In Whose Steps

We are called to walk in the steps of the one who bore other people’s sins in His own body

JDudgeon on January 21, 2024
In Whose Steps
January 21, 2024

In Whose Steps

Passage: 1 Peter 2:24-25
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When I grew up, we watched movies on VHS tapes. How many of you remember the frustration of going to watch something and the person before you forgot to rewind it? Those were the days.

We had one or two moves, like The Great Escape, that were so big they didn’t fit on a single tape. So we had two tapes in one big box. And when you finished watching the first one, even though you wanted to keep watching, that was usually a good moment for an intermission. Stretch your legs, get a snack, rewind the first tape. And then you’d keep going with the second half.

We’ve preached a few sermons like that in this series in 1 Peter. And this is another. Think of today like a part 2 to last week’s sermon, where Jordan took up verses 18-23 of chapter 2. Verses 24-25 are part of the same key thought, which is why we just read them all together a moment or so ago. And already last week Jordan and I planned that we’d divide it up like this.

The key idea in this whole passage begins with slaves submitting to their masters, even if their masters are wicked and make them suffer for doing the right thing. And Jordan was right to point out that the lessons and truths Peter teaches slaves here are not just for slaves. As the lowest of the low in the Roman world, slaves were a good starting point for Peter to address all Christians who were together on the outside of society. All Christians, not just slaves, would deal with the issues Peter addresses in this passage.

So Peter begins by telling slaves to be subject to their masters with all respect, even if their masters are bad. Even if their masters have it so backward that they punish their slaves for doing the right thing. And in verse 19 and 20, he explains why. Why should you submit to a master even if he’s treating you poorly? Verse 19 said that it “is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly.” And in a very similar way, verse 20 says that “if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.”

So it’s not bad to suffer while doing the right thing. Actually it’s a gracious thing. And to make his point even stronger, Peter says in verse 21 that “to this you have been called.” In other words, suffering unjustly for doing right is something we’ve been called to. And how can that be true? How can we be called to something so hard and difficult? “Because Christ also suffered in for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.”

That’s the heart of the matter. Jesus suffered unjustly. He was treated awfully though He had literally done no wrong. And as He did that, He wasn’t just forgiving us and saving us. He was also setting us an example so that we might be like him. That we might walk behind him on the path of unjust suffering.

And to make this point, beginning in verse 22, and running to the end of verse 25, Peter breaks into a section that almost borders on poetry or songwriting. It’s just beautifully written. And what we have here is four verses that are a part of one big sentence. Most English translations break this section up and make each statement its own sentence. And I guess that makes sense, for the purpose of being readable. But I really appreciate how the New King James Version preserves this very beautiful structure from the original language. Here’s how these verses read in that translation, beginning part-way through verse 21:

“Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps:
who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in his mouth’;
who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who Judges righteously;
who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—
by whose stripes you were healed” (1 Peter 2:21b-24a, NKJV)

So you can see what’s going on in this passage. Peter tells us that Jesus left us an example, that we should follow in His steps, and then makes four big statements about this person in whose steps we are to follow. Each of these key statements begins with the word “who” or “whose,” and they each unpack the person and the example of the person in whose steps we are to follow.

And last week, Jordan’s sermon covered the first two out of four statements for us. First, Jesus committed no sin or deceit, and second, He didn’t retaliate when people abused him, but kept trusting God.

And today we’re considering the third and fourth statements, which we find in verse 24 and 25.


3. Christ Bore Our Sins (V. 24a)

So, number three, Christ bore our sins. And you can see that this not a mistake on your outline. This is Peter’s third key statement. Christ is the one who “himself bore our sins in his body on the tree.”

The word “himself” is important there. It’s emphasizing that, though Jesus was sinless, and though the sins were ours, Jesus himself took them on himself. He didn’t just put our sins onto an animal or some other person. He himself bore them in His body.

The language of “bearing sin” comes from Isaiah 53. You might want to keep a finger in Isaiah 53 since we’ll be talking about it so much in this message. Isaiah 53 uses the language of “bearing sin” in at least three places:

  • “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows” (Isaiah 53:4a).
  • “...and he shall bear their iniquities” (Isaiah 53:11d).
  • “…yet he bore the sin of many” (Isaiah 53:12c).

These connections help us understand what Peter means when he says that Jesus “bore” our sins. Because that might not be immediately obvious. What does it mean for Jesus to “bear our sins in his body on the tree”?

According to Isaiah 53, Jesus bearing our sins means that He suffered for our sins. “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace” (Isaiah 53:5). Jesus, in his body, suffered and died the crushing punishment that our sins deserved.

This truth is made even more clear by Peter’s phrase “on the tree.” This is a reference to Deuteronomy 21:22, which says, “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” (Deuteronomy 21:22–23).

