“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” ESV
“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” NIV
I don’t know about you, but sometimes it’s easy to think of salvation as a “clean and tidy” process. My train of thought goes something like this: (1) All people sin, (2) Jesus took care of people’s sin, (3) and a home in heaven awaits the person who places his or her faith in Jesus for salvation. At times, this is how I think about the process of salvation. It’s true and simple. Years of Bible stories in Sunday School and memory verses in Kids Church gave me this understanding of the gospel — maybe the same is true for you.
Follow me. The description I gave of the gospel is true. If you are waiting for me to share some “new and improved” gospel, don’t hold your breath. Paul has choice words for people who make that their career path (see Galatians 1:8).
But here’s my observation. Part of God’s sanctifying work in my life (and perhaps in yours too) is to show me, more and more, the messiness of salvation. Let’s take a closer look at 1 Peter 2:24 to see what I mean.
He Bore Our Sins.
The gospel message of vs. 24 begins with the declaration that Jesus took the punishment for our sins. Peter writes, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree.” The One who lived a perfectly obedient life died the death of a criminal. He paid the price that your sin and mine required with his own blood. Jesus’ death was not celebrated (or at least not immediately), there was nothing profound about crucifixion (it was the way they killed lawbreakers and insurrectionists). It was far from “clean and tidy.” He walked the painful path of suffering and carried the weight of our sin on the cross.
- Every lie that you’ve told — Jesus carried.
- Every hurtful word of gossip you’ve spread — Jesus carried.
- Every lustful look or thought — Jesus carried.
- Every fight you’ve had with a parent or friend — Jesus carried.
- Every moment that you’ve gone too far sexually — Jesus carried.
- For every time that you’ve abused substances or sought escape through medicating — Jesus carried.
- That thing you said you would never do — Jesus carried that too.
The sin only you know about — the sin you plan to take with you to the grave, has no power over your life because Jesus already carried it. He carried it to the cross and buried in the grave. The mess that sin caused has been paid for through the death of Jesus. Make no mistake, salvation is good news, but it’s not “clean and tidy.” It’s beautiful (messy) news.
Peter goes on to explain the freedom that we have because of Jesus. He writes, “that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.” In other words, when Jesus died on the cross, the power of sin was broken. The guilt, shame, and brokenness in your life will never have the final word because Jesus dealt with it on the cross. Through his death on the cross, you and I now have the freedom to live a different kind of life. We can live a life marked not by sin but by righteousness. It’s beautiful (messy) news.
The phrase “healing wounds” is odd. We don’t often think of wounds as healing. After all, wounds are typically the problem, not the remedy. However, when it comes to the death of Jesus, Peter says it is through Jesus’ wounds that we have been healed. Again, the gospel is messy. It wasn’t through war, political prowess, or penance that Jesus made salvation possible. It was by his wounds. He was wounded so that we could be healed. He was isolated so that we could be welcomed into the family. He was rejected so that we could be accepted. The message of salvation is messy, but it’s the most wonderful news in the world. That’s why we sing, “My hope is built on nothing less, and nothing more, than Jesus' blood and righteousness.” Our hope is in a crucified Savior. I’ve heard it said that “we've been rescued by a homeless, tortured, murdered Messiah nailed to a tree, who is alive and smiling down upon his bride.” This is our story. It’s messy, but it’s beautiful. And for those who have been called out of the darkness and saved from the messiness of our sin. The assignment we have been given is not to distance ourselves from messy people. Instead, the assignment we’ve been given is to go back out into the mess and tell people about the healing wounds of Jesus.
Written By: Nick Harsh
Nick Harsh (MDiv, Clarks Summit University) is a ministry leader with The Salt Company, a ministry of Cornerstone Church in Ames, Iowa. While publishing regularly at nickharsh.com, his writing has also been featured at The Gospel Coalition, For the Church, and Relevant Magazine.