Having instructed the sick person and obtained a confession of sins (see this post), Sarcerius proceeds to offer consolation by means of absolution and the Sacrament. Of particular note is the change in character of the sickness. By means of the forgiveness of sins, the sickness ceases to be a sin-sickness. And if death should follow, it is no longer a Zorntod – a death under God’s wrath. Rather, this sickness now serves to draw the afflicted to Christ, to the merits of his suffering and death, and finally to eternal life.

The certainty of Christ is set over against the certainty of this sickness and eventual death. The Sacraments are added for the strengthening of the weak and as seal and pledge of the promises delivered by the mouth of the pastor. The aim of the pastor’s consolation is the delivery of a good conscience, which requires the testimony of Christ’s body and blood. Notice, however, that in the misuse of the Sacrament of Christ’s body and blood consciences are again defiled. To receive the Sacrament in one kind only leaves the sick with no certainty that he is following God’s will and doing what is right.

Sarcerius is keenly aware of the temptation to fall back into old habits in the hour of great need, but he does not respond with indulgence. Instead, he presses earnestly forward, insisting that the command of Christ to eat and drink is the ground of consolation in the Sacrament. To step outside that command and institution is to abandon the hope for a good conscience. The question of Communion in one kind persists in 1559, pointing to the patience with which it has been treated. Nevertheless, patience must not give way to negligence. That is a delicate and narrow path to tread, and Sarcerius shows that such work continues even to the last hour.


Now then listen to what a merciful God you have. You ought to have been eternally damned for your sins. For it is impossible for any man to help himself out of death and to be able to come to God’s grace through his ability or good life. Therefore God let his only-begotten son, our Lord Jesus Christ, become man and die on the cross for our sins and rise on the third day so that we many be freed from our sins through him and come to the grace of God and eternal life. As Christ himself preaches: “Thus God loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten son, so that all who believe in him, etc.” (Joh. 3). Do you believe in our Lord Jesus Christ, that he became man for your sake and paid for your sins on the wood of the cross and sacrificed his life? If you believe it, then I absolve you from all your sins in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Do not doubt that I now speak to you on God’s behalf. For Christ commanded that one should preach repentance and the forgiveness of sins in his name. And in John 20 he says: “Receive the Holy Ghost. The sins of those you forgive are forgiven. And those you retain, etc. ” Therefore you should certainly believe and hope in the forgiveness of your sins and eternal life through Christ and henceforth commend to the hand of your dear God that he do with you according to his divine will. For even if the sickness should continue unto death, it is no longer a sin-sickness, nor a death under wrath, but rather it is all together an encouragement that we come to that which Christ has earned with his suffering and death, that is, to eternal life. But so that such comfort may be more certain for us, the Lord did not want to leave it with such a statement alone. Rather, he first sealed it with holy Baptism. For you were baptized into Christ’s death, so that you may put it to use and should be freed from sin and death. Then, Christ instituted the Lord’s Supper for his Christians as a new Testament, in which he gives us his body and blood for food and drink, so that we may be certain that such body was given for our sins and his blood shed for the forgiveness of our sins.

But if we want to rightly handle that testament of Christ, we must not handle it otherwise than Christ himself has commanded. Now Christ didn’t say just to eat his body under or with the bread, but he also said to drink his blood under the wine and spoke: “Drink of it all of you.” Therefore I cannot and will not give you the Sacrament otherwise than as Christ commanded me to give it and the Christian Church all together has done for more than 1300 years. So you should not desire nor receive the Sacrament otherwise than as Christ commanded. Then you can be sure that you are following his will and not doing wrong.

So say to me, will you in this manner receive this most worthy Sacrament to strengthen your faith that the body of Christ is given for your sins and his blood shed for the forgiveness of your sins.

When the patient answers, “Yes,” then the pastor first kneels with the patient and prays with him the Our Father out loud.

Thereafter he goes to the table where the host and the wine is and he speaks the words of our Lord Christ out loud. First:

On the night in which Jesus was betrayed, he took the bread, gave thanks and broke it and gave it to his disciples and spoke: “Take and eat, this is my body, which is given for you. Do this for my remembrance.”

After these words he gives him the bread and says:

Take and eat, this is the body of Jesus Christ which is given for your sins.

Thereafter, he goes again to the table and speaks further: In the same way he also took the cup after the meal and gave thanks and gave it to them and said, “Drink of it all of you, this is my blood of the new Testament, which is poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this as often as you drink it for my remembrance.”

Take and drink, this is the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ  which is poured out for your sins.


Let us now thank God. Repeat after me.

I thank you almighty God that you have restored me through this salutary gift of the body and blood of your son Jesus Christ, and I pray that you would let it give me growth to strong faith towards you so that I commend everything to your mercy and through the help of your Son and the Holy Spirit overcome everything and live eternally according to your promise. Amen.

Erasmus Sarcerius, Pastorale oder Hirtenbuch, trans. David Buchs, (Eisleben: Urbanus Raubisch, 1559), CLXXXIIv-CLXXXIIIv.

