This blog continues my translation and study of the First Letter of Peter.
1 Peter 2:24
That same One carried our sins in his own body on the tree, so that we, being dead to sin, might live for justice. By his “gashes you were made whole.” For “you were going astray like sheep,” but now you have turned back to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.
This looks like, and is, a classic statement of God’s rescue of human beings through Jesus. We think we know what it means, but lets look at what it says, remembering that the whole passage rests on Isaiah 53, the song of God’s servant/ slave.
“Carried our sins” This is often both in Isaiah and here taken to refer to Jesus’ mystical carrying of the sins of humanity, but in both contexts it seems to me to refer to the violence done to God’s servant by persecutors. These sins are said to be ours, because we cannot separate ourselves from these actions.
“In his own body” This is a literal rather than mystical description: Jesus bore the violence in his human body.
“So that we, being dead to sin” Although we cannot separate ourselves from the torturers, our trust in Jesus leads us to identify with him, the non-violent victim, and to become “dead” to sin.
“Might live for justice” The intelligence of the victim helps us a) to understand our own share in victimising others and b) to live and work for God’s rescuing justice.
In the Isaiah passage the chorus of surrounding nations recognises the innocence of Israel their victim and the healing which is offered through Israel’s suffering service of God. I have copied the Isaiah passage below, so that it can be compared with the words of this Letter. We should remember that the speakers are the gentile oppressors of Israel.
THE SONG OF THE SERVANT/SLAVE
53 Who has believed what we have heard?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
2 For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected by others;
a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity;
and as one from whom others hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him of no account.
4 Surely he has borne our infirmities
and carried our diseases;
yet we accounted him stricken,
struck down by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was wounded for our transgressions,
crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the punishment that made us whole,
and by his bruises we are healed
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have all turned to our own way,
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
One can see how a careless interpretation of this passage led to the substitutionary theory of God’s rescue of humanity, which has also been used by some to interpret the passage above. I hope I have offered something more to the honour of God.