The letter came two weeks ago or so. It was the kind of email or letter many of you have received in the last couple of months, and it was the kind of correspondence some of you have also sent to someone else in the last couple of months. The letter was from my nephew’s family, saying that due to the situation going on all around us the wedding had been called off — at least a public celebration of their wedding with anyone beyond the immediate family. The sadness in the letter of not being able to enjoy that special day with everyone that had been invited was evident. Those of you in similar circumstances with confirmations or graduations or proms or end of the school year celebrations or weddings or funerals know the feeling very well. It would be no surprise at all to hear anyone say after all the preparation and all the anticipation and in some cases all the spending of money, “This Is Not Fair!” because humanly speaking, it is not fair. It’s frustrating and it’s sad – but… it is also something that our Lesson for today can give us a totally different perspective on when we look at our Savior Jesus and think about something that really was not fair – and what it also means that because of something that was not fair in Jesus’ life, everything in our life can be looked at as a wonderful blessing for reasons that we might otherwise never have been able to imagine.
Does that make sense? It can be hard sometimes, but let’s look at the positive perspective in life which God gives us because of the negative treatment in death that God allowed his Son to experience. The key verse in our Lesson from 1 Peter 2 is near the end in verse 24. This is the Good News Peter reminds us of: “He (Jesus) himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.”
Now that is something that was not fair. Jesus is the one described in these words as one “who committed no sin and no deceit was found in his mouth.” You and I are the ones who use our mouths to complain to God, or to compare our lives to others to God to show we are better or at least as good as someone else, or to seek to control our lives by controlling the situation or the people around us — and still you and I are ones who often say to God about so many things in life, “This is not fair how you are treating me, God.” What would be fair is for God to complain to us about us, or to compare our lives to that of his holy Son, or to seek to control our eternal destiny by consigning us to live in death forever removed from him in everlasting punishment. That would be fair.
But what would be fair for us was instead what Jesus, our Good Shepherd, bore on the cross. And Peter reminds us of how great that is by quoting words that we often hear in church, “By his wounds you have been healed.” Someone else got the worst virus possible, and we got the best health possible – spiritual health that means we will never die – and that until the day we do die physically we have what Peter calls a “Shepherd and Overseer of our souls.” Jesus Christ, the one we watch on the cross as he gave up his last breath, is the one who will watch over us until we take our last breath. That is his promise. Whatever happens to me in my life – both good and bad – is meant to keep me remembering that he is alive and watching over me every step of the way. When good things happen, we can say, “Thank you, Jesus.” When bad things happen, we can say, “Thank you, Jesus,” because all things work out for the good of the little lambs of Jesus, because all things are meant to keep us as the little lambs of Jesus, when we keep remembering what the Good Shepherd did for his little lambs on that unfair day on that unfair tree of the cross.
So the apostle Peter is telling us when we do get down about something that may not seem fair, remember what Jesus did to make you his own dear child – his own little lamb. What can also help us is to reflect on how Jesus did it, because when we reflect on how Jesus did it, God may very well use us not only to help somebody in their everyday life, which so many of you are doing and which is very important, of course, but maybe even use us to help somebody to know how to get eternal life, which, of course, is the most important thing of all.
I wonder how many people took a long, hard look at their own life when they saw how the man named Stephen acted at the end of his life in the First Lesson for today that Pastor Free read.
Stephen was suffering for the reason Peter was actually writing his words – suffering for his faith in Jesus and for doing good before God. Yet at the end – because he knew what was beyond the end – he could say, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit,” and then, as his Savior had said, “Please forgive them. Don’t hold this sin against them.” In other words, I want them to know that you came to die for the very sins they are committing against me right now, because I want them to live in heaven with me later on – even though they were doing the unfair thing of putting him to death.
That’s the type of thing Peter is talking about when he tells us in our Lesson that “Christ suffered for us to leave us an example so we might follow in his footsteps by entrusting himself to him who judges justly.” When everything is over and we are in heaven, who will care if someone made us suffer unjustly. When everything is over and we are in heaven, who will care if life wasn’t fair, humanly speaking. When everything is over and we are in heaven, we will see that it was worth it to simply have said all along, “Heavenly Father, I put all this in your hands. I entrust it to you, because this is too much for me to handle or to understand. Heavenly Father, thank you for what Jesus did for me so I can live in heaven. And thank you, Heavenly Father, for letting me see how Jesus did it so I can seek your help to follow in his footsteps, even though I may trip and fall and trip and fall along the way.”
Isn’t that what it is really all about on Good Shepherd Sunday – to know that we have a shepherd who can be described in the way we will sing about at the end of our service:
I am Jesus’ little lamb; Ever glad at heart I am,
For my shepherd gently guides me, Knows my needs and well provides me,
Loves me every day the same, Even calls me by my name.
Our Lord Jesus even knows our name – and he loves us every day the same. Our Lord Jesus will never forget those who are his.
We mentioned last it last Sunday – and we sent emails during the week, showing all the pictures of many of our members that we see taped to the pews in front of us. That was a very meaningful gesture to help us to remember all our members and to think about how we treasure you as brothers and sisters in Christ. Dear friends, your Good Shepherd doesn’t need a picture. He just knows. And he just cares. And he just loves.
It really doesn’t seem fair that anyone could love us so. But Jesus did what to anyone else would seem unfair so that we can talk to him and live for him before we go to live with him. I pray that what Jesus did and how Jesus did it will help you deal with whatever humanly unfair things there may be in your life. You truly are Jesus’ little lamb. And to know that truly is much, much more than fair! Amen.