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1 Peter 3:13-22

Job Thomas
Advanced Homiletics
Based on the Moves/Structures approach of David Buttrick
Setting: I am going to preach this sermon in my home church. Its members are generally
speaking high educated. The Scripture passage is not selected by the preacher; an ecumenical
preaching schedule is followed. I am preaching this sermon on May 7, 2011. This is the first
sermon after Easter that the whole church will hear. (The week before there was a baptismal
service that took place in another church. It was poorly attended by the members of my home
church.)
Moves: (1) We are confronted with unjust suffering because of doing the right thing 1
Peter 3:14; (2) We are often tempted to leave the good path in these situations contrast to 1
Peter 3:15-16; (3) but Christ is our example in suffering 1 Peter 3:18; (4) and Christ is our
example in being victorious 1 Peter 3:19-22; (5) so in this light we should continue to do
good despite suffering 1 Peter 3:15-17.

I.
(Beginning) In 2001 Filip Meert was convicted to 5 years imprisonment because the
judge ruled he had committed fraud on a large scale. The whole case was based on very poor
evidence. Wim Van den Eynde, a journalist with the VRT, did research and was appalled by
the lies and manipulation throughout the trial. Filip apparently was even the person who
started the investigation when he reported discovering some fraud in the books of his
company. Throughout the episode of the TV show Koppen, it became very clear to me that
Filip was innocent. What struck me the most was that Filip did his full effectual sentence of
over three years. Getting out on good behaviour was out of the question, according to the
committee deciding on this, because Filip never admitted his guilt.
(Statement) Suffering while doing nothing wrong troubles us. Suffering because of
doing something good appals us. And yet this is exactly what can happen to Christians.
(Development) We immediately think of the persecuted Church in several African and Asian
countries. Members of those churches are imprisoned and mutilated simply because they want
to follow Jesus. We think of missionaries giving their lives to serving others and getting
almost nothing in return. But we should also think of our personal lives and the lives of those
in our near context. I have to admit I found it difficult to relate to the text myself, but when I
started thinking the theme through, I soon realized that this text speaks to us today. We know
Christians who have been ridiculed for their faith, or have been ridiculed ourselves. We know
Christians who have been gossiped about because they refused to gossip themselves. We
know Christians who have been called names because they refuse to adopt secular morality.
So did some of the readers of First Peter. Their Christian ethics and conduct provoked
ridiculing and shaming. They were confronted with a socio-cultural setting that did not accept
their faith. (Image) You Christians can be so intolerant, I heard somebody say to a friend
recently. My friend really struggled because of this discussion because he tries to show
respect for people no matter what they believe. He tries to love them with a love that suits a
Christian. But he is not willing to compromise. He tries to love people and he tries to live
according to Christian ethics. He tries to do good, but that resulted in somebody being quite
harsh on him. To my friends feeling there was a big distance between how he tries to live and
how that person depicted him. He felt that he had been treated wrongly. (Closure) Suffering
because of doing good seems unjust. Not only that, suffering because of doing good is unjust.
It challenges us.

II.
(Statement) It can even challenge us to this extent that we are tempted to leave our path
of following Christ. We can be tempted to stop doing the good thing. (Development) In being
confronted with unjust suffering, it can be easy to go with the flow, to adjust the Christian
standards to make living easier. It seems easier to just blend in with a bullying group or to be
a bully ourselves in stead of taking a stance against it. It seems more profitable to be just as
competitive as our colleagues and not caring about the pain we cause to our co-workers in
doing this; then we will get our boss respect and be promoted. It seems way better to let go
from time to time and not being the party pooper nobody likes when people start drinking too
much at a party and wanting you to join them. This was what was at stake in the early church
Peter was writing to. Social pressure became that intense that temptation to leave the
community of Christ and the ethics and moral behaviour that go with it, was becoming very
real. (Image) Being Christian is cool is a statement that is often said. Though it is difficult
to always guess what people mean by this, I cant help but think that the word cool is
missing out on some of the tougher implications of being a Christian. Sometimes it is quite
hard to be a Christian. Further I doubt whether Christianity really is about being cool; it is
about following Jesus and accepting him as saviour. (Closure) Its often not easy being a
Christian and trying to lead a Christian life. We can be tempted to leave the path following
Christ when suffering crosses, but maybe it is good to look to our example on that road.

