I want you to think about something special that you own. Maybe it’s something that was given to you or handed down to you or made for you by someone that is special to you. Or maybe the special thing you own is something that resembles a special experience or a special memory in your life; it reminds you of that special season or special memory.
Most people take pictures of people and events that are special to them. Christy and I just recently had family pictures taken with all of our kids, our son in laws, our grandson and even a family pet. If you’ve ever been in our home, then you’ve probably seen our family pictures arranged on a family tree that Christy painted on our living room wall.
The reason we have done this is because our family is full of people that are special to us and each person holds a special memory in our hearts, and we could tell you all sorts of stories that would make your heads spin.
The irony in all of this, that we all know, is that you and I can put those pictures on our wall to communicate the special place we have in our family and the special people we have in our family while still feeling a deep sense of brokenness, disconnection and loneliness. My point is that these pictures can communicate how special something, or someone is while at the same time we walk through life feeling like we aren’t very special at all.
Ever since the garden of Eden, humans have lived on this earth separated from the special and perfect presence of God. We live in this world like people who don’t have a special family or a special home. We long for someone to treat us like we are special to them. We long to have that special group to call family. We deeply desire to be that special someone while oftentimes, deep down inside we wonder if there’s anything special about us at all.
This is where the message of 1 Peter 2:4 – 10 meets us today. Peter’s original audience were exiled from Jerusalem, scattered across the known world and pushed out of the special centers of the community; relegated to the sidelines and despised by society. The message that Peter’s audience heard ringing in their ears was “You are not special.”
With that message ringing in their ears, Peter preaches a different message to combat the lies of the enemy. He says: “You are a special people. You are being built on the foundation of a special person. You have been engraved with a special message.”
1 PETER 2:4 – 10
4As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” 7So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” 8and “A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. 9But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
This passage is all about a special people, a special person and a special message. The church is a special home built with human stones. Jesus is the special cornerstone who keeps the home together and causes outsiders to stumble. God’s family has been called out of the darkness to proclaim the special message of the gospel. You are special because your Savior is special and the message, he has given you, is special.
#1: YOU ARE A SPECIAL PEOPLE (VV. 4 – 7)
I can envision Peter sitting at his desk contemplating how to write what he wants to say to the churches that are full of people that he loves. I can see the agony on his face as he thinks about the people he loves and how they feel like they have been tossed aside and scattered around like worthless pieces of trash. I can see him weeping and praying that the Spirit would speak through his words to bring comfort and healing to souls that have been ravaged by Satan, Sin and Death.
I see Peter writing as though I would write to one of my kids when he says “As you come to him [to Jesus], [who is] a living stone [that has been] rejected by men [many in the world around us] but in the sight of God [the Maker of heaven and earth… Jesus is] chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones [not dead inanimate objects] are being built up as a spiritual house [for God’s presence to live in], to be a holy priesthood [set apart as God’s special people], to offer spiritual sacrifices [as you live your lives in worship that is] acceptable [to] God through Jesus Christ. For it stands [says] in Scripture: “Behold, I [God] am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone [Jesus] chosen [special] and precious [priceless], and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame [because shame and guilt were put to death at the cross and empty tomb of Jesus].” So, the honor [the special seat of attention] is for you who believe.”
The church is a special home built with special human stones. When I think about Peter laboring over this letter like I would labor over a letter to one of my kids, I notice words that are meant to speak life and comfort to people who feel like they aren’t special. Maybe they feel like they are not special because of some deep dark sin they have committed. Maybe they feel like they are not special because of some traumatic experience they have faced. Maybe they feel like they are not special because the voice in their head keeps telling them that they are not special.
Peter wants to combat that voice and those experiences by saying: The church is a special home built with human stones who have trusted in the shed blood and broken body and empty tomb and promised return of Jesus. These human stones have been created by God, chosen by God, are precious to God, have been purchased by God, are set apart by God for the special purpose of bringing attention to him.
Have you been looking in the mirror lately and despising the reflection you see? How often do you look at yourself and think that you are nothing special; that you are worthless; that you just don’t fit in; that no one could ever love you if they knew the darkness that lived inside of you? If you have trusted in Christ today, then you are special because the church is a home that is being built with special human stones.
#2: YOUR SAVIOR IS A SPECIAL PERSON (VV. 7 – 8)
Once again, I can see Peter laboring over this letter. I can see the crumpled-up pile of papers in the corner as he attempts to get all of his words just right. His audience will never know how many times he wrote this letter and started over because he found a better way to say what he wanted to say to them. Have you ever labored over a letter to a loved one?
Peter knows how hard this life is. He remembers when he sat next to that warm fire on the night of Jesus’ death warming his hands from the cold night’s air as his heart grew colder and colder to the Savior who loved him enough to warn him of his impending sin. I can see Peter’s tears on the piece of paper as he writes with this memory in his mind when he says “So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’ and ‘A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.’ They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.” Jesus is the special cornerstone who keeps the home together and causes outsiders to stumble.
Peter doesn’t want to see anyone stumble and fall away like he did on the night of his Savior’s death. He remembers the warning and he knows that warnings are meant to keep us walking straight without stumbling in the darkness and falling flat on our faces. He remembers the pain and the agony he experienced when he looked into the eyes of his friend and his Savior who would give his life away in such a horrific way for him despite his own failures and rejection.