On Shrove Tuesday in 1552, Erasmus Sarcerius preached a sermon on Christ and our cross. His text was Luke 18:31-43, in which Jesus foretells his death and resurrection a third time and heals the blind beggar outside of Jericho. He parsed the text into seven articles — the sixth is below for your consideration. It is a critique of those arch-heretics, Reason and Human Wisdom, who deceive even the disciples, keeping them from understanding the clear words of Christ.

Reason and Human Wisdom are such successful heretics because they seem to deliver on their promises for a time. Seeking honor leads to honor. Seeking prosperity leads to prosperity. Trust in their promises pays off in ways so delightful to our flesh that we overlook the times they fail to deliver. It’s a classic case of confirmation bias.

The end of trust in Reason and Human Wisdom is despair in time of need, especially in our greatest need at the hour of death. At that point, their promises come to an end, and they have no help to give. Instead they can only lead you to conclude that you are a wretched, miserable creature with no hope. But that bit of truth emerging from their heresy is too little, and it arrives too late.

Such honesty about Reason and Human Wisdom makes enemies with the world. It is an annoyance and burden to the flesh, and it must compete with the clarion call to talk about something more relevant, something that matters right now. It is striking how similar the voice of Sarcerius’ world is to ours.

For the Christian, the cross of Christ is a source of eternal comfort because it means that our weakness and crosses are not meaningless. Far from it. By faith in the promises of Jesus secured by his suffering, death, and resurrection, our weakness and crosses are given ultimate significance. They are the path to glory – a glory that does not terminate at the grave. It is a glory that is not self-serving and vain. It is the glory of perfection, holiness, and love. It is the glory of Christ, lifted up on the cross, drawing all nations to himself.

The sixth article holds before us the ignorance of Christ’s disciples as an example. They didn’t understand their master’s talk of his suffering and his resurrection. Luke shows us: “They understood none of these things, and the saying was hidden from them, and they did not know what was said.”

In view of such ignorance, we rightly wonder that the disciples were with Christ for so long, went in and out with him for so long and yet did not understand this saying of Christ concerning his suffering and resurrection.

The source of the disciples’ ignorance

It comes from reason and human wisdom, which are heretics that persuaded the Jews to think that Jesus would be a worldly king and lord. Because they are now stuck in these thoughts, they have imagined him as a rich, powerful, and happy lord, who should rule and govern in this world with great honor, happiness, and prosperity. There was nothing more unimaginable to them than that the Christ should suffer and die. Because they couldn’t imagine it, they haven’t understood his sayings about the cross and resurrection.

What we learn from this sixth article

We learn that we cannot, by nature, direct or orient ourselves towards the teaching of the cross and the rescue from it. Therefore both the suffering of Christ and his rescue from it are not subject to reason and human wisdom. They can’t rightly judge and evaluate either the cross or the rescue.

Likewise we learn that the teaching of the cross is annoying and burdensome to our old Adam and our flesh, and that reasoning and fleshly men won’t be bothered with it.

Likewise we learn the source of our ignorance, in which we don’t understand the teaching of the cross nor the rescue from it. It comes namely from reason and human wisdom, which are heretics that teach hatred of the cross and despair of human power and help in times of great need.

Likewise we learn the source of our burden and annoyance at the cross. People would much rather have good days than evil ones. They’d rather live and remain in peace and prosperity than have cross and misery. On that account one finds at all times people who regard temporal peace more than eternal blessedness and eternal peace. That’s seen nowadays in our time when, for the sake of temporal prosperity, God’s word and the truth are abandoned, and they cry out with clear voice that one must give way to the time and present needs. Among them he is a wise man who can accommodate religion to the times.

Likewise we learn that, by nature, we don’t know the right way to attain honor in the kingdom of Heaven. It is found in the cross. This ignorance is also a fruit of reason and human wisdom, which teach that one climbs to honor through honor, to power through power, etc. And for such heretics there is nothing more impossible to believe than that in the kingdom of heaven the right way to attain honor is the cross and weakness.

Likewise we learn that the kingdom of heaven is to be distinguished from a temporal kingdom. In the kingdom of heaven, one is great and comes to honor through suffering and death. In the latter, through power and riches.

Erasmus Sarcerius, Eine predigte von Christi und unserem Creutze: Item wie man von Christo dem rechten artzte beiderley gesundheit an leib und seel erlangen sol, trans. David Buchs, (Leipzig: Jacobum Berwald, 1552),

In light of coming persecution for the saints in Asia minor, as well as God’s faithfulness in all things (1 Peter 4:12-19), pastors are to watch over the flock of God.  They are to do so with pure motives rather than for personal gain; they are not to do so in a domineering way, but rather as examples.  The difficult labors of this life will not last forever; Jesus will return (1 Peter 4:4).  All—whether pastors or hearers, young or old—should treat each other with humility. 

We should also humble ourselves before God.  He gives grace to the humble (Prov. 3:34);  saving them, but bringing down the arrogant (Psalm 18:27; Luke 1:52; James 4:10).  Each of us should remember his place as a creature.  Each of us should, in meekness, be mindful of our sin.  None of us should regard himself more highly than he ought (Rom. 12:3)—whether before man, or before the Almighty.  Instead, we should have the same mindset as Christ, who in humility gave himself into death in our place (1 Peter 4:1; Phil. 2:5-7). Pride is a snare of the Devil (1 Tim. 3:6).

Satan prowls looking for prey therefore the Christian should be sober and watchful (Job 1:7; 2:2; Eph. 4:27).  He is a liar and murderer (John 8:44).  We should pray against temptation (Matt. 6:13; Matt. 26:41).  If we resist the Adversary, he will flee; instead we should draw near to God (James 4:7-8; 2 Tim. 2:22). 

Whatever the nature of the temptation—whether persecution for the saints in Asia Minor, or fleshly enticements for us today—no temptation, no testing, lasts forever (1 Peter 5:10; 1 Cor. 10:13).  As the Book draws to a close, we see again one of the first themes of the Epistle: “after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you” (1 Peter 5:10).  These trials work for our good and God’s glory (1 Peter 1:6-7; 1 Peter 3:14-17).   

Christ is the cornerstone of the church (1 Peter 2:7).  We are a building for his habitation (1 Peter 2:4-5).  He is the Head of the body, his church (Col. 2:19; Eph. 4:15).  He alone has brought us to God (1 Peter 3:18).  All things have been subjected to him unto all eternity (1 Peter 3:22; 1 Peter 5:11).  His power sustains us to the end, so that we might with him in his glory forever (1 Peter 5:10).

Erasmus Sarcerius (1501-1559) was a Lutheran pastor and theologian who studied under Luther and Melanchthon in Wittenberg. His activity during his career was chiefly as a superintendent. He labored to put Lutheran doctrine into practice in the church, and his efforts were lauded by the first generation of Lutherans. Not surprisingly his work faded into the background as it was largely local and fell victim to the vagaries of political shifts and confessional controversies. He did not expect anything different, however, often arguing that a work well-begun and not finished is far better than a work never begun. At the end of his life, Sarcerius published a pastoral theology which he wrote to give young pastors a leg-up into the ministry.

For your edification, here is the first part of his chapter on the visitation of the sick. It is the instruction that is to be addressed to the sick prior to receiving absolution and the Sacrament. There are several observations worth making initially. First, Sarcerius is principally concerned with ensuring that the patient knows the true character of sickness. Imagine a context in which death was much nearer and more imminent than it is for us today. It easily begins to seem like a part of the natural order, as harvest and slaughter are to farmers. Such an attitude towards death is an obstacle for the faithful to adequate preparation for dying.

Next, observe how Sarcerius is concerned to liberate the patient: you should make full use of medicine and doctors. God may indeed save you from sickness. If he does, it will likely be through means. It does not indicate a failure of faith to hope for good medicine and good doctors. On the contrary, it is a display of faith to make use of God’s creation towards the ends for which he has created it, so long as it is received with thanksgiving.

Finally, Sarcerius’ insistence on a confession from the heart may grate on us a bit, but notice how he parses it (revealing his background in pedagogy). Repentance from the heart is not a matter of sufficient feelings, but a posture over against sin. Do you wish that you had not sinned, and do you intend to do better?

My dear man, you now lie in God’s hands and don’t know which way God will take this, whether he will restore your health or pull you by death out of this life. Whether or not you regain your health, it is certain that you must someday die. You know what follows death. For you confess in faith that Christ sits at the right hand of the Father and will return to judge the living and the dead. You also confess that you and all men must await not just death but also God’s verdict and judgment on the last day. On that account it is necessary for you properly to prepare for such a journey, and pay close attention to this work which God has now put before you. For there is a big difference between human sickness and death and the sickness and death of a cow. The cow must also die and suffer all kinds of sickness as we can see, but that is all natural, and the cow experiences it not from God’s wrath. It is the cow’s nature that it cannot remain forever and eventually must suffer a mishap, get sick, and finally die. But when it is dead, it is over and there is nothing left to expect.

But man must suffer sickness and death on account of sin. For the Lord threatened Adam in paradise and said: In the day that you eat of the tree you will certainly die. You should note this and know it well: the sickness that you now suffer is not without danger, nor do you experience it naturally. It is the penalty for your sin, you who are a child of Adam, born in sin, bearing a sinful nature from your father and mother, and having spent your life in sin against God and his word. Therefore you have two things to consider. The first is the lesser – that you are free to use doctors and medicines, created by God for the good of man. You are free to pray to God that he may give them success. For experience compels us to  acknowledge that, just as in many sicknesses it is harmful to eat or drink this or that, God has also created many fruits, roots, herbs, and other creations, which have special power and salutary effect both inside and outside the body. Therefore it is not only not wrong, but also useful and good in sickness to seek and use the help of men, as long as you hold God to be the best and most reliable doctor and with every medicine see and hope for his help. That is the first, but the lesser of the things that you should now consider. The other is this: how you may be released from sin and the wrath of God. You must begin with this part. For because sickness is rooted in sin, the sin must first be done away with if you would help the body. And especially must sin be done away with if body and soul are to be helped. For sickness stops when death comes. But sin does not stop since God’s judgment is yet ahead.

