TODAY’S READING: 1 PETER, 2 PETER
“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.” (1 Peter 2.21-22)
Peter says servants should be subject to their masters. Yes, be subject to the good master, although this is relatively easy and does not give you much, if any, credit or glory. But, be subject also to the unjust, harsh, or crooked master. For, if you do good while suffering for it, then that is a a gracious thing in God’s sight. In other words, doing good while suffering is a thing that God rejoices over.
Peter says this not as an endorsement of the master-servant relationship. He is not saying that the servant must remain subject to his master forever without exception. Peter is not saying that the servant is forever forbidden to seek freedom.
Peter says this for one reason only. Doing good while suffering, being a servant to an unjust master, is to follow in the steps of Christ. Christ did good while suffering, leaving us an example to do the same.
Peter then tells us exactly what the example is we are to follow.
“He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.” (1 Peter 2.22)
Peter is quoting from Isaiah 53.9. His quotation is fairly close to the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, which says, “Because he committed no lawlessness, and there was no deceit in his mouth.” The Hebrew version is similar, saying, “Although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.
So, we have the terms violence, lawlessness, and sin all used in the same place. Therefore, on one hand, these words interpret each other and may even be somewhat interchangeable. On the other hand, I think we can see a progression in the thought there Jesus did no violence, no lawlessness, no sin.
The Hebrew word for violence is hamas. It means violence and by implication wrong. According to Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Hebrew (Old Testament) the word implies “a strong, fierce, destructive force resulting in acts that maim, destroy, kill, often implying a lawlessness, terror, and lack of moral restraint.” Interesting, as that is exactly what many Christians think Jesus is going to do upon his second coming. Even though Isaiah 53.9 says that God’s servant, his messiah, “had done no violence.”
The first time hamas is used in the Bible is Genesis 6.11-12, which says, “Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth.” The earth was filled with violence that was direct result of mankind, all flesh, corrupting his way of living.
In all the Old Testament there is only one that ever commits violence – mankind. And, mankind’s violence returns upon its own head throughout the Old Testament.
“His mischief returns upon his own head, and on his own skull his violence descends.” (Psalm 7.16)
“No, in your hearts you devise wrongs; your hands deal out violence on the earth.” (Psalm 58.2)
“Therefore pride is their necklace; violence covers them as a garment.” (Psalm 73.6)
“The violence done to Lebanon will overwhelm you.” (Habakkuk 2.17)
Not one time does the Old Testament say that God did violence. However, God is said to save and deliver us from violence.
“My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold, and my refuge, my savior, you save me from violence.” (2 Samuel 22.3)
“You delivered me from men of violence.” (2 Samuel 22.49)
“From oppression and violence he redeems their life.” (Psalm 72.14)
Even though the Old Testament speaks of violence done through trade and divorce, it’s easy to construe it as speaking of physical violence only. Then, those that want an excuse to soften the example that Jesus gave us to follow always ask, “What is violence?” In other words, “How can I physically harm someone and have it not be considered violence?” Or, they ask, “What about violence done in self-defense?”
Here’s where the Septuagint begins to provide a progression of what encompasses violence. For, the Septuagint replaces violence with lawlessness (anomia in the Greek) in Isaiah 53.9.
Lawlessness simply means without law.
But, what does that mean in the context of Jesus, the suffering servant of Isaiah 53?
Matthew 22.36-40 says, “‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’ And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
Jesus simply defined the law as love – first for God, second for your neighbor. Therefore, to be lawless, to be without law, is to not love, to be without love.
Peter takes it even a step farther by replacing lawlessness with sin. The Greek word for sin is hamartia. It’s enlightening to see where the hamartia might have come from though. According to A Concise Dictionary of the Words in the Greek Testament and the Hebrew Bible, hamartia is from the Greek word hamartano. Harmatano is perhaps from the negative particle a, meaning not, and from meros, which means to a division or share (to get as a section or allotment). Hamartano properly means to miss the mark but with the idea of to not share in the prize.
Many Christians are aware of sin, hamartia, as missing the mark. But, seeing the possible derivation of hamartia, reveals that sin, by missing the mark, can be seen as a not sharing in the prize?
What is the prize?
The divine nature.
When we sin, we miss the mark and fail to share in the prize that is God’s life, the divine nature.
Therefore, Peter writes in 2 Peter 1.3-4, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature.”
To sin is to be lawless and without love.
To be without love is to be violent.
We are violent because of our sinful desires.
James 4.1-3 says, “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.”
That Christ did no sin, now lawlessness, and no violence, and had no deceit in his mouth is exemplified in his crucifixion.
The cross is the epitome, the fullest revelation, of Jesus and God.
“But we preach Christ crucified…Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 1.23, 24)
On the cross, sin was crucified.
Jesus bore our sin in his body. And, his body that bore our sin was cursed, hung on a tree, and crucified so as to kill every sinful desire that when they conceive give birth to sin and mature into death.
On the cross, love was fully displayed.
Jesus was crucified by the hands of lawless men, men without law, without love. But, love, God, was manifested when Jesus laid down his life to be crucified on the cross.
On the cross, God put to death the idea that he was in any way violent.
Jesus did not do violence of any kind during his life. And, he most certainly did not violence on the cross. Instead, he suffered every form of violence on the cross.
He was mocked.
He was derided.
He was spat upon.
He was slapped in the face.
He was stripped naked.
He was tortured.
He was crucified.
On the cross, Jesus suffered everything from evil words spoken against him to being killed.
Yet, he did nonce of those things.
What then is the violence we are to not do as the example Jesus set for us?
Everything from not speaking against someone to killing someone.
It’s all violence. It’s all lawlessness. It’s all sin.
Notice what Peter goes on to say after he said Jesus’ example was he did no sin and no deceit was found in his mouth.
“When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but he continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.” (1 Peter 2.23)
When evil words were spoken of Jesus, he spoke no evil words in return.
When Jesus suffered, that is when he was crucified, killed, murdered, not only did he not do any violence in return, he did not even threaten those who crucified him. He only commanded (the Greek verb is in the imperative) his Father to forgive them.
He did not even threaten those killing him.
Why was Jesus able to do this?
Because “he continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.”
Jesus just shared in the divine nature, lived out love, laid down his life for the whole world.
He simply obeyed the commandment to speak eternal life, forgiveness, his Father had given him.
But, Jesus left the outcome in God’s hands.
Why do we not follow Jesus’ example?
Why do we ask, “What is violence?” so that we can follow Jesus without picking up our own cross daily?
Why do we seek to justify our violent response to those seeking to kill us?
Why do we seek to justify speaking evil word to those harming?
Because we haven’t entrusted ourselves to God.
Because we haven’t given ourselves to God.
Because we haven’t put the overcome in God’s hands.
Instead of simple obedience, we want to control the outcome.
We want to save our life. But, we will only lose it in the end.
Instead of losing our life now to gain the very life of God.
But, this is the example Jesus has set for us.
This is how we have been called to follow him.