1 Peter 4:12-19; 5:6-11 – Christians in the world share Christ’s sufferings. Christians are to rejoice over the privilege of sharing Christ’s suffering, and, after suffering, God will restore and strengthen them. The exhortations to the newly baptized are continued in this passage. They are warned of impending persecution for being Christians, for at this time it was a crime to be a Christian. They are not to be surprised when suffering comes, but to rejoice that they suffer as Jesus did. When suffering comes, the new Christians are to be humble, trust in God’s care, be on guard against temptation, and to remember that suffering is over and God will strengthen them. They are to take comfort in the fact that suffering is experienced by the whole church.
Ask 25 people what it means to be a Christian, a follower of Jesus, and you’ll get a wide range of answers, most of them-I’d guess-centering around some form of prayer, the attempt at keeping the Commandments, and living a “good” life.
The one word you won’t hear is “persecution,” because “persecution” means personal suffering, unpopularity, and no doubt being “un-friended” on social media, which I suppose is the modern-day equivalent of beheading.
No Christian wants to be persecuted, yet all Christians make the claim inherent in what they call themselves, to be followers of Jesus, and it is Jesus who makes no bones about telling his disciples, that is those who truly follow him, that persecution is a given. You see it in Sunday's Gospel and Epistle lessons: you’ll be out of the synagogue, people will kill you believing they are offering God a sacrifice.
In 1 Peter 4, we read that suffering as a Christian is something to be cherished, moreover, that in his/her suffering, he should glorify God! Earlier on in John’s Gospel he tells his disciples that the world hates you, because it hated Christ; it will persecute you, because it persecuted Christ. Expect to be crucified, because your master was crucified and a servant is not greater than his/her master.
You’ll notice that this Sunday doesn’t have the same musical/liturgical bounce in its step as other Sundays have had. There was hardly a trace of pain in the Sundays leading up to this day, there were no tears shed as Christ ascended into heaven, in fact we rejoiced that our human nature too ascended with him!
On Easter 7, known as "Exaudy Sunday," there’s no “Christ is risen” high-fiving going on, in fact if you look at the introit, verse and collect, in addition to the readings, you’ll see the voices raised are pleas for God “to listen,” hence the term ‘exaudio,’ the Latin name that lends its name to this Sunday.
Persecution? Not among us, save for what we often do to each other. None of this, not a single thing, bears even the slightest resemblance to anything scriptural, let alone St. Peter’s words in this Sunday’s Epistle, whose call to be “self-controlled and sober-minded” is met with drooping eyelids, a yawn, and the notion that surely St. Peter meant the person sitting beside you.
A prayer for steadfast faith: Almighty God, our heavenly Father, because of Your tender love toward us sinners You have given us Your Son that, believing in Him, we might have everlasting life. Continue to grant us Your Holy Spirit that we may remain steadfast in the faith to the end and finally come to love everlasting; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.
From text notes in preparation for Easter 7
Image of Psalm 32, copyright © Ed Riojas, Higher ThingsCollect for steadfast faith, Lutheran Service Book copyright © 2006 Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis