“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.”
The current pandemic has brought upon us, in varying degrees, a great trial of suffering. At times like this people will ask where is God? If God is good, why is this happening? Good Friday presents an even bigger question. Why did Christ have to suffer and die? We find the suffering of Jesus explained in 1 Peter 2:24. Here we find four questions answered.
First of all, who suffered? It was, “He himself…” Peter calls him “Christ”, that is, Anointed One. He was, and is our Prophet, Priest, and King. Jesus, the only-begotten Son of God, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the King of kings was the one who suffered. It was not a mere lamb that was sacrificed for the sin of God’s people. It was Jesus Himself. See 1 Peter 1:18-19.
How did he suffer? He suffered spiritually in that “he bore our sins.” On the cross Jesus took upon himself the penalty for our sins. Sin is any and all failure to live according to God’s Word, that is, the Bible. And the Scripture says, “All have sinned.” Every single one of us has fallen short of the target of God’s perfect holiness. For that we deserve physical and spiritual death. Romans 6:23 says, “…the wages of sin is death.” Jesus, however, did not sin even once, though he was tempted as we are. He did not deserve to die. He died, however, in the place of his people. He said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” Throughout this verse, Peter echoes Isaiah 53. Here he shows that Jesus fulfilled Isaiah 53:12, “…he bore the sin of many.”
Jesus did not only suffer spiritually, for that would not have been enough. He had to suffer physically. Both spiritual and physical death comprise the full price for sin. After all, we sin both spiritually and physically. Peter tells us that it was “in his body on the tree…” that he suffered. Jesus had a real physical body like us, and he suffered a real and agonizing physical death in our place. He was scourged by a whip that had bits of metal woven into it, a crown of thorns was pressed down upon his head, and spikes were driven through his wrists and feet as he was nailed to a cross. It truly was an agonizing death. But it was also an accursed death. Deuteronomy 21:22 says, “…anyone who is hung on a tree is under God’s curse.” This is explained in Galatians 3:13 “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.’” Christ died the death of a criminal condemned by both man and God, and he did so in our place.
But what was the purpose of Jesus’s suffering? It was, “so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness.” The man who is dead is no longer subject to the laws of men. So also one who is dead to sin is no longer subject to sin’s power. The one who by faith is united to Christ is free from the oppression, guilt, and condemnation of sin. Those who trust in Christ have been delivered from “this body of death” (Romans 7:24) and made new creations in Christ. As it says in Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” So we may now choose to “live for righteousness,” that is, choose to do what is right rather than sin. After all, how can we who died go on living in sin? See Romans 6:15-22. We who were dead in our sins have been given a new life of faith, and we aim more and more to live “as becomes children of God.”
What is the result of Christ’s suffering? It is truly wonderful! “…by his wounds you have been healed.” This quote from Isaiah 53:5 shows us that the brutal death that Jesus suffered was for the healing of His people, for all who trust in Him. We were not merely sickened by sin. We were dead in trespasses and sins. See Ephesians 2:1-3. In Christ, however, God has made us alive and healed us of our fatal illness. It is indeed the “blood of Jesus, God’s Son, [that] cleanses us from all sin.” See 1 John 1:7. In Christ, we have full forgiveness of all our sins. So, let us “walk in the light as he is in the light,” trusting in the sacrifice of Christ for our sins, dying to sin, and living for righteousness.