1 Peter 2: 24
I draw the words of this verse to your attention because I believe each one of them is full of holy meaning. You will notice the first ones speak of “who himself”, which as we know is a reference to our Lord Jesus. And, friends and brethren, there are times when I can scarcely believe that the Lord Jesus actually bore my sins. I say that simply because by God’s grace I do believe it. But it is not easy to take in, first of all, that there should be a man who has actually felt the burden and the pain of the things that I have done and, secondly, that that Man should be our Lord Jesus Christ. It was “himself”, you see, who “bore our sins in his body on the tree”.
I should like you to ponder that for a moment because I would say that, generally, we are far too light about our sins. Part of the reason for that is that we are living in a society which has departed from God. It is a society which laughs at sin. These things can affect our minds; they can influence the way we think, even subconsciously. But that is only part of the problem, because there is in all our hearts that which will seek to excuse ourselves. If we stop to think about our sins at all the tendency often is to compare ourselves with others, to seek to persuade ourselves that what we have done is not as bad as it appears, and so on.
Then there is Satan. The enemy of our souls is very active. He may not prevent you coming to the gospel preaching if you must, but he does not like to see a person who is under exercise about his sins. If there should be any stirrings of conscience with you he is quick to draw near with soothing words to lull you back to sleep again. How ready we have been to give heed to his blandishments.
So the effect of all this is that we are very light about our sins. Even as to the matter of repentance, one has proved that it is quite possible to turn in repentance to God simply because we know it is something that we ought to do without there being with us any real sorrow for sin.
What is the answer to this problem? How are we to be brought to see ourselves, and be brought to see our sins as God sees them? I submit that the only place where we can grasp the enormity of what we have done, the gravity of being a guilty sinner, is at the cross of Jesus: to see Him there with my sins upon Him; and to understand that it is because of what I have done that Jesus suffered as He did. It was my sins that put Him there. What a point that is to come to.
One of the most poignant verses in the Old Testament is in the prophet Zechariah where, in speaking of His earthly people, Jehovah says, “They shall look on me whom they have pierced”, Zech 12: 10. Think of Jehovah saying that. How could such a state of affairs ever have come about, that the Man who as to His Person is God should be found nailed to a cross? What a sight, a cross of shame, and One hanging upon it who had come down out of heaven. Who can take it in? A cross would not have been an uncommon sight in the ancient world. But here was a blessed Man hanging upon it who as to His Person is Jehovah. How terrible! How, I ask, could such a thing ever have come about? Then further, that it was they who had pierced Him. Think of what that terrible moment of realisation will be for that beloved earthly people, when it dawns upon their souls that Jesus was their Messiah and that is what they did to Him - Him who had come in grace to save them.
Now I believe each of us needs to come to it that it was we who put Jesus there. It is most solemn to see that it was on account of what you and I have done that Jesus suffered as He did. Those Jews in a future day will say, ‘What have we done!’, as the realisation dawns upon their soul of their terrible deed. But as I look at my blessed Saviour, I say, ’What have I done to cause Him such terrible suffering?’. I see Him there in the garden of Gethsemane, I see His sweat becoming as great drops of blood falling down upon the ground, and I say, ’What have I done?’. I see Him lifted up on the cross, I see the darkness, and I hear the cry of a Man forsaken of God, and I say, ’What have I done to our precious Saviour?’. It is only as I see the spotless Lamb of God with my sins upon Him, only then do I begin to understand something of the enormity of my guilt in the sight of God.
Sins which were committed so carelessly, sins that had never troubled my conscience hitherto, how terrible do those sins look now when I see the Saviour suffering in my place. As the realisation dawns on the soul I say, ’Away with the excuses, away with the self-justification, away with Satan’s blandishments!’. Let me take this in. Let me understand my guilt in the sight of God. Sins which were committed without any thought for God; how awful do they appear when I see what Jesus suffered as having taken my place. You see, it was really Him. Peter was writing to Jewish believers who were familiar with the system of animal sacrifices under the law. They would remember how the guilty Israelite had to bring a goat, and how in placing his hand on the head of the goat and confessing his sins, so his sins were transferred to the goat; and that innocent creature then stood in the place of the sinner before God, to receive from God all that the sinner deserved. But we are not speaking of goats tonight, for no animal sacrifice would meet the case. It was nothing less than the sacrifice and death of our Lord Jesus Christ. I trust it may work its way into our souls that it was truly “himself”. It is a very solemn consideration, for it is when we see what Jesus suffered that we have to confess how guilty we are. If our sins were so great, if the effect of our crimes was to cause Jesus to suffer like that, how guilty we are!
Now there is another very sweet and blessed side to this, “who himself”. I want to show you that Jesus came willingly to take your place. Oh that God would give me the strength to tell you something of the love of Jesus! If we are light about our sins, He understood what our sins were in a way that you and I never could because as to His Person He is God. More than that, He knew what the consequences were for us of being guilty sinners. He knew the consequence of our sins was eternal ruin. Let us be clear that as guilty sinners we deserve the eternal judgment of God. Then He knew too what would be required by God if our sins were to be taken away. He could see that you and I have nothing that we could offer to God to satisfy Him in respect of even one of our sins; we have nothing to offer a God who is perfectly holy and perfectly righteous. Jesus saw all that, and the wonder of His love is that He came Himself. You say, ’Could He not have sent an angel?’. Angels are great beings. There is no one who serves God more efficiently than they do. It has been said that if God called on an angel to sweep the road he would do it. But no angel could meet the case. The guilt of ruined man had to be met in man. Jesus came Himself.
Think of Him becoming a man, and leaving His wonderful home above of love and glory. Think of Him coming into this dark sad world, a wicked world where everyone else in it was a sinner. Think of Him coming all that way that He might suffer for your sins. All through His precious life here on earth Jesus had before Him that He was on His way to meet God in the place of guilty sinners like you and me. And, solemn as it is to consider it, there at the cross God met Him. Jesus, having charged Himself with our sins, went forth to meet God. And (one trembles to speak of it) there was no mercy for Jesus when God met Him with His righteous, unmitigated, judgment of sin; and there in those terrible three hours of darkness the great question of our sins and our eternal salvation was worked out between God and Christ.
None of us asked Him to come. None of us asked Him to be our Saviour, yet still He came. He came unasked for. He came unloved. He was a rejected Man even while here among men, and yet, blessed be His precious Name, He went on steadily to the cross to suffer what you and I could never measure, in order that our sins might be removed from before the eye of a holy God.
Then it says that He “bore our sins”. That is the next thing. I would like to pause for a moment to consider these important words. I would draw your attention to this: Jesus did not bear everyone’s sins. The Scripture says that “he died for all”, 2 Cor 5: 14. That means His precious work is available for all, it is for the benefit, or in favour, of all. But when it comes to the bearing of sins, this verse says that He ’bore our sins’. I would like you to understand that. I say again, Jesus did not bear everyone’s sins: He “bore our sins”. Whose are those? That is the sins of those whose trust in Him. Now, friend, let me ask, did He bear yours? I would like you to face the question. I would like you to answer it honestly. I put it to you that there is no question more important that you will ever be called on to face. I can say through grace that He bore my sins, but did He bear yours? Did He?
Let me speak, first of all, to any persons in this room who may be careless or indifferent about their souls. Let me give you a solemn warning. Listen carefully. Pardon me if I speak plainly to you. Understand that I do so out of concern for your precious immortal soul. Let me tell you that never again will Jesus die for guilty sinners. Never again will Jesus bear anyone’s sins. If Jesus has not borne your sins, they never ever will be borne. If Jesus has not carried your sins out from under the eye of a holy God they remain upon you, and in due course you will be called upon to answer to God for them, and that can only mean one thing, that is, solemn judgment. Oh, if there is any sleepy soul in this room today I trust that God will wake you up. I urge you to wake up to the solemnity of the present moment.
Now maybe there is someone else in this room who is troubled about his sins. Perhaps there is somebody here who is labouring under the burden of a guilty conscience. I can tell you feelingly that we know what that is. There is no companion like a guilty conscience. You say, ‘Oh, how I would love to know definitely in my own soul that when Jesus died it was for me. How I long to be sure that my sins were among those that He suffered for when He died there upon the tree’. You can know it by coming to Him. The important thing in the glad tidings is to have to do with Him. You must have a personal transaction with the Saviour and discover, as you come to Him in repentance, as you come confessing your sins, that He is a loving Saviour who is ready to meet you in grace. Why? Because He suffered for you. You say, ‘But you do not know my guilty past. You do not know the things that I have done, you do not know what crimson stains lie upon my conscience. I can understand that He might show mercy to others, but I cannot see how He can show mercy to me. I have neglected Him. I have sinned against His love. I have sinned against the light. How can He show mercy to me?’ What were those words we sang in our hymn:
If it’s the hopeless case Thou lov’st to meet,
If it’s a sinner Thou dost run to greet.
