The Servant Who Suffers for Righteousness
“[Jesus] committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 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.”- 1 Peter 2:22–24
Peter, upon hearing that Jesus would suffer and die, quickly rebuked our Lord, telling Him that such was not possible for the Messiah (Mark 8:31–33). Given this initial misunderstanding of the messianic vocation, then, it is truly remarkable that Peter would give us one of the most powerful presentations of the need for our Savior to suffer in the entire New Testament. Today’s passage features Peter’s compelling words on this subject.
Of course, Isaiah’s description of the Suffering Servant forms the background for this passage. In Isaiah 53, we read about the Messiah who bears the curse of God against the sin of His people so that they can be declared righteous in God’s sight (vv. 5, 11). Christ suffered divine judgment so that we could be clothed with His righteousness and enjoy all of the blessings that come with it (see also 2 Cor. 5:21).
The Apostle Peter holds up the suffering of Jesus to instruct us in the doctrine of salvation. As he says in 1 Peter 2:24, Jesus “bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.” Christ’s death as the Suffering Servant provides for the declaration of righteousness by which God accepts us and the destruction of the power of sin that keeps us from being holy. Before we can serve our Creator, we must first receive the righteousness of Christ imputed to us through faith in Him alone. God accepts His merit in place of our demerit and receives us into His kingdom through this forensic act of justification. After our justification, the death of Christ provides for our release from sin’s dominion. We live unto righteousness because Christ’s work enables us to do so, canceling our debt of sin and making us debtors to righteousness by the empowering of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:1–17).
But Christ is also presented to us in today’s passage as a model for our response to suffering. Peter notes that when Jesus suffered, He did not make an overt defense of His innocence. Though He well could have spoken up in favor of His righteousness, He chose to be silent, trusting in God to vindicate Him (1 Peter 2:22–23). That is the example we must follow. Certainly, it is not inherently wrong to defend ourselves, but there are times when defenses against false accusations and other ills must cease, and we must believe God when He promises that He will “vindicate his people” (Ps. 135:14). God is the greatest defense attorney we could ever have, and no false accusation will stand against us on the last day.
It is right to defend ourselves when others malign our character unjustly. But there sometimes comes a point when our defense becomes pointless, when nothing we say or do can convince our detractors of our good motives. In such cases, we must trust in the Lord’s vindication. He may give it on this side of glory or He may wait until heaven to prove our innocence, but God will vindicate His people perfectly.
Passages for Further Study
2 Corinthians 12:19
1 Timothy 3:16