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April 6

4  Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. 5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way, and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Isaiah 53:4-6

This prophecy of the Lord’s Suffering Servant is one of the most important texts on the cross of Jesus Christ. One cannot help but notice in the prophecy the repeated use of “we” and “us.” Jesus is acting for us, in our place, in our stead. Eight times in these few lines we see Jesus suffering in our place, bearing sin’s penalty in our place, in order to secure our release from judgment. While the human heart and mind cannot take in all that took place on Calvary, it is clear that Jesus suffered and died for us. Jesus is did not merely suffer with us, but he actually suffered for us.

Isaiah tells us that the crowd looked up at Jesus’ cross and thought that it was for his own sin that he suffered so horribly, that he was “stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted.” However, the opening words of verse 5, “But he,” are quite emphatic in the Hebrew text; they are meant to draw a sharp contrast between what people thought and the truth: “But he?….. was wounded for our transgressions, and crushed for our iniquities.” Contrary to all appearances and to what anyone thought, God’s Servant was “struck down” for our sins, so that we might be made “whole“.

With the words “borne our infirmities,” Isaiah is alluding to the bearing away of sin by the sacrificed goat on Israel’s great Day of Atonement, (Leviticus 16:22). God had intended the sacrifice on the Day of Atonement to be a foreshadowing, or type, of Jesus’ death on the cross, as he bears our sins.

Jesus’ being “crushed for our iniquities” is also an allusion to the Protoevangelium in the Garden (Genesis 3:15), as with the crushing of the heel of the woman’s seed, the head of the serpent was crushed, and crushed fatally.

The American theologian, S. Lewis Johnson (1915-2004), well expressed the meaning of Jesus’ suffering in our place: “God caused all the fires of divine judgment and retribution produced by universal human sin to meet in the soul and spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ as he hung on Calvary’s cross.” It was at that  timeless moment of eternal judgment that Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?

In the Apostles Creed we affirm the inscrutable, ineffable truth that Jesus “descended into hell.” We cannot comprehend what we are saying when we say it, but we do know that Jesus faced hell for us, in our place, and in our stead. “For our sake, God made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (II Corinthians 5:21).

Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
In my place condemned He stood;
Sealed my pardon with His blood.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

(Phillip Bliss, Hallelujah! What a Savior)


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