Surely our grief He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed. – Isaiah 53:4-5
I love words because they have weight and meaning. I try to surround myself with all kinds of words in books, poetry, and endless discussions. A single, well-chosen word can tip an entire moment on its end, can draw the heart and minds of people closer into camaraderie, or drive away all thoughts of community. The words of Isaiah 53 have just that power.
I unconsciously lower my gaze and through narrow eyes take in the weight and meaning of Isaiah’s words. They flow like the rise and the fall of the lashings they represent, not just once but over and over:
Out of the scant fifty-one words concerning Israel’s forthcoming Messiah, why are so many laden with suffering? Taken together and weighed, the suffering of Jesus was by all accounts excruciating, a word that means “out of the cross.” Do I have the courage to take in the actual meaning of this text, the weight our Messiah bore, of not only grief and sorrow alone, but also to be stricken, smitten and scourged?
Why, dear God?
The answer is found in the last word of the text. The last word is the masterpiece of chiaroscuro, the brightness of light against the deepest of dark. It is why Jesus not only endured suffering, but opened his arms to it. The last word becomes the word that tips the entire direction of history in our favor. Jesus changed everything through this final word. The son of God, despised and rejected for our sake, endured physical and mental suffering for the redemption of the world. The last word is God’s promise to us that suffering does not have to be futile but can be the doorway to the very Kingdom of Heaven, into which he invited the thief on the cross. It is by this word that we are summoned into a suffering world to fellowship with and sacrifice for those that suffer. It is this word that has the audacity to promise that all affliction, crushing, pain and suffering can be redeemed, changed, transformed.
For it is by His stripes we are…