Isaiah 53:4–5 (NIV84)
4 Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. 5 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.
First pity, then relief. They seem to be natural reactions to the sight of suffering. We hear of the family who lost their home in a fire, see the bald head of a child fighting cancer, or the disabled vet forced to navigate a world built for those with all their limbs and we hurt for them. This is right.
It is a healthy thing to feel this sympathy for those in pain. But many times what follows is an unhealthy feeling of relief. We see the suffering of another and are glad that the bad luck thunderbolt has missed us, or even worse, that we have wisely managed to avoid whatever it was that brought this on another. You see the latter in the way we shake our head at the homeless man or the addict thinking we would never find ourselves in that position.
Pity, then relief. Do you hear that in the way that Isaiah speaks about the Lord’s suffering servant? He says-We considered him stricken by God, smitten by him and afflicted. What awful thing must that poor man have done to bring this on himself? His guilt must be deep and powerful. God has struck him with such anger and afflicted him with such punishment because his sin was so great. God did this to him and I am relieved that I have managed to avoid doing whatever it was of which he is guilty.
But wait, he doesn’t need your pity, and you shouldn’t be feeling the relief of the righteous. He is the one stepping into your place. I am the one who deserves to be struck and cut down and destroyed and yet he is pierced, crushed, punished, and wounded for all my actions and words, for my wicked heart. This great truth gives us true and lasting relief -- when Christ goes to Calvary, he goes in my place.
You and I haven’t avoided suffering and punishment for sin, we have caused it. The Son of God became the Son of Man so that he could go into suffering and die instead of me, instead of you. With his death, we were forgiven, healed, and made heirs of eternal life.
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, you are my righteousness, I am your sin. You became what you were not, and made me to be what I was not. Let me never tire of remembering and rejoicing in this gracious truth. Amen.