I Peter 2:1–10

5th Sunday of Easter – 5/7/2023

Today in our Gospel reading, we once again heard these words of our Savior: "I go and prepare a place for you; I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am, you may be also." Too bad Jesus didn't get the memo! According to Harold Camping, a self-professed prophet, Jesus was supposed to have returned for His people 12 years ago, on May 21st at 6:00 p.m. Unfortunately, Jesus didn't have the courtesy to show up, utterly disappointing all of Camping's faithful followers. But as it has turned out, I guess we could say that it was all but a matter of Jesus being a little late to arrive. After all, on December 15, 2013, a little over two years later, Camping died. He did get to meet Jesus, after all.

Unfortunately, this wasn't the first time this false prophet had failed with his predictions. Camping had missed the boat with a bold prediction in 1994 as well. For the life of me, I cannot figure out why people even gave this guy the time of day. Despite his poor record, he was still able to deceive and dupe many people once again, some of whom sold their possessions and made all sorts of provisions for leaving this world.

Now, I could care less about Mr. Camping. But it's the many souls he has led astray that cause me grief. What has now become of their faith in Christ Jesus? What is their attitude toward the true teachings of the Holy Bible? Has this charlatan destroyed their faith?

Jesus has said, "But concerning that day and hour, no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only." (Matt. 24:36) The truly educated on what the Bible teaches were not sucked into falsehoods like Mr. Camping's erroneous predictions. Being schooled by the true word of Christ prevents such deception and also brings one to the true knowledge of his relationship to God and his eternal salvation.

No one is born into this world knowing who he truly is. He must be taught. From the cradle, our parents teach us our name, our origins, our history, to whom we belong, and even how we can think of ourselves or feel about ourselves. Through many teachers, both in classrooms and in books, we are also taught to comprehend our humanness, how we relate to our environment, to other living creatures, and our Creator Himself. This knowledge of our identity as human beings is essential to preparing us for a happy and productive life in this world. But even more importantly, the right knowledge of who we are as Christians fit us for a godly life in this world and a joyful life in the everlasting kingdom to come.

So, who exactly are you? Who am I? Interestingly, in every age of our human history, some have regarded human beings as nothing more than animals. "Karl Marx said that man is nothing more than a hungry animal. What he wants most, claimed Marx, are three meals a day. If he doesn't get enough to eat, he'll be troublesome. He must be assured that he won't get hungry; ultimately, this is the way to world peace." (Sauer, CPR, Vol. 9, Part 2, p. 36)

Charles Darwin, too, considered man nothing but an animal. But instead of a hungry one, Darwin said that man is a fighting animal. He has to fight for his survival. He struggles to gain power, which in turn will make him satisfied. Sigmund Freud disagreed. He insisted that man is a lustful animal. He lives for pleasure, especially sexual pleasure. His happiness is dependent upon how successful he is in satisfying his lusts. Even the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle said that man was an animal. He misbehaves because he doesn't know any better. But if you educate a man and give him knowledge, especially about the consequences of right and wrong, Aristotle taught that man will choose the right and live a better and more productive life in society. (Sauer)

Jesus and the holy apostles also had no delusions about the baseness of man's nature. In fact, in the verse preceding our text, Peter exhorts his readers to "put away all malice." The Greek term he uses goes well beyond the meaning of our English word "malice." It gets at the very heart of the nature of human beings to be "good-for-nothing," vile, base, and disgraceful. But contrary to the so-called wisdom of the world's philosophers, the Lord and His apostles teach us that this "baseness" in our human nature is not something we share with animals. In reality, animals, as a whole, do not behave as disgracefully as human beings do.

No, Jesus and the apostles teach us that, unlike animals, humans were created in the very image of God, i.e., possessing the nature of being pure, good, wholesome, and righteous. The baseness that infects our nature is a result of our fall into sin. Our very nature has been corrupted by that fall. Accordingly, as the Apostle Paul writes, we are all born "dead in transgressions and sins" (Eph. 2:1) and "hostile to God" (Ro. 8:7). The only cure for our base human condition is, as St. Peter also notes just before our text, to be "born again, not of perishable seed but of the imperishable through the living and enduring Word of God."

Similarly, our Lord states, "No one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit" (Jn. 3:5). Through the waters of baptism, comprehended in Jesus' command and connected with His Word of promise, God also recreates us into the beings He designed us to be. He gives us faith and the wisdom to see clearly and truly ourselves and our relationship with Him.

