In his preaching, Peter was very focused on the paschal mystery, on the cross and resurrection. Here in the middle of Easter, the preaching returns to the passion. But it is the passion as infused with the understanding of the resurrection.
The motif here is that we follow in Christ’s example. But why should this work? In other words, why should an abused and suffering failure to obtain our goals somehow get our goals fulfilled? Now the Pauline idea is that we become united with Christ in his death; our baptism joins us to him, and so by joining him in his death, we are assured we will join him in our life. Paul’s first way of doing this joining is baptism, but the patient endurance of suffering is also a theme of his preaching.
My theme in the past few Sundays however has been to look at Petrine preaching in its distinctiveness. Peter has a different thing to say than Paul. What Peter says then here is quite different. We follow in Jesus example, in part, because it’s the right example, but also because in this way it is a credit to us. We build up credit, merit, reward, by following in Christ’s example, because God repays. So if we suffer unjustly, God will reward us and make it right in the end; by our patient endurance then we win a reward.
But this is still Christian preaching; it’s not just “do right and God will reward you.” Peter says that Jesus “himself bore our sins in his body on the cross.” This is much stronger than Paul’s first Adam/second Adam language. Peter’s language is less about ontological union with Jesus and more about a functional relationship. Jesus bore our sins “in his body,” and those sins were nailed to the cross and died. In this way we are free of them, and now we have returned to him, as the “shepherd and guardian of [our] souls.”
Our patient endurance, then, indicates our commitment that Jesus himself did right by patiently enduring wrong, and we have God’s approval when we do so, just as Jesus did. It is that approval of God which we crave and which Peter assures us we have.
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