“The Tragic and Triumphant Cross Leading to Hope for Us All”
“If you invoke as Father the one who judges all people impartially according to their deeds, live in reverent fear during the time of your exile. You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish. He was destined before the foundation of the world, but was revealed at the end of the ages for your sake. Through him you have come to trust in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are set on God.” (1 Peter 1:17-21)
“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps. ‘He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.’ When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:21-24)
Peter’s first letter refers more to the cross of Jesus than any other New Testament letter. To Peter, the cross forms the framework of discipleship and gives shape to the whole Christian experience. He reflected on it deeply, and finally he embraced it during his own martyrdom by crucifixion.
While we live in exile on the earth, we must live in “reverent fear” of the “one who judges all people impartially.” Yet we are able to call upon this just, divine Judge as our Father because we have been ransomed by the sacrifice of Christ from the “futile ways” of the past. The cost of establishing such a relationship with God has not been cheap. The metaphor of salvation comes from the ancient culture in which slaves could purchase their freedom with a hefty ransom price. The ransom paid for our freedom is not made with mere silver or gold, but with “the precious blood of christ,” a price that is both inestimable and eternal. Nor was our ransom a mere afterthought, hastily produced to remedy a human situation that had gone unexpectedly wrong. No, our redemption by Christ was “destined before the foundation of the world”. His death on the cross was no unfortunate accident, but was the perfect sacrifice prepared by God as the culmination of his eternal plan.
The cross of Christ has rescued us from the prison of futility and enabled us to call God our Father. Meaningless existence has evaporated into a life of ultimate meaning, founded on the eternal plan and purpose of God. Because no longer meandering through a pointless wilderness, but journeying through the time of our exile with a sense of direction and destiny.
But not only is the crucified Christ our valuable ransom price, he is also our supreme example to imitate, our mentor in suffering. As our ransom, he is the Passover lamb of Exodus; as our example he is the Suffering Servant of Isaiah. In holding up Jesus as our model Peter uses descriptive phrases from Isaiah 53. Jesus was the innocent sufferer; though abused and afflicted, he did not retaliate or seek revenge. He was a model of patient endurance, confidently entrusting himself to the one who judges justly. As the Suffering Servant, he bore the burden of our sins, so that we might live anew as forgiven and healed people.
Peter had learned so much since those early days in Galilee when he heard the call of Jesus, “Follow me.” At the critical moment of Jesus’ arrest, Peter was “following him at a distance.” Now at a critical time for the early church, Peter exhorts the suffering community of Jesus’ disciples to “follow in his steps”, in the very footprints of their cross bearing Lord.
What does the example of Jesus teach you about responding to suffering in a healthy way?
Wounded Healer, help me to be mindful of you in the midst of my suffering. Transform my suffering into a graced encounter with you so that I may experience healing and life.