So say to me now, do you confess that you are a sinner, and do you want to be free of both sickness and sin? I don’t doubt it concerning sickness. For anyone would gladly be free from what weighs on the body. Therefore show only whether you are sorry for your sin from your heart and that you want to be released from it. What do you answer? Do you confess that you are a poor sinner and that you have your whole life long done and intended much evil against God and his word and against your own conscience? Is it sorrow from your heart so that you wish you had not done it, and if God grants you further life, you will no longer do it, but rather more earnestly hold to God’s word and will and do better? What do you answer?

Here he answers: Yes.

Erasmus Sarcerius, Pastorale oder Hirtenbuch, trans. David Buchs, (Eisleben: Urbanus Raubisch, 1559), CLXXXIIr-v.

The consolation that Sarcerius offers to such a penitent will follow in another post.

A seed planted in Chapter 1 grows up and bears fruit in Chapter 4.  Early on in the Epistle, the Holy Spirit reveals to the saints in Asia Minor that although they have been grieved by various trials, these only serve to refine their faith, with the result that they rejoice and praise God (1 Peter 1:6-7).  Our Lord suffered in this world because he was not of this world.  Those who follow him will likewise face opposition from wordlings (John 15:18-20).  Rather than paranoia, defeatism, or defensiveness, this should rather rouse the Christian.  Indeed, we are to “arm” ourselves with Christ’s mindset (1 Peter 4:1).  

The world engages in “sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry,” (1 Peter 4:3) and when Christians abstain, they are maligned.  However, the end of all things is near, and the Christian should leave these vile things in the past (1 Peter 4:3; 1 Peter 4:7).  Rather than indulgence, the Christian is called to sobriety, prayer, and Christian love (1 Peter 4:7-8).  We should live for the will of God, instead of for sinful pleasures (1 Peter 4:2).  This may translate into suffering, but our Lord does call us to take up the cross and follow him (Matthew 16:24).  We are to consider ourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ (Romans 6:9-14).  

The Christians in Asia Minor may have more persecution ahead of them (1 Peter 4:12).  Yet, those who suffer for Christ share in his glory (1 Peter 4:13).  Indeed, this is a sign that the Holy Spirit is with the believer (1 Peter 4:14).  If this seems difficult, or unpleasant, or unfair, then Peter asks his audience which seems better: to suffer for Christ, or to suffer the just judgement of our sin?  There is no choice.  Who are we to answer back to God? (Romans 9:20; Job 38:1-8).  

Rather than accusing God, rather than judging God, rather than condemning God, the proper Christian response is to fear God (Ecclesiastes 12:13; Romans 11:33-36).  Though the faithful may suffer on account of Christ, this is far better than the alternative.  And God is faithful.  His will is best; he works all things for our good (Romans 8:28).  The Old Testament accounts of Joseph, as well as the Three Young Men in the Fiery Furnace and Daniel and the Lion’s Den, illustrate this. 

Christ himself submitted to the father’s will, even when that meant shame, torture, and crucifixion.  But this, the greatest suffering anyone has ever undergone, has accomplished our salvation.   God is faithful, even in the midst of suffering (1 Peter 4:19). Thus, when Christ returns on the Last Day, all suffering will cease and we will be “glad when his glory is revealed” (1 Peter 4:13).

The Psalms are the prayers of the body of Christ. While this is true of all of them, occasionally we have a clear and unambiguous testimony from the Holy Spirit. Peter and Paul both directly connect this Psalm to the passion of Christ. David’s own experience informs this psalm, to be sure, but only in a partial way, just as ours does. Yet Christ fulfills this psalm to the utmost. His own struggle with His enemies has become our own. His trust has become ours. His experience fills up and informs our own, because we are in Him.

Psalm 16 presents some difficulties, but may be divided into three sections: calling on God to deliver (verses 1-4), trust in God who provides (verses 5-8), and a blessing of God (verse 9-11). The exact issue prompting this psalm is not specified. However, since David refers to idolaters and the grave throughout the psalm, it is safe to say that he faces a peril from his enemies which threatens his life. Yet the primary focus of the psalm is not the danger, but the trust in God to deliver, so that even in the grave, God will not abandon His people.

A Miktam of David. Preserve me, God, for I take refuge in you.

You have said to the LORD, You are My Lord. My goodness is not apart from you.

The term “miktam” occurs here and in the titles of Psalms 56 through 60. Like so many of the other terms in the headings of the psalms, its exact meaning is uncertain. Some associate it with another word meaning “gold,” as in Job 28:19. If this is true, a miktam is a “golden psalm,” perhaps signifying its special importance. However, its usage also in Psalms 56-60 shows that we should be cautious of reading too much into such an interpretation. On the other hand, the Septuagint rendered miktam as “inscription,” suggesting that it is suited for use as an epigram. It is equally likely, however, that the term is either a tune name or a form of poetry.