To be dead and hanging on a tree was a sign of God’s curse. Jesus was cursed by God, not for His sins, but for our sins. Like Isaiah 53:6 says, “The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

And this is the Jesus in whose steps we are to follow. A Jesus who surrendered himself to the judgement of God when He was punished in our place on the cross.


Purpose: Dying and Living

Before he moves on to his fourth point, Peter tells us what the purpose of Christ’s sin-bearing work on the cross was. Why did he do that? What was the intended goal? The answer to those questions is given in the second half of verse 24: “that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.”

Peter here is telling us that Jesus death for us on the cross has real, meaningful effects on our life. When your team-member scores the winning goal, you participate in his victory. And because Jesus died for His people, they participate in what He did. His death and His life impact their lives in real and measurable ways. And Peter describes those ways as “that you might die to sin and live to righteousness.”

Jesus died for your sin so that you might die to your sin. Jesus was raised from the dead to new life so that you might also live a new life.

As one author in a study Bible put it, “The purpose of Jesus’ atoning death is that we might stop sinning, not that we might continue to sin with a false sense of well-being.”1Douglas J. Moo, “The Letters and Revelation,” in NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible, ed. D. A. Carson (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2018), 2243.

I wonder how many Christians still think that “grace” means “you have permission to sin and it’s not a big deal anymore.” We talked a bit about this at the parenting workshop on Sunday in relation to our children. “Grace” does not mean “you have the option of disobeying and it’s no big deal.” That’s not a definition of grace we see anywhere in the Bible.

Jesus bore our sins in His body so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.

And this is Peter’s third statement about Jesus. This is the one in whose steps we follow. The one who himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.


4. Christ’s wounds have healed us (v. 24b)

Peter’s fourth and final statement about Jesus in this passages is that He is the one whose wounds have healed us. We find this towards the end of verse 24: “By his wounds you have been healed.” Or, “by whose wounds you have been healed.”

Once again, Peter’s language here comes from Isaiah 53. Specifically, verse 5 which says that “he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).

What does Isaiah mean by “healed”? Some people use this verse to say that Christians should never get sick because Jesus’ death on the cross has “healed” us. But in Isaiah, as far back as Isaiah chapter 1, he describes sin and its effects as a wound. Here’s Isaiah 1:5-6: “Why will you still be struck down? Why will you continue to rebel? The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it, but bruises and sores and raw wounds; they are not pressed out or bound up or softened with oil” (Isaiah 1:5–6).

Rebellion and its effects is seen as sickness, bruises, sores, raw wounds that have not been healed properly.

Remember Isaiah 6:10? “Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed’” (Isaiah 6:10). Jeremiah also uses similar language (Jeremiah 6:18, 8:11).

And the core idea here in Isaiah 53 is that when He is crushed for our sins, the physical wounds that the Messiah receives pay for our sin in such a way that our spiritual wounds of sin are healed.


Explanation: Straying and returning (v. 25)

We know this because of how Peter explains what it means to be healed in verse 25. He does not say “By his wounds you have been healed, for you were all sick with various diseases, and now you’re better and healthy.” No, he says “By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”

This is why we needed healing: because of the “wound” or “sickness” of sin that had us wandering away from the shepherd. But now, by Messiah’s wounds, we’ve been healed, cured, in our souls. Which means we’ve returned to our Good Shepherd.

Not surprisingly, this language of sheep and wandering and returning comes from the Hebrew prophets. Isaiah 53:6 says “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.” Isaiah 6:10 also connected the idea of returning to God with healing when it said “turn and be healed.”

The idea of God’s people as sheep, with Himself as their shepherd, goes back even further—all the way to the Exodus. Psalm 78:51-52 says, “He struck down every firstborn in Egypt, the firstfruits of their strength in the tents of Ham. Then he led out his people like sheep and guided them in the wilderness like a flock.”

This is imagery that’s picked up in Psalm 23. David sees himself as a part of the people whom God continues to shepherd, just like he did back in the wilderness. This gets developed further by Ezekiel in his 34th chapter as God, through Ezekiel, rebukes the wicked leaders of Israel. Here’s what he says to them in verse 4: “The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them’” (Ezekiel 34:1–4).

Now look down at verse 11: “‘For thus says the Lord God: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness.” And then in verse 15 He says, “I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord God. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice’” (Ezekiel 34:11–16).

And this great rescue, this great shepherding of the flock, this great gathering of the wandering sheep back to the shepherd, happened through the Good Shepherd’s wounds. Isn’t that what Jesus told us in John 10:11? “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11).

Or, as Peter says back in our passage in verse 25, “By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”


Summary: Jesus, Our…

So what we’ve just done is walk through this passage in the way that Peter wrote it and tried to follow his train of thought. And there’s a bunch of really wonderful truths he’s brought up. What we’re going to do now is step back and try to summarize and put together these different truths about Jesus that we’ve heard.