As you can see, central to our new birth, our true identity, and our very salvation is the Word of Christ. Just look at what the Lord, through the word of His apostle, declares you, as believers in Jesus Christ, to be and the status, glory, and life that are already yours unless, of course, you despise them and throw them away in unbelief. The apostle declares: "You, like living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ... You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy."

Under the Old Covenant, the LORD had appointed only those men of the tribe of Levi to serve in His Holy Temple as priests, making intercession for the people, teaching the people the true Word of God, and offering sacrifices on their behalf. And only those Levites who were direct descendants of Aaron, Moses' brother, could be high priests, eligible to enter the Most Holy Place.

But now, under the LORD's New Covenant, a covenant "cut," that is, established, not by the blood of bulls and lambs but by the "holy, precious, blood of Jesus Christ", the Son of God, the perfect Man, the marvelous status of a priest, has been granted to you. There could be no more perfect and complete sacrifice to purify you. Through this sacrifice, you have all been graciously made eligible to enter the Most Holy Place of God. Jesus, your High Priest, has sacrificed Himself for you. No more sacrifices need to be made. Accordingly, you need no one else to represent you before God. You have been "set apart" and "sanctified" in the holy blood of Jesus to present your petitions and prayers to the Lord. As His priest, you have God's gracious ear! You can aspire to no higher position than to be a member of the Holy Priesthood of Christ. God considers you royalty. He calls you collectively His kingdom of priests.

If all that is not enough, consider also that of all the, literally, genes, or races, or groups, of people in this world, you are in Jesus Christ God's chosen ones. God already picked you for His team in Christ before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1). You are His holy nation; that nation He has "set apart" for Himself. You are his possession. You belong to none other than the only true God: the Holy Triune God, the God of the Cross, and the God Who forgives all your sins for Jesus' sake. 

Believe me, it doesn't get any better than this! No position or status you could ever aspire to in this world can even come close to this! After all, according to your fallen nature, you were not of His people. You were not even under God's mercy but under His wrath. But Jesus has changed all that. Now, you have received mercy. Now, you have real, honorable, holy status. You are holy priests of the Most High, Holy God!

Be sure to understand the full extent of your status. Not everyone has such a high honor. Many in our world, by dismissing Christ and despising His Word, have become the capstone sealing their eternal fate under the condemning wrath of God. But not you, a believer in Christ. You are a member of his holy priesthood.

If you have been looking for direction or purpose for your life, here you have it! As a member of the holy priesthood of the Lord, you have a high calling. You priests, and you alone, are privileged to represent Jesus Christ to the people living in the darkness of sin and falsehood in this world. Through your witness to the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in your words and actions, "you proclaim the excellencies (the great saving works) of Him who has called you out of darkness and into His marvelous light." You are God's "go-between" with the people of this world in your families, your schools, and your places of employment. You are there to present their needs to the mercy of God. You are there to serve as God's mouthpiece, to bring His truth to bear in their ears, to unleash the saving truth of the Gospel in their lives. You are never alone in representing yourself. You are but one of Jesus' holy priesthood... one who speaks on behalf of all, who speaks for the High Priest himself. What a vocation has been given to you, o priests!

This holy, heavenly status has not come to you as if by accident or by your doing. It has been graciously given to you through that same Word of Christ that has given you new birth—that is, given your faith in Jesus as your Savior. By this Word, God is building you up into His spiritual house of holy priests—the very house that is founded upon and held together by that "life-giving stone," Jesus Christ—who is the Word made flesh.

This means that you cannot afford to separate yourself from this word of Christ. Peter exhorts you, "Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good."

The world is full of words, philosophies, and teachings. But as a holy priest of Christ, do not make those words the milk that nourishes you. Instead, crave and guzzle in that milk that gives life and saves—that milk that is the Word of Christ. For you see, unlike the words of this world, even those that come from the mouths of the world's most revered scholars and philosophers, only those words that bring you the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ, are without deceit, falsehood, hypocrisy, and enticements to wickedness. Only those words of the true gospel of Jesus Christ can keep you in the holy priesthood and bless you with the salvation of your soul.

When it comes to hearing, studying, and meditating on Christ's Words, be that hungry infant that craves only Mama's milk and wants nothing to do with any cow's milk or soy formula. For then, not only will your holy status as a member of the Holy Priesthood remain intact, but you will be nourished to remain on the right track in this life and enjoy eternal life with your good and gracious God. Amen.

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