David calls on the Lord to deliver him from trouble. While the first verse is thus straightforward, the next three are the most difficult to interpret in the psalm. The second verse begins “you have said” without specifying the subject. It seems most likely he is speaking to himself or to his soul, so that some translations insert “O my soul” to this verse. Others, following the Septuagint, modify the verb to “I have said,” which is more or less the same idea. God gives the soul, after all, and is its Lord (Ecclesiastes 12:7). All good that we have is also from God, so that apart from Him, we can do nothing (John 15:5).

To the holy ones who are in the land, they are the mighty ones. All my pleasure is in them.

Translations differ, sometimes widely, on this verses. The Septuagint and the Vulgate render it something like “To the saints who are in his land, he has made wonderful all my [or his] desires in them.” Some older translations like Luther and the King James render it differently: “But to the saints that are in the earth, and to the excellent, in whom is all my delight.” Many modern translations are similar to my own. Much of the difficulty comes from an unusual word order and several ellipses.

Following the translation I have given, David associates himself with the godly, especially against the ungodly. Identifying with the body of believers is another way of associating with God. If we group ourselves with the godly, then we are by extension grouping ourselves with the Lord to whom they belong. We are, after all, the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12). To leave off meeting together is to separate ourselves not only from other believers but also from God (Hebrews 10:25; 1 Corinthians 12:21).

They will multiply their pains. They have acquired another [god]. I will not pour out their libations of blood, and I will not lift up their names on my lips.

This verse can also be difficult, because the subject is not stated. However, since it seems to make little sense to interpret this in terms of the holy ones, David distances himself from the ungodly. Their way is a way of pain and sorrow, because they have sought another god. The verb translated here as “acquired” is identical to another verb meaning “to hasten” or “to run after.” However, as in Exodus 22:15, it can also refer to paying a bridal price. Idolators seek to betroth a false god to them, instead of the Lord who identifies Himself as the Husband of Israel (Hosea 2:16). “Hasten after,” however, carries the same idea, since they are pursuing another god.

Their libations or drink offerings may indeed be of blood, given the depravity of some Canaanite practices, but it is more likely that David means that their offerings are stained with sin (Isaiah 1:15). David also refuses to take up the names of their false gods on his lips. This is not literally avoiding naming them, since the prophets frequently give the names of false gods, but to avoid naming them in a way which shows them honor (Exodus 23:13; Joshua 23:7). There is, after all, no other name than Jesus by which we will be saved (Acts 4:12).

The LORD is the portion of my portion and my cup. You hold my lot.

The measuring lines have fallen for me in pleasant places. Indeed, a pleasing inheritance to me.

I will bless the LORD who advises me. Also, by night my kidneys discipline me.

I have set the LORD before me continually. Because [he is] at my right hand, I will not be made to stagger.

Having called on God to deliver, the psalm now confidently turns toward the fulfillment. There is no need to fear those who trouble us, because our inheritance is with God. Like the Levites, our inheritance is God Himself (Numbers 18:20). Indeed, the Lord is called the portion of Israel as a whole, because our hope and confidence is in Him (Jeremiah 10:16; Deuteronomy 32:9). He is our cup, because He is our salvation (Psalm 116:13). He holds our lot, because He has all things in His hand.

The imagery of “measuring lines” here hearkens back to the division of the land in passages like Joshua 17:5, where it is rendered as “portion.” The word itself means a rope or a cord, as in a surveyor staking out property. It is, however, a pleasant place, because the godly one delights in what God has given to him. It is not too small, as the portion of Joseph (Joshua 17:14-17), nor displeasing like the land of Cabul (1 Kings 9:12-13). What comes from God is pleasing, because it is meant for our good (Romans 8:28).

Kidneys in the Old Testament are regarded as the innermost part of man. This is why the word is frequently translated as “heart” in English, since we use the heart to denote the same idea. Since the heart shows the truth of the soul (as Jesus says in places like Matthew 15:34), it “disciplines” in a positive sense by calling to mind the words and promises of God. It is not necessarily a negative thing to be instructed or disciplined, as we often use the word. Rather, just as God counsels us through His Word, so He also calls forth in our memory those same words for our reflection.

Therefore, my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices. Indeed, my flesh dwells in security.

Glory here is a reference to the tongue, because we glorify God through praising Him with it. David also refers to his tongue in this way in Psalm 57:8, calling on it to awaken with God’s praises. Peter also, when he quotes this psalm in his sermon at Pentecost, renders it as “tongue,” following the Septuagint (Acts 2:26). His flesh or body dwells securely, not in a carnal way, but knowing that God cares also for the body (Matthew 6:25-34).

For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol. You will not give your pious one/faithful one to see the pit/corruption.

On the basis of this verse, both Peter and Paul refer to Psalm 16 in direct connection with Christ. The idea is straightforward. David expresses confidence in God, knowing that God will not abandon him even in the grave. He will not cast us off once we have passed into the pit or into corruption. Jesus Christ is the resurrection and the life (John 11:25-26).

Yet, as Peter says to the Jews at Pentecost, this cannot be fully true of David. David, after all, died, and his body fell into corruption (Acts 2:29). Yet Christ Himself fully fulfills this prophecy, because though He died, His body did not see corruption (Acts 2:31). Paul makes the same point to the Jews at Antioch in Pisidia (Acts 13:35-37). Thus, according to the testimony of the Spirit, Psalm 16 only indirectly speaks of David, but directly of Christ Himself.

