The book of 1 Peter was written to Christians whose faith was facing severe tests. Some of them were suffering. One form of suffering that a number of them had to endure was persecution against them because they were followers of the Christ.
A portion of Peter’s message was addressed to Christian bondservants. Peter reminded them, “For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God” (1 Peter 2:20).
From that reminder flowed words which many of us find familiar. They are a powerful presentation of the example of Jesus, recorded in 1 Peter 2:21-24:
(21) For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps. (22) Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth, (23) who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; (24) who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness – by whose stripes you were healed.
Those servants had to deal with unpleasant things, sometimes unfair things, in their daily lives. They needed some encouragement. To that end, Peter set forth the example of Jesus, an example that applied specifically to those servants, and in principle, to all Christians of all eras. When it comes to the example of our Savior, what do we see in this passage?
Jesus’ imitable example – “Imitable” is defined as “capable of being imitated or copied; worthy of imitation” [www.yourdictionary.com]. Two thoughts come to mind. First, it is possible for all of us, including those who are facing tough times, to imitate Jesus’ example. Second, there is no better example anywhere for us to imitate!
The word “example” comes from a Greek word (“ /hupogrammos”) which means “a writing copy, including all the letters of the alphabet, given to beginners as an aid in learning to draw them” [Thayer], also defined as “an underwriting, that is, copy for imitation” [Strong; both references are word 5261 via e-Sword]. For each one of His followers, Jesus is the pattern, that which is to be duplicated.
Jesus’ sinless example – Note again the wording in verse twenty-two: “Who committed no sin . . .” Sin is lawlessness/transgressing God’s law (1 John 3:4). Not once did Jesus violate the law of God in his thoughts, speech, or action. Not once did He leave undone what He should have done. Our Lord was not simply a good example. He was more than the very best example in history. His example was perfect! He was tempted in all the ways that humans are, but never sinned (Hebrews 4:14,15).
Jesus’ example of self-control – This was a powerful point for the bondservants to observe. Some of them were mistreated/abused; so was Jesus. How did He respond when He was reviled? He controlled His tongue and did not revile in return. He did not try to get even. When He suffered while doing no wrong to those who abused Him, He did not threaten retaliation (2:23).
Showing self-restraint is not a sign of weakness or lack of courage. In fact, it is just the opposite. It is the strong and brave ones who control their fists, their tongues, and the urge to take matters into their own hands and settle a score. When we are under pressure, when we face fiery trials (1 Peter 4:12), even when others mistreat us, how will we respond? Hopefully, we will imitate the Master. I know our tongue is only one part of the equation, but it is a crucial one which, in reality, reveals our heart. Let these thoughts sink in: “If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless” (James 1:26).
Jesus’ example of commitment – Jesus was betrayed by His “own familiar friend” (Psalm 41:9). He was falsely accused and berated by Jewish leaders. Civil leaders pronounced His innocence, yet by failing to release Him, treated Him unfairly and unjustly. He was mocked, spit upon, smacked in the face, and savagely beaten. In the end, metal spikes were driven into His hands and feet to bind Him to a wooden cross. He endured that cross (Hebrews 12:2) and all that preceded it. In all of it, He “committed Himself to Him who judges righteously” (2:23). In short, He left it in the Father’s hands. I need to learn from my Lord.
Jesus’ selfless example – He “Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree . . .” (2:24). He suffered so you and I can escape the suffering of hell. He bore our sins when we were not capable of bearing them. By His stripes we were healed when we were sin-sick, helpless, and hopeless. It is pretty clear, is it not? Jesus did not do any of those things for Himself. He did them for others. Are we listening and learning?
— Roger D. Campbell