1 Peter 1:18-19: Christ Has Made You Without Blemish or Defect

Lent (610x352)We’ve all heard the term “spring cleaning.”  That’s when, often during spring, you take extra time to clean the house from winter’s buildup of dirt and dust.  Yes, all of us find that we need to, now and then, stop and do some serious cleaning around our house.

And although we can live with some clutter in our houses, a messy spiritual life is another matter.  And so Lent comes around each year as a spring cleaning for our souls, to help school us in repentance.  That’s why Lent is such a good season.  For 40 days, the Lenten season leads us on an annual pilgrimage with Jesus to His cross.  Our Lenten path leads us through Jesus’ bitter suffering and redeeming death, to His grave, and then on to His glorious resurrection.

Lent is a season of repentance–and rightly so!  Now, repentance involves sorrow for sin.  But it’s more than that.  Repentance also involves faith in Jesus, which brings forgiveness and new life.  That’s why Lent is also a time of cleansing and renewal.  It’s a cleansing and renewal in Jesus, the Lamb of God.

And so, that’s what we will be doing in these services.  We’ll be airing out our souls, clearing out the clutter of our sin-filled hearts, and tossing out the trash.  We’ll find refreshment and renewal in the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, who cleanses us from all sin.

Today, then, as we begin our Lenten journey, the sinless Lamb of God comes clearly into focus in the words of the Apostle Peter.  He writes that Jesus is “a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:19).

Of all the people who have ever lived, Jesus was the only one who was “without blemish or defect.”  He is singular in His sinlessness.  Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary as a real person, just like you and me in every way except one–He was without sin!  In that way, He is different from us, for we are sinners from stem to stern.  But in every other way, Jesus is exactly like us, including that He faced the same temptations that you and I face each day.

The difference is that Jesus resisted temptation, while we all too often cave in–or worse–embrace it with lust in our hearts.  And so we find that sin contaminates us from head to toe.  So, when you see the ugliness of your sin, don’t be surprised if you begin to feel dirty and polluted.  You should!  For you have fouled yourself, not just in what you do, but also in what you say and think.  It’s the same with me.

When it comes to our sinful self, we have nothing good within us.  Sin has thoroughly blemished and defiled us.  Even worse, from our inherited, fallen nature, we find ourselves disqualified from the presence of God, and so find ourselves under His wrath and judgment.

Yet, Jesus speaks on our behalf to God the Father: He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins.  He knows, first hand, the onslaughts of doubt and temptation.  He is familiar with every trick of the devil.  He bore our sorrows and was familiar with suffering.  Jesus sympathizes with us in our weaknesses, for He has endured them all!

But we do not find true comfort in Christ’s sympathy and compassion, even if we do find that comforting.  The true comfort of Christ comes from, and in, His sacrifice.  That because, in His suffering on the cross, Jesus exchanged His righteousness for our sin.  The sinless Son of God became sin for us all so we could become the righteousness of God.  That’s true comfort!

When God the Holy Spirit brings you to trust in Jesus, you not only find your sins removed and absolved, but you also share in Jesus’ holiness.  Before the judgment seat of God, you stand just as holy as Christ is, without blemish or defect.

But it doesn’t stop there.  The Apostle Peter teaches that our eternal status in Jesus also gives meaning for the lives, right here, right now.  He says, “You were redeemed from your empty way of life inherited from the fathers” (1 Peter 1:18).

Now, Peter’s words may not connect as strongly they should because most of our lives don’t feel empty.  How can that be when so much commotion breaks into our everyday lives?  We have appointments, projects to finish, groceries to buy, and work to do.  Our calendar is crowded, and so is our clock.

And so we find that amid our splintered and frenzied lives, Lent comes as a breath of fresh air.  Let us then pause and reflect on what is going on around us.  St. Peter gives us a fresh perspective on the whirlwind of our lives.  He calls it what it is: an “empty way of life inherited from the fathers” (1 Peter 1:18).