The word rendered as “pious” or “faithful” can certainly be rendered as “holy,” but it also emphasizes the obedience of Christ. Jesus was obedient even to death on the cross, and thus God raised Him from the dead and exalted Him far above all things (Philippians 2:8-11).

You make known to me the path of life. Fullness of joy is before your face. At your right hand is delight everlasting.

David thus closes this prophecy with joy. In God and in God alone is a joy which knows no end. Because Christ lives, we also will live with Him to glorify Him forever. Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Christ is our highest joy. Christ is our everlasting rest and delight. We have no reason to fear anything in this world, because Christ reigns triumphant at the right hand of God, exalted above all earthly things.

Chapter 3 begins in the middle of the section which started at 1 Peter 2:13.  The Christian has been redeemed from sin, but he still lives within God’s created order.  Just as citizens should “be subject to every human institution,” (1 Peter 2:13) and servants to their masters (1 Peter 2:18), wives should “be subject” to their “own husbands” (1 Peter 3:1).  Even if some of them have unbelieving husbands, their feminine behavior will serve as a fitting witness to the Gospel (1 Peter 3:2).  This inward adorning ought to be the true source of beauty for the Christian woman, rather than extravagant outward adornment (1 Peter 3:3-6).

Likewise, rather than selfishly taking advantage of their helpmeets, husbands are to live with them “in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel…” (1 Peter 3:7).  In every house there are a variety of vessels—some for honorable use, some for dishonorable (2 Tim. 2:20).  Though women are physically weaker than men, Christian men are not to take advantage of that fact, but instead to treat wives with honor.

Peter urges his audience to submit to authorities even when it is difficult.  If emperors, governors, husbands, or masters are difficult, the Christian is to endure suffering just as the Lord Jesus did (1 Peter 3:14). We may be tempted to rush toward hard cases; before we even finish reading we may already be asking “what if…” and “what about…”  Perhaps there is some room for discussion on how to handle certain specifics of suffering unjustly under God-given authorities.  But in the end, we must confess, with the Holy Spirit that no matter what, “even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed” (1 Peter 3:14). All of this is for the sake of the Christian’s witness to the world.  His good conduct will put to shame false testimony against him, even if “only” on the last day (1 Peter 3:16; 1 Peter 2:12).  With Christ as Lord, the Christian can make a defense of his faith before the world (1 Peter 3:15).

Whether wives or husbands, servants or citizens, Christians should put away malice, deceit, and other fleshly motivations and vices (1 Peter 2:1).  Since the glory of man is doomed to perish (1 Peter 1:24), and since we have been born again to a living hope (1 Peter 1:3), we should live humbly and trust in the Lord in all matters.  This means Christian women ought not idolize physical beauty, and Christian men ought not abuse physical strength.  And Christian freedom does not mean earthly anarchy.

Just as Chapter 2 ended with Christ’s work, so does Chapter 3.  Jesus suffered in order to make us righteous.  Though God’s justice may seem distant, though we may have to suffer for doing good, nevertheless, God will intervene as he did in the days of Noah (1 Peter 3:20).  In the flood we have a foreshadowing of Baptism, which gives us a pure conscience before God and saves us (1 Peter 3:21).  Our Lord put his skin in the game by descending from heaven, becoming man, suffering for us, and dying.  But he has overcome all things and now sits in glory.  His victory is our victory.

Christ casts out a demon as He had done many times before, yet the focus in this account is the reply of some of the crowd. Accusing Christ of utilizing demonic agency and demanding a sign from heaven, as if the sign performed in their sight didn’t count, they reveal the state of their heart. Truly in them is the prophecy of Isaiah fulfilled: “Seeing they do not see and hearing they do not hear” (Isaiah 6:9-10; Matthew 13:14-15).

King Ahaziah, laying sick upon his deathbed, sent messengers to ask Baal-zebub whether he would recover instead of seeking the Lord (2 Kings 1). Baal-zebub is described as the god of Ekron, one of the five principal Philistine cities (1 Samuel 5). The word “baal,” rendered in Luke as “beel,” simply means “lord” or “master.” It was frequently used among the Canaanites to describe their gods, and even some of the Israelites adopted the practice when they sought to worship the Lord and the Baals (Hosea 2:16-17). “Zebub” or “zebul” means “flies,” as in Isaiah 7:18 and Ecclesiastes 10:1. Whether this title was legitimate or an intentional corruption is hard to say. The accusation of the crowd is not that Jesus is using a particluar Philistine god to do His work, but rather that His power is not from heaven. Jesus Himself appears to identify Beelzebul with Satan, which is fitting, since the Scriptures frequently identify false gods with demons (Leviticus 17:7; Deuteronomy 32:17; Psalm 106:37; 1 Corinthians 10:20-21).

Jesus answers them according to their folly. Satan would not work against himself, since casting out demons meant an end of his authority and influence over a man. It would be tantamount to civil war. More than this, the Jews also practiced exorcism, as the sons of Sceva prove (Acts 19:11-20). If their sons were doing the same thing, why would they not accuse them of collaborating with Satan? Yet wisdom is justified by her children (Matthew 11:19; Luke 7:35).

