Isaiah 53:1-6 [NLT]
1 Who has believed our message?
To whom has the Lord revealed his powerful arm?
2 My servant grew up in the Lord’s presence like a tender green shoot,
like a root in dry ground.
There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance,
nothing to attract us to him.
3 He was despised and rejected—
a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.
We turned our backs on him and looked the other way.
He was despised, and we did not care.
4 Yet it was our weaknesses he carried;
it was our sorrows that weighed him down.
And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God,
a punishment for his own sins!
5 But he was pierced for our rebellion,
crushed for our sins.
He was beaten so we could be whole.
He was whipped so we could be healed.
6 All of us, like sheep, have strayed away.
We have left God’s paths to follow our own.
Yet the Lord laid on him
the sins of us all.
Dear God, in so many ways I feel like a failure. I normally write these at the beginning of each day, but I ran out of time this morning and I was having trouble finding a scripture upon which to meditate, so I just went to work. Then something happened this afternoon that has caused me a lot of sorrow and even some fear. My tendency is to try to push through this pain and solve my problems in my own wisdom. But there is no peace in that. There is usually only foolishness.
So I sat down and opened up my new favorite book to find a Bible story and see what I can learn from how an artist has interpreted this passage. The passage itself is familiar to evangelical Christians, especially charismatic ones. The last part of verse 5 is often translated, “by his stripes we were healed,” and a lot of people praying for healing will quote this passage, although I personally believe they are using it out of context.
Anyway, the part of this passage that struck me this evening was verse 4: “Yet is was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins!”
I had someone give me a compliment tonight that I absolutely felt like I did not deserve. He complimented what I consider to be a weakness, and I think if he knew me better he wouldn’t have complimented me at all. In fact, I told him as much. But it was that weakness that Jesus carried too. It was this sorrow I feel tonight that He carried as well. It wasn’t His sin. He had no sin. No, it was all about me and all of us.
Now, I want to turn my attention to the image that Ned Bustard did for this passage. It took me a while to see it, but it’s Jesus on the cross, from the waist up–or maybe just below the waist. It’s rough. Jesus arms are up on the cross, but his head is down. If He is not yet dead, he will be soon. His arm and pectorals are represented as being straight and stretched. There is a small horizontal cross in the middle of His chest. Is that intentional? His abdomen is done in circles as are his nipples. And I think His nakedness is showing. How often we forget that there was no loin cloth for modesty. Our God was hung naked for this sorrow. For my wickedness.
Father, this is the cross at which I am supposed to lay my burdens. This is the cross that is there to hold my sorrows and fears. I’ve been talking to people about how much you did for us last year, and how providential your timing was in some of our needs. Do I believe you can do that again? Am I prepared to seek you as much now as I did then? Well, it starts now. I give you this pain. I pray also for the others involved who are also in pain. Help them. I give you my fear. I pray also for the others involved who are fearful. I give you my worship. I pray that the others involved will worship you as well.
In Jesus’ name I pray,