That is what the hymn writer had come to for himself, you see, that he was a hopeless case, and he found that this blessed Saviour loves to receive hopeless cases. We can give you His own words to prove it. The Lord Jesus said, “him that comes to me I will not at all cast out”, John 6: 37. Precious words! Here is a mighty promise. We would urge you to see if the Saviour is as good as His word. Thousands and thousands of precious souls have discovered that He is. We would urge you to put Him to the test. He will receive you if you come to Him through repentance and faith. He will receive you tonight so that you might know, in the faith of your own soul, that when Jesus suffered for sins upon the cross He bore yours, and that He has carried them forever out from under the eye of a holy God. Glorious Saviour! If only I could speak to you of His love that you might be persuaded to put your trust in Christ tonight.
So it says that He bore our sins “in his body”. Let us pause there. What can we say about Him having borne our sins in His body? How easily we sin. How careless we have been. How quickly it happens. Yet it was suffering for Jesus. Does it not break your heart to think of it? He felt all in His body. It was placed upon Him as a great and mighty burden. The prophet says, “Jehovah hath laid upon him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6), and how He suffered! Who is sufficient for these things? It is enough to make one weep to think how easily we sin, when it meant such terrible suffering for our beloved Saviour.
Then it says that He bore our sins “on the tree”. We should understand that “the tree” is a reference to His cross. There was one place, and one place only, where Jesus bore our sins and that was on the cross. He was not suffering for our sins during His life here on earth. He was not suffering for our sins while He lay in the grave. The one place where Jesus suffered for our sins was in those three tremendous hours of darkness when He was alone with God. The glory of His holy Person is that having thus suffered He could say, “It is finished”, John 19: 30. What does that mean? It means that as far as the work of judgment-bearing is concerned, Jesus not only bore the judgment of God, but He exhausted it, even while He was alive on the cross. Oh glorious Saviour! How great He is! The unmitigated wrath of God was poured out on His holy head; yet Jesus was great enough not only to bear, but to exhaust that judgment, to God’s satisfaction. For this reason He was able to say, “It is finished”. Precious words to those who love Him! We know that in order that His work should be made good to you and me, in order that we might come into the benefit of it, Jesus had to die, He had to shed His precious blood, He had to go into the grave, and He had to rise from it triumphant. But how glorious to remember that all the judgment that our sins deserved was borne, borne in its entirety, by Jesus while alive “on the tree”.
Now, Jesus is not on the tree any more. He is not in the grave. Jesus triumphant is now exalted by the right hand of God. You say, ’Where are my sins then?’. Gone forever! How blessed! I speak now to those in this room who are trusting in the Saviour, to those who are sheltering under His precious blood. Jesus is not bearing sins any more. He has done that once and forever for His own. His ascension on high is the divine testimony to the fact that, as far as God is concerned, our sins are gone forever. How perfect is the work that Jesus has done. How complete. My friend, if you only knew the peace and the relief and the joy and the rest of trusting the blessed Saviour, who is now seated at the right hand of God. You see, we look up and see there a holy God, a God who, because He is perfectly righteous, hates – hates, I say - the things that we have done. But there at His right hand is the very Man who bore our sins in His body on the tree. Think of the wonder of this, that there is a Man in heaven tonight who was once wounded for our transgressions. And all the favour of God is towards us as it rests upon Him. Oh the glory of it, that there should be a Man in heaven tonight, not any man, but the very same Man who was once bruised for our iniquities. It is not a different Jesus. Peter says, ’This Jesus has God raised up’, Acts 2: 32. It is the very same Jesus who once walked upon the earth. It is the very same Jesus who hung there upon the cross. It is the same Jesus who answered to God for the eternal salvation of our souls. That is the Jesus who is now exalted by the right hand of God, never to suffer for sins again. He is exalted there because He so satisfies God, that God would not have Him anywhere else. He could not be seated at the right hand of God with our sins upon Him. The fact that He is there is the clearest testimony that you will ever get that His work is complete. He is seated in glory tonight, Jesus triumphant, having borne all which was laid upon Him.
