Sermon for Lent Midweek Service, March 16, AD 2022

1 Peter 3:8-22

We have all heard the story of Noah’s ark and seen children’s books with the cute animals and such. God flooded the earth because of man’s wickedness, but preserved righteous Noah and his family in the ark, along with two of every animal on earth. As Noah and his family were the only people to survive, Noah, like Adam, is a father of all people today. We are all descended from Noah. More importantly, Noah is a father in the faith.

Our father Noah suffered greatly through his life. You think it is hard to be a Christian in the world now, imagine how it was for Noah. He had 120 years to build the ark. 120 years of preaching to the people by word and deed. No one listened, no one heeded his voice. He was alone, except his family, possibly a few older relatives who died before the flood. Our sinful human nature doesn’t change, so one could speculate what others did to him. Did they close his accounts and make it difficult to obtain the wood? Did they call him a hater, crazy old man, or doomsayer? Did people come to try to destroy the ark? Was it a common game among teenagers to steal some boards or knock over posts at night? Scripture doesn’t say, but any of these could be possible, or likely. The world was wicked beyond what it has been before or since, and the devil would have been working hard to stop Noah’s task.

The devil hates everything that God has created. He wants all men to suffer, but most of all to despise God as he does. Imagine that the devil heard God’s decree that Noah preached – God was going to wipe out almost the entire creation. It was like God was making things easy for the devil, there were only going to be eight people he really needed to deal with. The devil would have focused much malice on Noah and his family, hoping to end God’s highest creation forever. What could Noah do against this?

The words of St. Peter in our lesson for tonight are for the church of all ages, and could have been said directly to Noah as well - Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. The Christian calling is not to pay back evil deeds with retaliation, but to bless and pray for enemies. Righteous Noah in faith would have only continued to preach repentance to anyone who would hear continued to do good. Even back in humanity’s early years, Noah had a promise to hold to in faith. He knew that the seed of the woman would crush the serpent’s head.

See, being Christian and loving enemies is not just about us being the nice people. If we were just nice for the sake of niceness we would have no hope. For no one can be nice all the time. There is some breaking point. At some point, there can no longer be forgiveness just based on niceness because we still have a sense of justice. Hasn’t God promised that whoever desires to love life and see good days will turn from evil and do good? How can we do good forever if the wicked always prosper? Our love for those who hate us, our rejoicing in suffering is not from our own niceness, but comes from who we are in Jesus.

In Jesus, we are free and have nothing to fear, for we are forgiven. Between us and the creator of the universe and judge of all everything is settled. We are at peace with the one who is really important. Therefore, we can honor him and his will first, because he is greater than any person or institution on earth. If we are slandered for doing good, most importantly our conscience will be good because it is under the command of God. So seek God and his righteousness first rather than pleasing men. For there is no need to fear those less than God if you are in Christ.

Often the Lord will preserve us from suffering, but sometimes it may be his will to suffer for doing good for a time. Through this God wants to make us better and draw us closer to Him. Have you ever had a time in your life of great clarity? Maybe you had an accident or some sickness where you didn’t know if you would survive. Often in those times the things which are important become very clear, and for Christians it can be a time to refocus on our Savior. That is the work of God, pushing you toward greater faith in Christ.

For Christ suffered as well, 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. Christ knew that He had to suffer, that His Father willed it. This was not to bring him closer to God, for he could not become any closer, but to push him away. When Jesus the righteous took on all the sin of the world on the cross, He was forsaken by God. He suffered not only the pain of crucifixion, but the agony of separation that sin creates. Yet this was a good thing, for in this taking of God’s wrath he bore all the punishment for our sin. From His suffering we have been made free. We are no longer guilty in Christ. Death and hell even have no power over us because of what Christ has done.

Noah preached to those who did not believe, trusting that God would repay them for their wickedness. In Jesus we see the completion of that judgment. For after Jesus died he first went body and soul to hell, not to suffer, but to proclaim victory. Yes, those who would not listen to Noah and saw the judgment of the flood saw their true foolishness when Christ came. For Christ declared to those in hell, the people, the evil spirits, and Satan, that He had truly conquered in His death. Satan was not able to take Noah down before, but he thought he had taken down Jesus. He had him killed. Yet in rising from the dead Jesus stomped down to hell and proclaimed that Satan had only helped accomplished Christ’s victory. For no one, not even Satan, can overcome Jesus.

So if God can overcome the entire wicked world who persecuted Noah for 120 years with a mere flood, how much more has he kept you safe in Jesus? For the flood in which eight souls – Noah and his family – were saved was only the image of the greater thing we have in baptism. In baptism, we share in that victory of Christ’s resurrection, where he descended into hell to preach to those in prison and then ascended to the right hand of God to rule over all things. Through baptism into him, we have been saved through water as well – the old man in us had been drowned an a new Resurrection man has arisen. Since we share in the resurrection of Jesus, we share in the victory of Jesus. No angel, authority, or power can overcome us when we hold to Christ in faith. They already know that He has conquered.

We too proclaim this victory in our lives in both Word and deed. We tell others what Jesus has done for us and what he has done to save the whole world. When slandered or persecuted, we do not respond eye for an eye, but defend our faith with gentleness and respect. Not because we are nice Midwesterners, but because we know in Jesus, we have already won. Those who revile good behavior in Christ will one day be put to shame. Those who hold on to Christ in faith will join his final victory march when he returns to take his chosen band to the heavenly Fatherland, and the devil will be finally crushed and fully defeated. Amen.    

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