1 Peterby David Burge
When I was a teenager, I wondered why we sang and talked about Jesus' death at church, week after week. I wondered, ″Doesn't it make God sad that we keep talking about His Son's death? Isn't it a sad and negative event that we shouldn't dwell on too much?″ It was only later, that I began to understand how important Jesus' death is. Indeed, Paul summarised his message and ministry as: ″We preach Christ crucified″ (1 Corinthians 1:23).
In today's verses, Peter helps us to appreciate Jesus' death for three reasons: His death is substitutionary, enlivening, and restorative.
First, Jesus' suffering is substitutionary. Peter's words are disturbingly graphic: ″He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross″ (1 Peter 2:24). The contrast between what Jesus contributes and what we contribute is stark. What we bring to the cross is our sin; what Jesus does on the cross is to bear our sin in His body, to suffer the wrath of God that we deserved.
Before we reject the idea of enduring unjust suffering ourselves, we must realise that we needed Jesus' unjust suffering for us. We need grace to triumph over fairness. We benefit first from that which we then learn to do.
Second, Jesus' suffering is enlivening. Not only does He bear the guilt and shame of our sin, He also removes its power over us. Jesus intended that we reorient our lives away from the sin that He dealt with-we ″die to sins″ (v. 24)-in order that we can begin to ″live for righteousness″ (v. 24). By His wounds we are not only forgiven, but also healed-freed from the curse and power of sin. If we have been Christians for many years, we may have forgotten what it was like to be enslaved to sin and disinterested in God's righteousness. Let's be reminded today that God has given us a new life that chooses His righteous ways day by day.
Third, it is restorative. Peter explains, ″now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls″ (v. 25). The God who created us has, in the person of His Son, restored us to himself. When we come to the Lord Jesus, we come to the good shepherd of Psalm 23. The Lord mercifully ″lays down his life for the sheep″ (John 10:11). Our triune God is the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls.
Early Christian theologian Augustine of Hippo said: ″You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.″ Our bodies might be burned at the stake or thrown to lions, but thanks be to God, we never leave the constant care of the Overseer of our souls.
Peter saw with his own eyes the day when Jesus bore our sins in His body on the cross. He shares that memory with you so that you will visualise it, too. Why not spend some time now visualising what Peter describes?
What does that image stir up within you? How might that encourage you to live differently?