Christ describes His own work as “the finger of God,” or the direct action of God. The lector-priests of Egypt, no longer able to imitate Moses through their sorcery, cry out to Pharaoh that this was no trick, but God’s action among them (Exodus 8:19). God Himself wrote the Ten Commandments on the tablets with His finger (Exodus 31:18; Deuteronomy 9:10). Creation is also described as the work of His fingers (Psalm 8:3). Satan remains secure in his palace until the stronger Man, Christ the Lord, to bind him. Satan does not fight against himself and plunder his own palace. This is the work of God among them.

Yet as Pharaoh saw the finger of God and hardened his heart against God more and more, so the Jews are doing the same. Nor is this a neutral thing, because there is no middle ground. To walk with God is to be like God. To attribute God’s work to something else to to walk against Him. Whoever is not with Christ is against Him, and the final result of that way is death and destruction (Galatians 6:7-8). It is not enough that a demon depart from a man. It will go into “waterless places,” the wilderness which is the abode of demons (Leviticus 17:7), but when it returns it will bring spirits more evil than itself to take up residence again.

The same is true of spiritual hardening. It is a progressive process leading more and more away from God. The heart refuses to listen to God and closes its ears, so to speak, against Him. “Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as at Meribah” (Psalm 95:7-8). Pharaoh in his pride hardens himself against God. Yet this hardening is also God’s judgment against sin. God hands us over to sin in order to bring on judgment even in this life (Romans 1:26). This is why God also hardens the heart of Pharaoh (Exodus 9:12). God hardens Israel’s heart so that they would not turn to Him and repent (as He plainly says in Matthew 13:15), though this partial hardening has come upon His people in order to further His plan of salvation (Romans 11). For those who persist in sin, God hardens them so that they cannot repent, because God will not allow it.

How then should we understand this? On the one hand, it is beyond our understanding (Romans 11:33-36). The potter has the right over the clay to shape it according to His will (Romans 9:21). Yet the heart which is not hardened is the heart which listens to God. The woman in the crowd who calls for a blessing upon Mary misses the point. Even her unique status as the mother of God changes nothing. Salvation is not a matter of the flesh. “Blessed rather are those who hear the Word of God and keep it!”

Having laid the groundwork for the Epistle in Chapter 1, Peter unpacks what it means for us to be redeemed.  Far from a stepping stone onto bigger and better things, Christ is in fact the cornerstone upon which the living building of the church is being built.  Christ is the beginning and the end of our faith—and everything in between.  We only have faith because he has caused us to be born again (1 Peter 1:2).  Our destiny is to be with Jesus (1 Peter 2:11).  And between the beginning end the end, while we sojourn here, we should “long for the pure spiritual milk,” so that by it we “grow up into salvation” (1 Peter 2:2).  And again, here in this life we ought to follow Christ’s example in suffering (1 Peter 2:21).  Jesus planted faith within our hearts through his word, he sustains that faith, and he guards it that it may reach its intended goal. 

Though the Christian has a living faith, though he sets his eyes on Jesus, though the Lord sustains him here below, nonetheless, there are those around him who do not believe (1 Peter 2:7-8).  The same Christ is a stumbling block to the unbeliever.  The Christian will suffer on account of this (1 Peter 2:18-20).  Even though the unbeliever may speak evil of the Christian, the believer’s honorable conduct will stand as witness against these accusations (1 Peter 2:12).  And although the heathen may even persecute the Christian physically, the believer should overcome it with Christ-like endurance (1 Peter 2:19-20). 

Christian faith does not abolish God’s created order.  Nor is it as though the facts of the secular world are neutral for the Christian. For the Lord’s sake, we are to submit ourselves to “every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors sent by him to punish those who do evil…” (2 Peter 2:13-14).  Servants are to be subject to masters (1 Peter 2:18).  The theme continues into Chapter 3, with directions to wives, husbands, and all Christians.  Authority is God’s gift, and it reflects something of God himself. 

We are to “live as people who are free” while not using that freedom “as a cover-up for evil,” but instead as “servants of God” (1 Peter 2:16).  Again, we are redeemed not for anarchy, not for indulgence, not for comfort, not for selfishness, but to live decent, orderly, respectable, useful, and godly lives as sojourners here on earth.  We are to do this because it is godly.  We are to do this as witnesses.  We are to do this for the sake of conscience and for the sake of our faith (1 Peter 2:11). 

Today’s preacher has ample fodder here.  The number-one theme in pop-culture today just might be this: “be yourself, be unique, be an individual, be your own god, make your own laws, chose your own destiny, live for yourself.  Anyone or anything standing in the way of this should be thrown aside, bulldozed, trampled, despised as backward, scorned as ignorant, and exposed as oppressive.  Just let it all go and be who you are on the inside.” 

Christians—even preachers and their families—marinate in these messages.  The ugly fruits of these lies should be plain enough.  But doesn’t Satan make forbidden fruit look sweet?  He tempted Eve to want more than was given her.  He promised ungodly knowledge and ungodly freedom.  Instead, she got pain, death, and disharmony with her husband.  And Adam, forsaking his headship, now must contend with the earth as well as with the woman.  More on that in Chapter 3.

