By His Wounds You Are Healed (1 Peter 2:24-25)

by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson
Audio (11:25)

Caravaggio, detail of 'The Incredulity of Saint Thomas' (c. 1601-1602), oil on canvas, 42 x 57 inches, Sanssouci Palace, Potsdam, Berlin, Germany.

As our thoughts turn toward Holy Week, Good Friday, and Resurrection Sunday, I'd like us to meditate on a familiar passage from First Peter that sums up in two pithy sentences both the horror and the wonder of Christ's Passion.

"24 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. 25 For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls." (1 Peter 2:24-25, NIV)

There's much to say about these verses.1 But three simple points lie on the surface. They're so basic that they're easy to miss as we try to go deeper into this profound passage.

1. We desperately need a Savior.

Many believe the myth that we can reform ourselves and somehow become worthy of God. But Peter, the apostle who had experienced greatness and failure himself, spells it out for us.

"You were like sheep going astray." (1 Peter 2:25a)

We start out well, but without Jesus, we waver and get off course, and sometimes get completely lost.

For Christmas I got a copy of Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 for my computer and am learning how to "fly." I started trying to fly by dead reckoning, by looking to features on the ground to guide me, but several times I have got completely lost, "go astray." Now I'm learning to tune into the powerful VOR radio navigation beacons that will surely guide my flight towards its intended destination.

My friend, you may have tried everything you know to do, but still feel like you're just flailing around. You feel lost. Give it up. Give in. Surrender your way to Jesus, for He is "the Shepherd and Overseer of your soul" (verse 25). I know this sounds simplistic, but you know this is true. He is real. He is strong. And He will get you back on course.

There's a simple chorus I learned as child that hums through my mind.

"He is all I need, He is all I need,
Jesus is all I need.
He is all I need, He is all I need,
Jesus is all I need."2

Come back, dear friend, to the Shepherd and Overseer of your soul. You can trust Him.

2. Christ suffered and died on the cross to save us.

Jesus is not just a martyr to a Great Cause. Nor just a Great Teacher, whose immortal words live through the ages. Nor just the Supreme Example of a life lived in love intended to inspire us all to do the same. No. God had a purpose in the cross. As you read the Gospels, especially John's Gospel, you come to the conclusion that Jesus intentionally went to the cross to fulfill the purpose of the Father.3

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16)

On that cross, you know, Jesus was like an Old Testament sacrifice on an altar. Peter tells us,

"He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree"4 (1 Peter 2:24a)

Peter is teaching us what theologians call the Substitutionary Atonement. We deserved to die for our sins, but Jesus took our place, bore our punishment, and died on our behalf, "the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God" (1 Peter 3:18b).

In the line "By his wounds you have been healed"5 (verse 24c) you can see that Peter draws his inspiration from that great Suffering Servant passage in Isaiah 53.6

"But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all
." (Isaiah 53:5-6)

The implications of this are vast! Peter was the bold leader of the Twelve, but he denied Jesus not once, but three times. He knew how deeply he had sinned. How clearly he deserved to be rejected by Jesus!7

But Peter was forgiven and restored. Not because he was some great person, too big to fail. No, he was just like you and me. A sinner. When Jesus died on the cross, he bore Peter's sins, and yours, my friend, and mine. All of them! For all time! Yes, you can carry around the mantle of guilt with which Satan seeks to drape over you, but it is a sham. We are no longer guilty. Our sins have been taken away and we are forgiven! Hallelujah! Jesus wants you to walk free in Him!

3. Jesus' cross empowers you to change your ways.

I've heard a lot of Christians loudly trumpet a half-truth: "I'm not perfect. I'm a sinner, saved by grace!" While that may be partly true, it is too often an excuse that you give yourself to continue to live in sins. Stop saying it, for it negates the power of Jesus' cross!

Peter tells us that somehow Jesus' death on the cross enables you, empowers you, to move away from sin. Read it again.

"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." (1 Peter 2:24)

Our brother John Wesley taught "entire sanctification," that it is possible for a Christian to get to a place where he or she no longer sins. I can't say I've experienced that. Nor have I met anyone about whom I believe this was true. There are times that I sin -- still! -- and do things that I know not to do. This is an unfortunate fact.

But also true is the fact that Jesus has changed me greatly since I first came to him. His Spirit has come into my life and is actively working. There are ugly parts of my personality that He has radically transformed by breaking me and re-forming me. It is also true that I have decided to follow Jesus -- no turning back! I have turned to "the Shepherd and Overseer of my soul" and He is surely guiding me.

What sins does the Lord speak to you about? Rather than excuse yourself -- or bear guilt around all your life like a heavy burden -- come before him right now with that question.

Lord, what do you want to do in me to put this sin to death?

Listen. Consult with your pastor. And then move forward, trusting the Shepherd and Overseer of your soul to deliver you. Sanctification is a process. Sometimes a long process. Sometimes a painful process. But He does bring healing to the sin-sick soul. He does bring improvement. And all the time, all the way, He cleanses and forgives you because you are His child.

In this season we remember Jesus' death and resurrection, tuck these words from our brother Peter into your heart. Memorize them. Make them your own.

"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.
For you were like sheep going astray,
but now you have returned
to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls."
(1 Peter 2:24-25)

References and Abbreviations

[1] See my study on the passage in 1st Peter: Disciple Lessons from the Fisherman, Lesson 5.

[2] Words and music, W. Malcolm Rigel (1958).

[3] E.g., John 10:27-28; 18:11; Matthew 26:39, 42; Mark 10:45; etc.

[4] "The tree" is a way of referring to the cross by recalling the words of the Torah (Deuteronomy 21:22-23; Acts 5:30; 10:39; 13:29).

[5] On the question of "healing in the atonement," see my deeper study of this passage.

[6] See my careful exposition of these verses in my study of Isaiah: Discipleship Lessons from the Fifth Gospel, lesson 9.

[7] Matthew 10:32-33.

Copyright © 2024, Ralph F. Wilson. <> All rights reserved. A single copy of this article is free. Do not put this on a website. See legal, copyright, and reprint information.

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