Monday, April 22, 2013

Ouchies and the real problem

Isaiah 53:5 has always been one of the most fascinating verses in the entire Bible for me.

But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.

I have spent a good deal of time mulling this verse over, working out what it meant, trying to dig into it to see if I was missing anything. And along the way, in addition to finding meaning in the verse, I have decided what I really think it doesn't mean as well.

For instance, I am just about one hundred percent positive that “by His stripes we are healed” has absolutely nothing to do with physical healing. You've heard that taught, I'll bet. “Are you sick? Well, just come on and claim your healing! By HIS stripes you are HEALED!” But I don't think that's what God meant. Not at all.

Don't believe me? Let me ask you a question. How many stripes had Jesus taken when he healed the ten lepers? How about Bartimaeus? Jairus' daughter? The Gerasene demoniac? Here's a tough one: Lazarus. How many stripes had Jesus taken when he raised Lazarus from the dead? I mean, that seems like it would be a lot tougher than replacing a nonfunctional eye, right?

Jesus didn't have to go through a massive beating, dehydration, torture and death to heal physical ailments. For Jesus, healing physical problems was a slow Tuesday. We know of at least one time where He went into a town and healed every sick person that was brought out to meet Him.

All before the Romans ever threw the first lash!

Please don't take this the wrong way, but using Isaiah 53:5 as a promise of physical healing is an insult to our Lord. In fact, the more time I spend on this verse, the more strongly I believe that trivializing the suffering of Jesus, using verses like this to promote a health and wealth gospel is treading dangerously close to blasphemy.

Why do I say this? Well, let's look at what I believe this verse is really talking about, and then you tell me.

Imagine for just a moment that you and I are going to hop into my truck and go for a ride. We see a rundown little singlewide trailer beside the road, and we pull into the driveway. When we open the front door, we see a young man passed out on the sofa in the front room with a pile of empty beer cans and liquor bottles scattered around. We pass by him and walk into the kitchen to find a young woman sitting at the kitchen table crying quietly. She has a cut over one eye, which is swollen nearly shut. Her lip is split, and she is covered in bruises, old and new. We leave her and walk down the hall to find a four year old boy lying on a mattress on the floor. His cheeks are streaked with tears as he whispers, “Dear God, please don't let my daddy hit my mommy again. Please?”

Now, imagine that we have the power to reach inside that young boy and just scoop out all of the pain and anguish he's feeling. Then we do the same for the young woman, taking away all her pain, her embarrassment, her guilt, her shame. Then we do the same for the man. We take all his guilt, all his shame, all his bitterness and rage, and we pull it out of him.

Now, we're going to get back into my truck and drive across town to the wealthy section of the suburbs. We're going to pick a house and go inside. Up on the second floor we hear music pouring from one of the rooms. When we open the door, we find a teenage girl wearing black clothes, crouched in the floor. As we watch, she takes a razor blade and makes several deep gashes along one arm, then across one thigh. And we're going to reach into this young girl and take away all her pain, her suffering, her loneliness and despair, her guilt, and we're going to pull it out of her.

When we leave this house, we're going to hit the road, and we're going to go to every drug addiction treatment center, every halfway house, every crisis pregnancy center, every prison, every street corner, every house, and we're going to find every hurting, guilty person we can, and we're going to scoop out all of the pain and the guilt and the shame they carry, and we're going to add all of that to our pile.

And when we're done, we're going to drop every last crumb of it onto one man.

Does that seem incredible? That's exactly what happened on the cross. If you keep reading after Isaiah 53:5 to verse 6, you read these words:

All we like sheep have gone astray;
We have turned, every one, to his own way;
And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

Can you imagine it? I can't. I know what bearing the weight of my iniquity feels like. I can't imagine bearing mine and yours. And yet that's what Jesus did.

Isn't that much better even than a cure for cancer?

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