His interaction with a Canaanite woman takes Jesus to the north and west of Israel’s ancient boundaries. The region of Tyre and Sidon was never within the promised land, even at Israel’s Solomonic height. King Hiram of Tyre was a friend of Solomon’s and contributed cedars of Lebanon and laborers for the building of the temple. From that it may be inferred that he was a God-fearing Gentile, but nothing is said of how wide-spread his devotion to the Lord ever became in Tyre or Sidon.

The fact that the woman is called a “Canaanite” further emphasizes her foreign status. The Canaanites in their various ways worshiped idols and polluted the land to such a degree that the conquest of Israel was both due to the promise God gave to Abraham and also as a punishment for the sins of the Canaanites. The conversation, if we want to call it that, between Jesus and the woman further brings out the reality that she is a woman of unclean lips who dwells among a people of unclean lips. In this way it will be seen that she is the flip side of the immediately prior teaching of Christ about what truly defiles a man, namely what it is that makes a person clean.

There are many references in the Gospels about word getting around about who Jesus was and what he did. The obvious conclusion, then, is that the woman had heard about him and therefore was coming to him. In this she is not unlike like Rahab who had heard of God’s power at the Red Sea and was given faith. In faith, Rahab hid the two spies, and in faith, the Canaanite woman comes to Jesus for help her daughter’s great need.

Jesus’ silence toward the Canaanite woman furthers the dissonance. The universally comforting promises of Christ to “come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest” do not come with a similar promise about the timing of that rest. “Draw near to God, and at the proper time he will lift you up.” Experience bears out the fact that Jesus, like His Father, can be simultaneously imminent and distant. He is present and hears her pleas, but “answers her not a word.”

The tension between universal and particular is furthered as Jesus discusses boundaries. Still silent to the woman, Jesus speaks to the disciples and tells them he was not sent except for the lost sheep of Israel. Their request had been that he dismiss her, possibly meaning to grant her request so that she subsequently leaves them alone. His response indicates that they must have inferred that he help, or else why the statement about only being sent for Israel?

The more pressing question is whether he means it or not? The woman calling him son of David may factor in here. David’s son brings to view the later prophecies of the Christ which oftentimes have a primary focus on Israel’s restoration from exile. “Behold, the days are coming declares the Lord when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely …. In his days Judah shall be saved and Israel will dwell securely” (Jeremiah 23:5-6). “And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will feed them: he shall feed them and be their prince” (Ezekiel 34:23). Taken in isolation, references such as these may lead one to conclude that the Christ is the hope of Israel only. But this is an overly narrow view of the messiah as some of the key prophecies, especially in Genesis 3:15 and Genesis 12:3, speak of his mission for all of Adam’s descendants and all nations being blessed in him.

Why then does Jesus speak of an Israel-centric mission? Is such a thought wrong? Is he speaking tongue-in-cheek? Attempts to discern sarcasm in the Scriptures are usually a sign of grasping at straws, so it is better to assume he meant what he said and find the rationale in Scripture itself.

St. Paul says that he magnifies his ministry to the Gentiles in order somehow to make his fellow Jews jealous and thus save some. In this, he is only imitating his Lord who magnifies his ministry to Israel in order somehow to make this Gentile woman jealous and thus save her. The magnification of the messiah’s Israel-centered ministry does not exclude Gentiles, but actually draws them to Him. He becomes a light to the nations. As even the most Israel-centric prophecies foresaw: “Then the nations will know that I am the Lord who sanctifies Israel, when my sanctuary is in their midst forevermore” (Ezekiel 37:28).

The context of our reading further emphasizes this point. Jesus’ journey to Tyre and Sidon comes on the heels of a controversy with the Jewish leaders about what makes a man unclean. The Pharisees were upset that Jesus did not observe the traditions of the fathers related to ritual washings. Their thinking was that he and his disciples were therefore unclean to eat. Jesus clearly refutes the error of their thinking to show that it is not what is outside a man that defiles him, but rather what comes from the heart.

What has this to do with the Canaanite woman? In many ways she is the opposite of the Pharisees. She is not only a Gentile, but a descendant of Israel’s ancient enemies. If anyone would have been ritually unclean, it would be her. And yet, from the fullness of her heart her mouth speaks. She approaches the Lord with unwashed hands, and in all likelihood with no knowledge of the traditions of the elders. In that sense, it would not be “right” to give her the bread of the children. Humanly speaking, she is like a dog, an animal that is canonically understood to be synonymous with uncleanliness.

But by faith in the Lord Jesus, she is worthy and well-prepared to receive his blessing. Not only does she receive the crumbs that fall from the children’s table, but the affirmation of the Lord: “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you believe.” The Pharisees earned the rebuke of the Lord as he quoted Isaiah: “This people honors me with their lips but their hearts are far from me.” By way of contrast, in the Canaanite woman, Isaiah’s other prophesy of the Gentiles also comes to pass: “I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.”