Jesus suffered for us because he had a goal in mind, and this goal was our sanctification. Peter very movingly summarises what took place at the cross. There his Saviour willingly carried our sins. Although physically he was nailed to the tree, spiritually he was on a journey carrying our sins to where they could not be found. This he did by paying the penalty that divine justice demanded, and he paid it fully and willingly. He became a servant in order to deliver us from our sins.
Yet his death did not only deal with the penalty of our sins. In addition, the Saviour died so that we might die to our sinful ways and live righteous lives. The place that was death for Jesus (the cross) becomes the place of life for us. At the cross, we begin the road to heaven, and it may take us through difficulties, such as the trials that Peter’s readers were going through. But our focus is not on what we are passing through. Instead we are focussed on living holy lives, on our sanctification. When earthly things begin to concern us too much, we have to remind ourselves that we are in danger of wandering of the path. These earthly things may be anything that distracts us from becoming Christlike. Jesus died so that we would be like him.
It was true that an unjust master could have left wounds on his servants through an undeserved beating. But such wounds were not the only ones that the believer had. In addition, he had many more wounds caused by his own sins, and these wounds had marred his soul as well as his body. Any wounds caused by an unjust master would heal eventually. But what about the wounds that sin had caused? There was only one way for them to be healed and that was through the death of Jesus. Today the medical world has made many discoveries regarding healing, but no-one has found another way for healing the defiled souls of sinners. Christians have been healed, and for that they should be grateful, and should remind themselves that their unjust masters could not defile them by bad behaviour.
We can imagine Peter’s readers wondering why bad masters were allowed to ill-treat them. Was that a sign that Jesus had abandoned them? No, says Peter. Instead recall who you were. You were wandering sheep without a fold. But now you are part of the flock of Jesus, and he is leading his flock through all the dangers of this life. And he will take them safely to the heavenly fold. Nothing that an unjust master could do would separate them from the love of Jesus. The idea of both Shepherd and Overseer is that of guarding what has been put into their care.