JESUS: BEARING OUR SINS
1 Peter 2:24 says this. “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree…”
The Greek word (“phero” and all its forms) rendered “bore” means to “carry” or “offer” (and other things); in this case with the prefix “up”. See the lexicons. It’s used in 1 Peter 2:5 of Christians who “offer up” spiritual sacrifices; in Hebrew 13:15 of believers offering a sacrifice of praise, in Hebrews 7:27 of OT priests and Jesus offering their sacrifices. It’s the technical term used in Leviticus 17 for “offering” sacrifice. (LXX, Greek OT.)
Sometimes the notion of carrying or bearing is more prominent, as for example, in Numbers 11:10-15 where Moses complains that he isn’t able to “carry” or “bear” the burden of the people. The responsibility for their welfare has been placed on him and that’s his “burden”. He says it’s too heavy and is offered help in the form of wise and devoted leaders (10:16-17 and see Deuteronomy 1:9-18 where we learn that part of the burden is their sinful behaviour—in that way he bore their sins).
Sometimes the notion of “carrying” or “bearing” is prominent even when the idea of offering (sacrifice) is still in view. As Moses was to bear (take responsibility for) the overall welfare of the nation, a priestly family was to “bear” the sins of the people (Leviticus 10:17—following the ESV, RSV, KJV, NAS and others). The NIV and some others render it, “to take away” the guilt by making atonement. This is certainly the meaning of the text; it’s just that for our purposes it hides the fact that the Hebrew word has the notion of “bearing” as well as removing.
When the word is used with God as the subject it means he “forgives” or “removes” or “takes away” or “bears away” sins (Micah 7:18 and Psalm 32:5 illustrate). Used in Leviticus 10:17 it means the priests take responsibility for making atonement for the sins of the people.
When a transgressor doesn’t have his sins “borne” for him by the priestly work within the sacrificial system it’s said he “bears his iniquity”. That is, he takes responsibility for it himself and bears whatever judgment is connected with it. Leviticus 5:1; 17:16 among others illustrates the point. “He will be held responsible”—NIV; “He must accept responsibility”—REB and ESV, NRSV and others “He will bear his guilt/iniquity”.
In the case of some transgressors their sins are “borne” by the priests who make atonement and so bring forgiveness to the transgressor (see Leviticus 5:6-13; “atonement…forgiveness”). In the case of other transgressors who don’t seek forgiveness via the priests and the grace-offering sacrificial system they have no means of atonement and must bear (the consequences of) their sins whatever they are.
This much we should be fully aware of: in the OT arrangement the transgressor cannot deal with the sin problem himself. Someone else appointed by God must take care of it for him (compare Hebrews 5:1,4-6). Leviticus 10:17 said the OT priests did that for Israel by offering the sacrifices as appointed by God and 1 Peter 2:24 says Jesus did it for us by offering himself.
At no time is there any idea (or any need for the idea) that there is a transference of sin off the sinner on to the priest so that the priest in some sense becomes “guilty” and is “cut off” from God and God “can’t look at him”. [Nor is there any notion that the spotless sacrifice becomes polluted by transference and God is hostile to it as though it was polluted. It remains the spotless offering the transgressor wishes he could be himself but cannot so God receives the unblemished sacrifice as an expression of his heart. Jesus’ sacrifice as a whole burnt offering was a fragrant aroma to God and not a stench—see Ephesians 5:1-2.]
Summary: In “bearing” our sins Jesus acts as our priest and takes responsibility in dealing with them. We have no offering we can identify with other than Jesus himself. God gives us Jesus who lovingly takes us and our welfare as his burden and deals with our sins for us. What Jesus is and does becomes ours when we by faith and from the heart identify with the sinless and righteous Jesus. By his gracious and holy self-giving he provides for us someone we can bring before God (in a personal act of faith) and say: “This and nothing less than this is what you merit. This we do not have in ourselves to give but since in grace you have opened our eyes and hearts to him we identify with him and in him our hearts are realigned with yours and by your holy generosity we are reconciled with you.”
©2004 Jim McGuiggan. All materials are free to be copied and used as long as money is not being made.
Many thanks to brother Ed Healy, for allowing me to post from his website, theabidingword.com.