We have now arrived at the last of the four things that we are considering concerning our suffering Saviour. As mentioned in my introduction, I mentioned there are five things from verses 22-24a for us to notice about what Peter had to say about Jesus “The suffering Savior.”
He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. (1 Peter 2:22-24 ESV)
The last thing we’re told here about our suffering Saviour is that:
Jesus bore our sins
We see that at the beginning of verse 24 where we read the remarkable words: “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree”. That’s a wonderful statement that sums up the heart of the gospel. Once again, Peter is drawing on Isaiah 53. In verse 6 we read: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all”. That’s talking about God laying our sins on the suffering servant. Then, in Isaiah 53v11 we read: “Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities”. So, not only would God lay our sins on the suffering servant – the suffering servant would bear our sins. Continuing in verse 12 Isaiah says: “Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors”. Again we see Him bearing the sin of many.
Peter’s statement here is drawing on what was prophesied by Isaiah and applying it to Jesus. He’s saying that Jesus is the suffering servant who was foretold. Notice that Peter begins this short statement by saying: “He himself”. It would have made perfect sense had he said “He bore our sins in his body on the tree” but Peter said “He himself”. That’s very emphatic.
Someone might say that the Duke of Wellington won a great victory at Waterloo but the fact is that he didn’t do it on his own. His troops had something to do with it too! We actually understand such a statement to mean “the Duke of Wellington and his army did it”. In saying “He himself”, Peter is emphasising that he is talking about something that was done entirely by Jesus. It wasn’t Jesus and anyone else or anything else. It was Jesus and Him alone who did this.
What did Jesus do?
Well, Peter continues by saying that He “bore our sins”. Remember that we have already seen that Jesus is without sin. He has no sin of His own to bear. It is “our sins” that He bore just as Isaiah said. That means that our sins were put upon Him as though they were His own. It’s what Paul mentions in 2 Corinthians 5v21 where we read: “For our sake he (that is God) made him (that is Jesus) to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God”.
You see, in bearing our sins, Jesus took our place.
He was our substitute. He had no sin and He took our sin for us. We’ll see that sense of substitution again in what Peter will say in 1 Peter 3v18: “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God”. You see, it was “the righteous”, that is Jesus, “for the unrighteous”, that is us. He stood in for us. He took our place.
How did Jesus bear our sin?
Peter says that He did so “in his body”. Our sin was laid upon Him bodily and the consequence of that took place in His body too. We see that in what Peter goes on to say in 1 Peter 3v18. Having said: “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God” Peter goes on to say: “being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit”. By “the flesh” there he must mean the body because it’s being contrasted with “the spirit”.
Why does he stress that Jesus “bore our sins in his body”?
I tend to think that it’s to make the point that Jesus Himself was our sacrifice. You see, in the Old Testament sacrificial system the priest offered the sacrifice of an animal and sin was considered to have been laid upon the body of that sacrificial animal. Now, Jesus is the priest who offers a sacrifice for our sin but the sacrifice wasn’t the body of something else – it was His own body. Our sin was laid on His body as the sacrifice that was put to death on our behalf.
The last thing to notice about what Peter said about Jesus bearing our sins is that He did so in His body “on the tree”. That’s Peter’s way of referring to Jesus’ death on the cross. For instance, we read in Acts 5v29-30: “But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree”. You might ask why Peter uses the word tree instead of cross. I think it was to draw attention to what was actually happening when Jesus was crucified by making an allusion to Deuteronomy 21v22-23 where we read: ““And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by God. You shall not defile your land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance”. Paul refers to that verse in Galatians 3v13 by saying: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree””.
The point is that when Jesus was hung on the cross, it wasn’t just another execution that was taking place. He was under God’s curse. Why? Our sinless, suffering saviour was under God’s curse because He was bearing our sins. He was suffering the punishment we deserve. He was dying in our place. That’s the basis of the gospel. That and that alone is why every sinner who trusts in what Jesus did in dying on the cross is saved from the punishment they deserve and brought back to God.
Well, next time we’ll look at the rest of verse 24 and verse 25 and consider what Peter has to say there about “The saved sinners”.