Having said that He “bore our sins in his body on the tree”, the writer then adds, “in order that, being dead to sins, we may live to righteousness”. I draw attention to these words “in order that”. I believe they are suggesting that this is the reason why it is that Jesus suffered as He did. What we have in this verse is an example (of which we have others in Scripture) of one thing done with another thing in mind. What was the purpose of all this suffering on the part of Jesus? What was in mind in this mighty sacrifice of His? Well, you say, ’It was that I might never come under God’s judgment’. That is true. It is so that I might have a place with Christ above. That also is blessedly true. But according to this verse the reason why He suffered was in order that even now you and I might be dead to sins and that we might live to righteousness. I wonder if you have thought about that. Often in the gospel we hear it emphasised that ‘There is nothing we need to do’. That is true, of course, as far as the work of salvation is concerned. There was nothing we could do to affect our own salvation. But this verse indicates that there is much for us to do, for the precious sacrifice of Jesus had in mind that there should be complete change on our part. “Dead to sins” simply means that you are finished with one course of things. You are not going to continue as you did before. You are not going to carry on with those sins that caused Jesus such terrible suffering. It is a clean break with the past. Living “to righteousness” is a new principle to govern your life from now onwards. Instead of living to yourself, instead of pursuing your own wilful course, you become exercised about the will of God.
What is righteousness? One of the useful things that has been said about it is that it means doing what is right in every divinely appointed relationship: in the family, at work, at school, you do what is right, you do the thing that is pleasing to God. What the gospel has in mind is to take persons like you and me, who were guilty sinners, persons who were away from God, who have rebelled against God through our sins, and to bring about in our souls a fundamental change. So that not only are we finished with one course of things, but henceforth we are living for the pleasure of God.
The point is that it is brought in here as what was in mind when Jesus suffered. I address myself to those who are trusting in the Saviour. I trust that you might hear the Saviour’s tender appeal as it comes to you through the gospel today. He would raise the question with you, I think, as to whether you are going to carry on living the way you have, whether a sight of His precious sufferings, whether a view of His cross, has produced any desire in your heart to give up your sinful ways. Have His sufferings taught you to hate your sins as He does? Can you continue with those things that have caused Him such sorrow? Can you carry on like that when He has shown you such love in coming all the way down from heaven to suffer and die for you? Does that not produce some desire in your heart to be pleasing to Him? He loved you before there was any movement in your heart towards Him. If He had waited for some response from us we would have been without a spark of hope. But He did it all Himself. He was ready to take your place, He was ready to bear your sins, every one of them, as if they were His own. He received from God what you and I as guilty sinners deserved. Does that not stimulate some desire in your heart now that you might answer to His love? Would you not review your course, and ask yourself whether it is one that is pleasing to Him, whether it is one that is honouring the Saviour who has suffered so much for you?
I need to make it plain that you will never answer to this challenge without the help of the Holy Spirit. I trust that each of us here will understand that. I would like to awaken interest and exercise with you as to the Holy Spirit, the wonderful gift that God is free to give in the glad tidings to those whose sins have been forgiven. I tell you plainly that you will not get far without the Holy Spirit.
But the point I especially want to emphasise is the Saviour’s appeal. I would put it to you like this: the extent to which we appreciate what the Saviour has done for us will be measured by the extent to which we are dead to sins and living to righteousness. I say that to my own condemnation. The extent to which our eyes have been opened to see what He has suffered for us will be measured by the extent to which we are resolved to be dead to sins and live to righteousness. It is what He had in mind for you. You look back to the cross, you see Him lifted up in your place, you see your sins upon Him, and you say, ’What did He have before Him?’. It was to bring about a complete change in our hearts so that we should be here for the will of God.
So it says finally, “by whose stripes ye have been healed” – a most affecting reference, alluding back (as the footnote shows) to Isaiah 53: 5. Our healing was not through some mighty act of power, but it was by the very stripes of Jesus. This indicates that our Lord’s precious sufferings were not for our sins (those of believers) regarded as a mass, but for each one. All our sins came under consideration in detail there. Jesus took each one upon Himself, and the rod of God’s judgment fell on our beloved Saviour instead of reaching us. The wonder is that Jesus received that judgment in full, and it is through His stripes we are healed. You say, ’I can hardly believe that I should be made perfectly whole’. But here it is in the word of God, “ye have been healed”. I sound those words out for those of us who, though very weak and failing, have in simple faith reached out to the Saviour, “ye have been healed”. We are healed by the very sufferings of Jesus Himself.
May the contemplation of it make us walk softly. Let us never forget that it was by His stripes that we are healed. Oh may we tread carefully. May our consciences be kept tender. As we leave this place may we remember that one blessed Man has suffered for every single sin that you and I have done. May it keep our affections alive, may it keep us sensitive to the Saviour’s loving heart. May we never forget His mighty sacrifice. May we never forget His dying love.
21st June 2009