And let’s just acknowledge right away that this passage is about Jesus. Starting in verse 22, this has all been about Jesus. Don’t miss Peter’s strategy here to help suffering people: he gets their eyes on Jesus.

Just this week I was talking to someone about the way that suffering tends to make us collapse in on ourselves. Our world shrinks to the level of our suffering and all we think about is ourselves. Suffering doesn’t automatically make us holy. Suffering tends to make us us selfish and cranky. Just think about how you feel after a bad day at work, and now imagine a Christian slave in the first century with an abusive master who doesn’t have the option of quitting and going to work somewhere else.

It would be so easy to turn inward, to put on a pity-party, to get self-absorbed. And so Peter lifts their head to look at Christ. He wants them to understand that it’s not about them. They are not the main character here. Jesus is. They’ve been called to follow in His footsteps.

And don’t we need to remember that? Kids, teenagers, 20-somethings, middle-agers, seniors—whatever is hard in your life right now, you need to remember that you’re not the main character. It’s not about you. Your life is about Jesus.

And who is Jesus? Peter has shown us five truths about Jesus in these two verses we’ve looked at today.


a. Example

The first is that Jesus is our example. Peter specifically told us this last week in verse 21: “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps” (1 Peter 2:21).

But it continues into today’s passage, because everything he says about Jesus he is saying about the one in whose steps we are to follow. Remember, that’s how the passage is structured. “Follow in His steps, who…”

Which means that even in these two verses we looked at today, which are about what Jesus did for us, there is an example to follow. We are to walk in the steps of the one one who bears other people’s sins. We are to walk in the steps of the one whose wounds bring healing to others.

And you might be uncomfortable with that. Maybe you think, “Jesus’ atoning death was so unique that there’s no way I could ever do anything like that.” But the Bible talks this way. “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church” (Colossians 1:24).

The New Testament talks again and again about sharing in Christ’s sufferings (2 Corinthians 1:5, Philippians 3:10, 2 Timothy 2:10). Wasn’t this Jesus’ invitation? In Matthew 16, right after introducing the truth that He was going to die in Jerusalem, “Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me’” (Matthew 16:24).

So yes, even Jesus’ atoning death for us on the cross is a part of His example that we are to follow. 1 John 3:16: “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.”

Now compare that to all the times we Western Christians complain about how hard this or that ministry is, or how this or that isn’t really our gift, or that we must not be called to something because we find it challenging. How vocal we are about our preferences. How we react when we get treated poorly, or don’t feel heard, or if we feel like our rights are being respected.

And Peter is helping us see more clearly than this. He’s helping us see that suffering doesn’t mean something is wrong. Suffering doesn’t mean God has rejected us. The normal life is a lot like being crucified, sometimes in small ways, sometimes in big ways, over and over again. Because we’re called to follow in the steps of the man who bore other people’s sins and who took wounds onto himself so that other people could be healed.

Is there an area in your life where you’ve been avoiding God’s call for you to do good, because you’re hiding from the suffering? Are there people you’ve been avoiding because loving them will be a challenge?

What might it look like for you to follow Jesus example and walk in the steps of him who bore the sins of others?


b. Sin-Bearer

The second truth about Jesus in these verses is that He is our sin-bearer. Yes, there is something absolutely unique about Jesus’ death that none of us will never be able to repeat. He really did take our sins onto himself, and He paid for them in an effective and permanent way.

Isn’t it so good that Jesus doesn’t bear our sins only so much as we follow His example? Rather, we follow His example because we know that He has already borne all of our sins and paid for them once and for all.

I suspect that one of the reasons many Christians don’t step out to boldly follow Jesus example is that they’re not yet convinced that Jesus really bore their sins. They are still carrying the weight and guilt of their sins on themself and don’t really trust that Jesus bore them Himself on the cross. And so they don’t really trust that God is with them and for them. They don’t have the confidence to suffer well for others, knowing they are loved deeply the whole time.

If that’s you, I want to encourage you with these words from an old hymn by Augustus Toplady which helps us understand that our freedom from sin does not depend on the feelings we have but on the objective reality that the son of God suffered for you and effectively bore your sins in His body.

From whence this fear and unbelief? Hath not the Father put to grief His spotless Son for me? And will the righteous Judge of men condemn me for that debt of sin which, Lord, was charged on thee?

Complete atonement thou hast made, and to the utmost farthing paid whate’er thy people owed; how then can wrath on me take place, if sheltered in thy righteousness, and sprinkled with thy blood?

If thou hast my discharge procured, and freely in my room endured the whole of wrath divine, payment God cannot twice demand—first at my bleeding Surety’s hand, and then again at mine.

Turn then, my soul, unto thy rest! The merits of thy great High Priest have bought thy liberty; trust in his efficacious blood, nor fear thy banishment from God, since Jesus died for thee!

