Isaiah 53:4-5, Wisdom 2:17-24, Matthew 27:41-43: Jesus eternally heals us

Jesus Pondering.jpg (610x351)During these Lenten midweek services, we have pondered passages from the Prophet Isaiah. We considered the startling contrast between what Christ physically looked like in His suffering and how beautiful He is based on what He did, and does, to save us. Jesus had no stately form or majesty that we should look at Him, no appearance that we should desire Him. And yet, He is the revealed right hand of the Lord, God’s power reaching down to save us (Isaiah 53:1). Appearances, indeed, can deceive us.

Today, we hear the prophet speak about sickness and pain. In our experience, we rarely find anyone who never gets sick. Even someone with a stout constitution or robust health gets the sniffles once in a while. Most of us experience sickness once or twice a year, especially during the winter season.

What makes it worse is that those afflicted with weak health become ill even more often. Such is life in this fallen world. Imagine what it would be like if our first parents had never fallen into sin! Ah, such devastation they unleashed. Satan promised Eve that she would be like God, knowing good and evil (Genesis 3:5). He only spoke a half-truth, for we became less like God, but we did become ever so intimate with evil!

And so, the evil, waywardness of sin still wreaks its havoc in our lives. No matter how resilient our health, no matter how carefully we wash our hands, no matter how many vitamins we take, sickness and pain always come to visit us, one way or the other.

We know this. Our experience living in this fallen world has taught us this. And yet, when we get sick, we still may ask, “Why me?” Or we may even lay at the feet of God that which we, by our fall into sin, have wrought in this corrupted creation: “Why does God allow me to get sick and suffer? What have I done to deserve this?”

Sickness and suffering afflict us all because sin infects us all down to our core. It started long ago. Adam and Eve disobeyed God, and because of their sin, sickness, pain, and death entered the world. If you read through Scripture, you will find it first mention pain in the childbirth that awaited Eve after the fall into sin (Genesis 3:16).

Now, even non-Christians, those who believe in a god of some type, often think that someone suffers sickness and pain because God is punishing him for something he did (See Job and John 9). Isn’t that what our experience teaches us? “You made your bed, now lie in it.” We even have this expression that has entered our culture from the words of Scripture: “A man reaps what he sows” (Galatians 6:7).

We learn cause and effect. We learn that if we’re mean to someone, he’s mean back to us. We learn if that if we punch some guy, he strikes us back. So, this reaping what we sow has taught us to moderate our behavior. And we extrapolate from there that God must also be heaping on to me that which I’ve brought on to myself. It’s the cosmic karma; it’s God piling more of what I’ve reaped because of what I’ve sown.

But God’s Word doesn’t say that He is punishing us for our sins, not in the New Covenant! Oh, we may suffer because of stupid choices we make. But that doesn’t mean that GOD is punishing us. What did we hear in our reading from Isaiah?

He has, undoubtedly, taken our sufferings and carried our sorrows, but we thought him wounded, struck down by God, and afflicted. He was pierced because of our rebellious deeds, crushed because of our sins. He endured the punishment that brought us peace, and by his wounds we are healed.

Isaiah pointed to the promised Messiah: Emmanuel, God with Us. He would take into Himself our sufferings and sorrows.

But Isaiah also recognized our sinful, default setting, which would interpret such pain and sorrow as punishment from God. What did Isaiah say after Jesus would take our sufferings and carry our sorrows? He said, “But we thought him wounded and struck down by God.” Well, if He’s suffering, He must’ve done something to deserve that. That must be why God is striking Him down!

That’s even what the Pharisees, the ones who didn’t believe in Jesus as the Messiah, thought when they saw Jesus on the cross. And get this: They even used their Greek-language Old Testament, the Septuagint, to support that thinking. (Now remember, the Septuagint had the books of the Apocrypha in it.) So, using something in the Old Testament to suit their ends, they cried out, “He trusts in God, so let God deliver him—if he wants him! For he said, ‘I am God’s Son’” (Matthew 27:43).

They thought that Jesus couldn’t be the Messiah. After all, He claimed to be God’s Son—and do you see God rescuing Him? Oh, you don’t? Then God has to be punishing Him! Indeed, “we thought him wounded and struck down by God.”