The irony of this passage is that everyone of us has rejected Christ at some point or the other in the last week, just like Peter. Every time you and I sin it is as though we are rejecting Jesus and nailing him to the cross again. And the real stumbling block here is that Jesus would willingly crawl back on that cross a million times over if that’s what it took to get to you.
The reality here is that Jesus is not just a stumbling block for us when we disbelieve and disobey God. Jesus is also the chief cornerstone who holds the house together like super glue. The message of the person and work of Jesus Christ is the mortar that holds the bricks in place when the fury of Satan, Sin and Death blow against God’s spiritual house.
When you and I look in that mirror in the morning and all we can see is someone who is unlovable, unwanted and worthless we are listening to the voices of Satan, Sin and Death telling us that we are not special. But God would shout at us from the cross and the empty tomb of Jesus and he would say that you are special if you have trusted in Jesus as your Savior and your Savior is a special person because he is the cornerstone who holds everything together and causes outsiders to stumble. You are special because your Savior is special and the message, he has given you, is special.
#3: YOU’VE BEEN ENGRAVED WITH A SPECIAL MESSAGE (VV. 9 – 10)
Speaking of a special message, have you ever been given a special message to give to someone else? Someone forwards you an email or you have a conversation with someone that you need to relay to someone else? Your spouse says, “Tell the kids this…” or your friend says, “Don’t forget what I’m about to say to you.”
I can see Peter again, lost in thought as he asks the Holy Spirit to give him the words that will feed the sheep of the Master Shepherd. Like every disciple of Jesus, Peter has been given the commission to go and share the message that has been engraved upon his life. But I can see a memory in his mind. I can see the picture on his wall right above the desk. It’s the picture of Jesus walking right next to him after the resurrection as they take a stroll alongside the lake on that sunny afternoon.
I can see Peter’s pen laying on the desk on top of the tear-stained letter as he looks at that special picture and remembers Jesus’ words to him as he restores him from his failure a few nights ago when he betrayed his closest friend and Savior. He remembers the joy that began to replace the sorrow and the agony he felt in his heart as Jesus began to speak words of love over his soul:
“I love you as a friend, Peter. Do you love me as a friend? Then love my sheep like a friend. I love you as a brother, Peter. Do you love me as a brother? Then love my sheep like a brother. I love you unconditionally, Peter. Do you love me unconditionally? Then love my sheep unconditionally. Feed my sheep like a friend and a brother who loves them unconditionally.”
With that picture on his wall and that memory in his mind, I can see Peter taking up his pen and writing the following words to the special church family that is full of special people when he says, “But you are a chosen race [not outcasts], a royal priesthood [not outsiders], a people for his [God’s] own possession [not cheap imitations in the pawn shop window but instead you are exact carbon copies of Jesus meant to…], proclaim the excellencies of him [God the Father] who called you out of [the] darkness [of Satan, Sin and Death] into his [Christ’s] marvelous light. Once [at one point] you were not a people [you were nobodies wandering around and stumbling in the dark with no one to call you special], but now you are God’s people [special because your heavenly Father says so]; once you had not received mercy [you had no way of getting out of the darkness you had gotten yourself into], but now you have received mercy [God has redeemed you, given you what you do not deserve and withheld from you what you really deserved].”
If you have trusted in Christ as your Savior, then you are part of God’s family and as a member of God’s family you have been called out of the darkness to proclaim the special message of the gospel. The message of the gospel has been engraved upon your very life. Every hardship you have faced; every failure you have walked through; every bit of suffering you have experienced is being used to engrave the message of the gospel on you so that others can hear and see that God is the God who takes pleasure in calling his family out of darkness and into the light of his mercy. You are special because your Savior is special and the message, he has given you, is special.
I have a special ring that I wear on my left hand next to my wedding ring finger that holds a lot of meaning for me. It was given to me as a gift by one of my daughters and her husband shortly after they were married. The ring is special to me because the person who gave it to me is special to me and not only that but the ring itself communicates a special message that has been engraved upon it; it says, “Put on the full armor of God that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. No weapon that is formed against you shall prosper” (Eph. 6:11; Isa. 54:17).
At one point the ring was just a blob of steel that was useless, without form and mattered to no one. But at some point, some ring maker picked up this useless blob of steel and he shaped it into the special ring that it is today. For a certain amount of time this ring sat in a store front just waiting for someone to buy it, to call it their own and to show it off for the entire world to see. You and I are just like this special ring.
If you have trusted in Jesus today; if you have recognized that your sin, just like mine, is what separates you from God and that despite our sin of rejecting Jesus like Peter, Jesus still went to the cross with a heart full of joy and your picture in his pocket. If you recognize and believe all of what I’ve just said, then You and I are like this ring. You and I are special people purchased by a special person and engraved with a special message for the entire world to hear and to see. You are special because your Savior is special and the message, he has given you, is special. – Amen!
1 Unless otherwise specified, all Bible references in this paper are to the English Standard Version Bible, The New Classic Reference Edition (ESV) (Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, 2001).