If you’re having a hard time believing this today, would you beg God for the faith to trust that Jesus Himself bore your sins in his body on the tree?


c. New Life

The third truth we saw in this passage is that Jesus is our new life. I’m getting that from the middle of verse 25—“that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.” We talked about this back when we preached on 1 Peter 1:18—that there is an effective connection (to use John Piper’s words), wrought by the Holy Spirit, between the death of Jesus for your sin, and your death to sin. As Robert Mounce wrote, “Christ’s death intends to change the way we actually live.” 2Robert H. Mounce, A Living Hope: A Commentary on 1 and 2 Peter (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2005), 38. There is an effective connection, made by the Holy Spirit, between Jesus’ resurrection and you living to righteousness.

This connection is made as the Spirit gives us the desire and power to obey Him. This connection happens as we trust the promises of Jesus more than the promises that sin whispers to us. This connection is strengthened every day as we walk with the Lord and His people. In many ways, so much of what we do as a church is about living out this effective connection between the death and life of Jesus for you, and your death to sin and life to righteousness.

But it all comes back to Jesus. He bore our sins so that we would die to sin. Are you experiencing this death to sin and life to righteousness? Are you walking in the newness of life that He purchased for you?


d. Healer

The fourth truth in these verses is that Jesus is our healer. Now we’ve already touched on this already: that His death for us has healed us from the wound of sin. He’s healed our souls from the rebellion that makes us want to run away from Him.

And we saw that this is about your soul, and it’s not a guarantee that every sickness and disease you have is going to get healed in this life.

But let’s not also forget where this goes. The healing of your soul is the first step in the process of salvation that Jesus has begun, but it’s not the end. It ends with Him making all things new.

See, the people who get stuck on healing in this life end up selling themselves short. So you get healed from your back pain, but then what? You’re still going to die. When we recognize that Jesus has healed our souls from the wound of sin, we know that our full inheritance will include the resurrection of these bodies in the New Creation. Jesus is going to heal all things fully and finally and completely.

For now, we enjoy the resurrection he’s brought to our hearts, even as we wait for the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:23). We have been healed even as we wait for our ultimate healing.

Do you know that your soul has been healed by the one who bore wounds for you? And is your hope set on the grace that will be brought to you at His return?


d. Leader

Finally, the fifth truth we saw in these passages is that Jesus is our leader. This is right there in the words that He’s the “Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”

When we think about shepherds we often think about the word “care.” If someone says that a pastor has a real “shepherding heart,” we assume that means that he really cares about people and loves taking care of them.

Now I’m not going to deny that it includes this idea. But more fundamental to the idea of shepherding is the idea of leadership. In the ancient world, sheep weren’t kept on farms with employees tending to their needs every day. Shepherds were mobile, leading sheep from one place to the next where food and water could be found. A sheep’s survival depended on them following their shepherd.

And that’s why, when God talks about Himself as a shepherd, He talks about His leadership. “Then he led out his people like sheep and guided them in the wilderness like a flock” (Psalm 78:52). “He leads me beside still waters” (Psalm 23:2). “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27).

This leadership aspect of shepherding is reinforced by Peter’s use of the word “overseer” in verse 25. This is the same word used of church leaders in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. Jesus is the ultimate Pastor, the ultimate Shepherd, who oversees our souls. And we follow Him by listening to His voice in Scripture and doing what He says.

Now I want to get into a whole discussion here on how church leadership and the leadership of Jesus are connected, but we’re going to save that for chapter 5. At this point, we want to soak in the idea that Jesus is our leader. Our Shepherd and Overseer.

Do you follow Jesus’ voice? When He tells you to do something in His word, do you argue and drag your feet, or do you listen and obey and follow?


Conclusion

As we’ve looked at each of these truths about Jesus, I’ve asked us some questions to nudge us to draw near to Jesus and seek to follow Him.

There may be some of you today who don’t know Jesus. Your answer to each of these questions has been “no.” But even now, you know the voice of the shepherd calling you to Himself. You want to follow Him. And I encourage you as strongly as I can not to wait. Listen to Jesus’ voice, obey His command to believe, and follow Him back to safety.

And if you know Jesus, maybe some of these questions have convicted you. That may be the Shepherd calling you back onto the path behind him. If you know that you’ve been wandering in any way, would you hear His voice?

And if you do know Jesus, and have been following Him, embrace the gift of hearing these questions and saying “By the grace and power of God, yes. I can see in my life how He’s helped me do that.” Even though you are not yet where you want to be, you know that you are not where you used to be. You know your shepherd and you’re following Him, even as He’s led you through some valleys of the shadow. Even when you’ve wandered, and He’s come to get you. And I hope today encourages you to fix your eyes in an even more focused way on Jesus, determined with His help to follow His example, trust in His atonement, live in the newness of His life, receive His healing, and follow His leading.


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