DAILY DEVOTION - MAY 24
Listen to excerpts from today's daily devotion on this video.
This Daily Devotion is from A Living Hope, by Sarah Viggiano Wright, published by Bible Study Media, and made available to us through Presbyterian Women.
“He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.”
1 Peter 2:22–23
Former First Lady Michelle Obama shared in a speech that while watching her two young daughters get into the Secret Service car for their first day of school after her husband had become president, she and President Obama wondered what they had done. Preparing these young ones for attacks directed at their father, and encouraging them to absorb these insults and not retaliate, their family adopted the motto, “When they go low, we go high.” If someone treats you with unkindness, they were teaching their girls, answer them with kindness—“go high.”
My heart aches for any mother needing to prepare her young children in this way. The advocate in me wants to shout, “Defend yourself!” But as I behold the example Jesus left for us, Mrs. Obama’s lesson directly aligns.
Jesus was killed by the unkindness, fear, and hatred others directed at him. In the face of his enemies, who mocked him and delighted at his demise, the all-powerful Lord Jesus didn’t fight back, defend himself, or, worse, repay evil for evil (v. 23). Instead, he showed mercy and trust.
I want to be clear that this response is not a prescription for every circumstance, regardless of context (there is a time for fighting and a time for peace. See Ecclesiastes 3:7–8). Nor is this God’s encouragement to accept every kind of abuse. Repeatedly in Scripture, God commands us to advocate for the marginalized and free those who are captive (Proverbs 31:7–8; Isaiah 10:10–13). But when it comes to executing justice for ourselves, we should not match our attackers blow-for-blow, nor repay their sin with sin, because God is our Defender. Following Jesus’ example prevents us from sinning when we are sinned against.
No one in my life has exemplified this trust in God’s justice like Patty, the strong, wonderful African-American woman who helped raise me. Growing up, I noticed that some people would treat me better, even as a child, than they would Patty because of the color of her skin. After these encounters, I would ask her why she didn’t treat them rudely in return, and she would always tell me, “Baby, God saw what they did, and they’re going to have to answer to HIM!” Patty repeatedly showed me that God was our Defender and that our job was to trust him. Now, Patty was a tough woman, and she could have “taught them a lesson,” but she absorbed the cost instead.
Again, this call to absorb hostility is not universal or one-dimensional—there are times to rebuke. Whether the cost is absorbed in silence or in speaking gentle correction, both are offerings of mercy. But, what ought to be consistent in Christian conduct is mercy and trust as God delivers justice.
Jesus’ silence was actually a mercy to his assailants; instead of giving them the instant justice they deserved, he was patient and trusted in God’s plan. Thus, the prescription Jesus is giving us is to continue to trust in God’s plan, sovereignty, and justice. Regarding the servants Peter is addressing, his encouragement is that God knows they are suffering under crooked masters who may act in hideous ways. Jesus himself understands. Our Servant King knows better than any human being what it means to undeservedly suffer in every way.
Verses 22–24 show us just how blameless Jesus was and just how undeserved his suffering was. Who deserved to be falsely accused, tortured, and slaughtered less than the perfect, spotless Lamb of God? But, being mocked, insulted, beaten, and crucified were all to fulfill a higher purpose. Jesus chose to bear our sins—in that, he is the ultimate example of laying down one’s life for his brothers (1 John 3:16).
None of us is the Savior, and none of us will be crucified for the sins of the world. So what exactly is the lesson here for us?
The goal of all Christians is to be like Jesus. However, wouldn’t we all rather be like the “risen-and-glorified King” than the “suffering-and-humbled Man of Sorrows?” But Jesus’ path took him to the cross before he was “risen-and-glorified.” As his followers, ours must too.
There is glory in enduring unjust suffering out of reverence for God. If we are to be Christ-like, we must embrace suffering, even in the face of injustice. Following Jesus doesn’t mean we seek suffering, but walk bravely through it when it comes. On the cross, Jesus exemplified this resolve (v. 21). Peter is using the ancient and familiar paradigm of the Suffering Servant to describe Jesus. Verse 22 is a quote of Isaiah 53:9: “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” Jesus is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy—he is the Suffering Servant who is both the example for and companion to these powerless servants.
Jesus is also a Servant who gave up his rights in order to be despised and rejected by men (Isaiah 53:3). This action is the theological concept of “humiliation,” putting oneself in a humble position before God (not self-abasement). Jesus humbled himself out of willing obedience, even if “it was the will of the Lord to crush him” (Isaiah 53:10). Instead of insisting on his rights, he humbly came to serve others (Mark 10:45), to bear our griefs and carry our sorrows (Isaiah 53:4).
Isaiah’s prophecy says the Suffering Servant committed no sin (53:11), had nothing unclean on his tongue, and was not deceitful (53:9). Crucifixions were for the most violent and offensive of criminals, yet Jesus, like this Sufferer, committed no violence (even Pontius Pilate knew Jesus was innocent. See John 19:4–6). When he was verbally abused, he did not open his mouth, revile, or threaten—the vitriol Jesus received in Luke 23:35–38 was not answered back. His “soul made an offering for guilt” (Isaiah 53:10), and we, the guilty, shall prosper because he was anguished.
Jesus knew this pattern of suffering laid out in Isaiah, and he chose it on our behalf! The holy Servant King became the humble Suffering Servant, the stricken Man of Sorrows, and the slaughtered Innocent Lamb. The Most High became low for the lowly. Though he could have avoided being stricken, smitten, and afflicted, he chose not to intervene on his own behalf so he could intervene for us.
If Jesus was innocent and still suffered, we sinful people can’t escape suffering. But, no matter your earthly circumstances or position, our Savior is empathetic. He knows and he understands. And he promises suffering will not be forever.
Jesus is the perfect Sufferer. We follow in his steps knowing that he went before us in suffering, experiencing the suffering we deserved so we would not have to. He showed ultimate submission and servanthood. He gives us an example to follow—one that preserves the dignity of even our assailants and offers them mercy instead of evil. What a Savior!