But Isaiah corrects our fallen thinking that would lead us to such a conclusion. He lets us know that’s not the case: “He was pierced because of OUR rebellious deeds, crushed because of OUR sins. He endured the punishment that brought us peace, and by his wounds we are healed.” The nails that pierced Jesus were because of our rebellious deeds, not His! Our sins thrust the sword that pierced His side.

And even that Old Testament Apocrypha book of Wisdom pointed to the truth of what Isaiah said. Oh, some did use part of that book for their own agenda—to show that Jesus wasn’t the Messiah. But if they only listened to the collected wisdom of Solomon a bit further! For he went on to say, “Thus they reasoned and were led astray, for their malice blinded them. They did not know the mysteries of God” (Wisdom 2:21).

It is, indeed, a mystery that God would use death to give us life. Our fallen flesh would not lead us to such a conclusion or understanding. Receiving life out of death is, not only a mystery, but also a gift of faith.

That’s the Good News, the Gospel: Jesus’ suffering has brought us life and salvation by the forgiveness of sins that He won for us on the cross. (But Jesus gives us that cross-won forgiveness, not on the cross, but in what the New Testament also calls a mystery: baptism, the Lord’s Supper, the preached Word, and absolution.) Jesus was punished for our wrongdoing, not His. But it was all so we could escape eternal death and become innocent before God.

Jesus grants us peace and healing. We are at peace, for that is what His forgiveness brings us. So, when you become sick or suffer, don’t wonder whether God is punishing you. He’s not. Jesus has already suffered the punishment for you. Instead, God grants you eternal peace and cures your ills: “By His wounds we are healed.”

Now, some understand Jesus healing you by His wounds as meaning that He will heal all your physical sicknesses now. But how can that be? Did Jesus heal all people of all their diseases while He walked this earth? No. So, why would He do so now?

Some even say that if you are sick, it’s because you don’t believe in Jesus enough. But that’s not true. Jesus may physically heal you or not, just as He did or did not physically heal those when He walked this earth. And if you aren’t healed, it’s not because you must be lacking faith. It’s because you live in a fallen world.

Don’t let others take away what Jesus does for you and throw it back on yourself. As if you could do what only Jesus can do! What does Isaiah foretell? “By His wounds we are healed.” Jesus heals you. It’s His doing, not yours. And the healing Jesus gives you is eternal. If you receive physical healing now, it’s only a respite for a time, pointing to the eternal healing that you have in Christ. That’s the point!

Jesus took your wounds, sins, and death into Himself. He did so to give you His healing, righteousness, and life. Of course, your physical well-being is important to God. After all, He did create you as a physical being. But where we can go astray is to think that our life here is the physical life that God intends for us. That’s not true because Jesus points us to a new physical reality, to the body’s resurrection on the Last Day (John 6:40).

Death comes our way because we are fallen beings, infected by that original corruption from Adam. But that wasn’t always so. God didn’t create us to die. “God created [us] for immortality and made [us] in the image of his own eternity. But through the devil’s envy, death entered the world” (Wisdom 2:23-24). Death is our reality because of sin.

And so, God’s cure for what ails us is to bring us out of this physically fallen reality into a new, sinless, physical reality. To do this, God became physical being. Jesus assumed what He came to save. That’s why He came as a person with a body and soul to save you in both body and soul.

That’s why Jesus endured spiritual AND physical suffering. That’s what the cross teaches us. He physically suffered and physically died. And then He physically rose from the grave. Why? So our bodies, too, would rise one day, on the Last Day.

Now that Christ has been raised from the dead, He has become the first to rise for those who have died. They await Christ to call forth their bodies from the grave on the Last Day (1 Corinthians 15:20). And so will we, unless Christ returns before then.

You have been baptized into Christ’s death AND resurrection (Romans 6:3-5). One day, God will permanently heal you of all sickness and pain. An incorruptible body will rise, one that will be immune from all sin, disease, suffering, and death.

But until that day of resurrection arrives, we have this sure word of promise: “By His wounds we are healed.” That word is true no matter what your body may suffer in this sin-corrupted world. Amen.