It is enlightening to see how dependent the writers of the New Testament are upon the Hebrew Scriptures. Even when they do not quote the Old Testament explicitly, the teaching of the prophets permeates the apostles’ thinking so deeply that their very words are shaped at every turn by the inspired old covenant writings. First Peter 2:22–25 is a striking example of this phenomenon, and a cursory comparison of this passage with Isaiah 53 reveals how Isaiah’s prophecy molded Peter’s theology.
As a faithful Jew, Peter knew the symbolism of the burnt offering and its purpose in propitiating the wrath of God (Lev. 1; Deut. 13:12–18). Peter understood that the animal offered on the altar took his place — that God did not compromise His standards in dealing with His wayward covenant people but executed His wrath on a substitute so that He could keep His promises to redeem creation. Like the author of Hebrews, Peter also knew the death of an animal was not truly enough to propitiate the Lord’s holy wrath (Heb. 10:4). Though he balked at the idea at first (Matt. 16:21–23), Peter came to understand that only another human being could stand in for him. Only a sinless man could truly accomplish the purpose behind the burnt offering.
Isaiah 53 looks to the day when the son of David would be offered up to satisfy the wrath of God in place of David’s line. In bearing the sin of David’s line, He would also bear the wrath of God against the sin of all who trust David’s son, providing for the salvation of the world. Christ Jesus, Peter notes, is that substitute (1 Peter 2:24). He suffered the curse of God that sinners have earned and provided for the healing of our souls now and of our bodies in the world to come (Deut. 21:23; Gal. 3:13). The sins of we who trust Christ have been imputed to Him, God has condemned sin in Jesus’ flesh (Rom. 8:3), and consequently we no longer need to fear eternal damnation.
In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis captures the essence of the cross marvelously in describing what happened to the Christ-figure Aslan after he died in place of Edmund Pevensie: “When a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backward.” Since Christ died for us, we will meet not the hand of God’s wrath, but the embrace of His very life.
Our lives and worship are transformed forever when by grace we realize that while God owes us nothing but wrath, He has executed His wrath not on those who trust Christ but on Jesus Himself. We should be the most joyful of all people because of our great salvation. This joy does not deny the reality of our trials but is a deep abiding peace and knowledge that God has delivered us and will bring us into the fullness of His kingdom.