at today it touches me every time and fills my heart with praise and thanksgiving to the same Lord who in His infinite mercy and grace chose me and set me apart for Himself.
You can rejoice too, if you are a believer in Christ. Whether you were brash and impetuous or whether in your basic nature you were soft-spoken and shy or somewhere in between, still you were lost and without hope and without God in the world. You were dead in trespasses and sins and destined for an eternity separated from God. But the very same provision that was made for Peter was made for you and by it He redeemed you and sanctified you and the day is coming when you will see Him with glorified eyes.
Peter finally understood this. It was the Holy Spirit in him that led him into all truth and caused him to understand these things and turned him into a servant of God, peaceful, contented, committed, faithful, and able to follow in the footsteps of His Lord, not swinging a sword, but entrusting himself to the One who judges righteously.
So the post-Pentecost Peter, having been sifted and the chaff removed, is now able to call us to follow where Christ has gone; indeed, where Peter has followed and soon will follow again; and that qualifies him to exhort us to these things.
In Foxe’s Book of Martyrs there is recorded the end of Peter’s earthly life according to tradition. By saying that it is tradition we mean that It is not scripture, but has been handed down by men through time and although it may or may not be accurate it seems consistent with the relationship between Peter and his Lord as is revealed to us in scripture, and is also a good illustration of Peter’s exhortation in these verses. This was provided by an early Christian writer named Hegesippus, and here I quote Foxe’s Book of Martyrs:
“It seems that when Peter was old, Nero planned to put him to death. When the disciples heard of this, they begged Peter to flee the city, which he did after much pleading by the disciples. But when he got to the city gate, he saw Christ walking toward him. Peter fell to his knees and said, “Lord, where are you going?” Christ answered, “I’ve come to be crucified again.” By this, Peter understood that it was his time to suffer the death by which Jesus had told him he would glorify God, so he went back into the city. After being captured and taken to his place of martyrdom, he requested that he be crucified in an upside down position because he did not consider himself worthy to be crucified in the same position as his Lord.”