Yet, with our crowded calendars and many details clamoring for our attention, the problem seems to be just the opposite.  We seem to be suffering from too much instead of too little.  We seem to have a glut, not a famine.  And that’s the problem.  Life on overdrive is not really living.  Going faster and faster, we are getting nowhere fast.

We may have amassed a goodly share of trophies that others may consider signs of success.  Yet, if that’s all we have to show for our time and effort, we don’t have much.  We may have a full life as some people count it, but when you get right down to it, such a hectic, compulsive life is full, full of emptiness!

The world around us is always trying to sell us a bill of goods.  We hear much talk about “freedom.”  But what it boils down to is the freedom to do as you please, the freedom of the unbridled will.  God calls such freedom as bondage.  The wise Solomon said: “There is a way that seems right to someone, but in the end it leads to death” (Proverbs 14:12, 16:25).  That’s the problem with life in this fallen world.  Everything that glitters is not gold.  Everything is not always as it seems.  Turn a sinner loose to do as he pleases, and you have sent him down the path to hell.

After all, sin masquerades as freedom.  Our culture sees abortion as “freedom of choice,” not the murder of an unborn child.  Our society sees homosexuality as a valid lifestyle, valid as any other, a question of personal freedom.  These are but a few of the aberrations that we see as “freedoms.”  And many claim–just as in St. Peter’s day–that these freedoms are a precious heritage handed down to us from our forefathers.  But these so-called “freedoms” are bondage to sin and spiritual slavery.

It’s no wonder that Peter calls such bondage disguised as freedom as “empty.”  Listen again: “You were redeemed from your empty way of life inherited from the fathers” (1 Peter 1:18).  Note Peter’s use of the passive voice when it comes to our redemption, our salvation.  He says, “You were redeemed.”

Redemption is no do-it-yourself project.  Such an empty way of life, despite its curb appeal, is bondage and slavery.  Even more, it’s a bondage from which people cannot free themselves.

In the ancient world, every once in a while, a slave could buy his way into freedom.  But the slavery to sin and death that you and I have inherited from our ancestors is not that easily abolished.  No amount of silver or gold, no amount of stocks and bonds, no accrued net worth could be enough to free us from our inherited bondage.  Even worse, we’ve forged the chains of slavery all the more by our own sins of thought, word, and deed.

Only the blood of Jesus Christ could redeem us from the tyranny of Satan.  There is a price tag on sin–and that price is extreme: “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).  But Jesus came to lay down His life on the cross and pour out all His blood to free us from our empty way of life.

Ash Wednesday gets it name from the ancient Christian custom that all the baptized received the sign of the cross in ashes on this first day of Lent.  Then, the pastor would speak these words as he applied the ashes: “Remember that you are dust and to dust you will return” (Genesis 3:19).  That’s a sobering thought, a thought each of us would do well to ponder.

In eternity, every human being ever born will one day be in God’s full and glorious presence.  For there is no place where He is not.  Every human ever born lives forever.  It’s just a matter of what your eternal reality will be.  Someone who is in God’s full and glorious presence, based on his own righteousness, experiences eternity as if he were on fire.  Scripture calls that experience “hell.”  And in that eternal state, one has eternal life in that continuous state of death.

But those who stand in God’s presence covered with Jesus’ righteousness, the righteousness He earned for you on His cross of death and gives to you through Word and Sacrament, experience eternity as a child of light.  Eternity will be only joy and bliss, with no emptiness at all.

So then, ponder the depth of God’s love, who sent His Son to save us from our sin (see John 3:16-17).  As the pure and sinless Son of God, He could and did cleanse and free us from the bondage of our defilement and the filth of our sin.

By His grace, you are His and He is yours.  So cleanse your souls in Him.  Lay down your burdens, put your sorrow away, and set your heartache and your pain aside.  All that–and more–has Jesus taken with Him to the cross. 

By His death, Jesus has redeemed you.  He has made you pure and holy like Himself, given to you through Word and Sacrament.  He has set you free to live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness.  You can be sure of that, just as He is risen from the dead and lives and reigns to all eternity.  Amen.