III.
(Statement) On the road we can look to Jesus. He is our example. And it is not an
example that is distant from us. On the contrary, he show the way, also in the suffering.
(Development) On that very path we can see his proper example. Peter, who has lived so
close to Jesus can testify from his own experience: For Christ also suffered once for sins, the
righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but
made alive in the spirit (v. 18). If ever anyone did not deserve to suffer because of his
conduct, it was Jesus. If ever anyone did suffer unjust, it was Jesus. Human hands, the flesh,
put him to death. He suffered. He suffered for doing good and being good. (Image) The
passage of Jesus praying to his Father in Gethsemane always stirs me. Everything in me
shouts: No! Jesus shouldnt have to die. Jesus shouldnt have to suffer. The prayer to his
Father is so intense. Often it is even more intense than the Gospel writers depiction of Jesus
death itself. We can look to this passage in our own unjust suffering; in our suffering because
of doing something good. (Closure) Christ knows our suffering. He has gone the path before
us. He even died for us. We should stay on the path despite suffering.

IV.
(Statement) But it does not end with the suffering. On the contrary, it ends with victory.
Great victory. (Development) Jesus was made alive by the Spirit. Through the Spirit, Jesus
was able to proclaim the Gospel to the spirits. There was much debate on who those spirits
were, but the best explanation I found was that Peter here refers to a non-biblical Jewish story
(1 Enoch). In it, it is told how Noahs grandfather Enoch preached doom to fallen angels (The
Watchers) dwelling on the earth. They are the same we see returning in Genesis 6:1-4; the
Sons of God. First Enoch tells that in those times God confined them to the earthly realm. It
was a prison for them. When Jesus went to them, he did not go to convert them to God again.
He went to proclaim that their doom was complete. He went to proclaim his final victory over
them. He went to show that through his suffering and the following resurrection he was
victorious. Death had no grip on him. And Peter immediately adds a second example victory;

that is the example of Noah himself living in those days. He probably suffered under the
laughter of his neighbours when building the ark, but there came victory for him and his
family. Because of their doing good God did not destroy all of humanity. They stayed on the
right path and God saved them. (Image) Recently in class we saw a video of Lasse Viren.
This Swedish 10km runner took a fall right in the beginning of an Olympic race. Together
with another runner. The other runner stayed down, but Viren got back up and finished the
race with a victory. This falling down seemed devastating at the moment, but in light of his
victory it was not so important anymore. Or even more, it only made the contrasting victory
greater. The finish line gives perspective to the road towards it. For Lasse Viren, but also for
us. Our biggest example for this is Easter. (Closure) We can look to Jesus victory of all
angels and powers. His unjust suffering because of doing good is temporary. It fades in light
of the splendour ahead.

V.
(Statement) And that is exactly what we should relate to. Also for us there lies victory
ahead. In that light we are stimulated to stay on the path following Jesus. (Development) Peter
reminds his readers that doing suffering because of doing good is always better than doing
evil (v. 17). His readers should not let their suffering get the upper hand. They should not be
afraid of their aggressors. On the contrary, they should keep on honouring God and being
prepared to be accountable to their neighbours. They should keep their good mind-set; the
mind-set they asked God at their baptism. This message speaks to us today. We are called to
keep up with following Jesus. Even in through our suffering our conduct is a testimony to our
environment. We should be accountable for our actions. If people look at us, they should not
be amazed of our conduct in light of Christian love. They should see the clear link between
our behaviour and the Saviour we follow. Our path and our actions on it should show a strong
conviction and a life that gives honour and glory to God and does justice to the suffering of
Christ for us and to his victory over death. (Image) In between Easter and Ascension Day the
disciples lived in a very turbulent period. On the one hand Jesus was still present after his
suffering and his victory, but on the other hand Christ was not going to stay with them. They
knew how hard it was being Christ and following Christ. They probably realized that
suffering lied ahead, but they at the same time could already taste the glory to come. They
experienced this ambiguity of the prospect of suffering because of belonging to Christ and
being victorious. But the lives of the disciples show that they went for the victory and took the
suffering as a temporary evil with it. We can relate to this. (Closure) Keep on doing the good.
Keep on following Jesus. There is an end to the suffering. There will be victory.
(Ending) Filip Meerts, unjustly confined, explains his passion for the triathlon after
being set free again. He tells that so often an anger inside him surfaces. He needs the physical
outlet of the heavy sports to get rid of that anger. An anger of being treated unjustly and
knowing that other innocent people still are confined. We can understand his anger, and we
sometimes also like to do sports to get it out of our system. It would be better however not to
leave it at that, but to turn to the hope that is within us. The hope that one-day Christs victory
will be visibly complete comforts us. On that day the suffering will seems nothing compared
to the glory we share in. In our present suffering we can pray to Jesus Christ, knowing that he
understands our troubles and our suffering. We can be comforted by his example in this and
by our knowledge that everything will work out at the end.
Amen.