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Power of the Cross

Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53.4-5.

There can hardly be a better known passage in the Old Testament than the one from which this morning’s two verses are taken. It is the description of the so-called “Suffering Servant” whose flogging and subsequent crucifixion were so accurately foreseen by Isaiah. (The verbs “stricken”, “smitten”, “pierced” and “crushed” describe the process with great accuracy — read C. Truman Davis’ description of “Crucifixion” under Marmalade). But commentators tend to shy against taking the contents of these two verses at face value — they play down what we might call “the benefits of the Passion” as Isaiah describes them here; perhaps because they are of the view that the verses promise more than Jesus actually delivered.

The benefits as described are six-fold. According to Isaiah, when Jesus went to the cross, he would (1) take our infirmities, (2) carry our sorrows, (3) be pierced for our transgressions, (4) be crushed for our iniquities, (5) bring us peace, and (6) heal us.

Commentators have no problem with sin-bearing aspects of Jesus’ death — benefits (3) and (4) — nor with (5), the bringing of peace; it is the rest that causes them problems. But why?

It seems to me that none of the benefits of Jesus’ death on the cross can be viewed solely in terms of “here and now” — they all have an eternal dimension. They all await their complete realisation in the life of the believer in the age to come. Everything now is “in part”, everything then will be “in full”. That is true even of the forgiveness of sins. I am fully forgiven, yes, but that forgiveness is not yet fully worked out in my life in terms of the glorified, sinless perfection that will one day flow from it.

And so it is with the bearing of infirmities, the taking of sorrows, the healing. It is all true in terms of eternity. As the age to come dawns with the return of Jesus, I will have no arthritis in my feet, and no angina. I will need no pills to control my blood pressure and thin my blood. Although I have known much physical healing in this age, then I will know complete and total physical healing in every respect. There will be no infirmity in my resurrection body. And it all flows from the cross; the incompletely realised forgiveness and healing and peace and removal of sorrow that I know now and the completely realised forgiveness and healing and peace and removal of sorrow that I will know then.

The cross is God’s complete answer to absolutely everything that has gone wrong with the human race. There is nothing that cannot be put right there in such real terms that, however God chooses to work it out in my life now, it will be fully realised and worked out and brought to completion on the Day of Jesus Christ. If I want forgiveness I must come to the cross. But if I want healing I must come to the cross too. If I want my heart-ache dealing with I must come to the cross. It is not that God deals with sin at the cross but deals with sickness or sorrow or whatever else is wrong with me in some other way. Everything is put right at the cross.

Healing Christ, God’s Word incarnate,
reconciling man to man;
God’s atonement, dying for us
in His great redemptive plan.
‘Jesus’, Saviour, Healer, Victor,
drawing out for us death’s sting;
Lord, we bow our hearts in worship,
and united praises bring.

John Richards

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