Wounded for Us (Isaiah 53:4-5)
Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. ⁵But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. –Isaiah 53:4-5
Since I was young, this passage has made me think of the traditional Matzo my Mom bought for Seder. Matzo, a large square cracker, represents the unleavened bread God commanded the Jews to eat the night of their exodus from Egypt. The crackers have rows of holes to prevent them from rising, dark marks from the heat of baking, and long surface stripes from the baking grate.
The Messianic booklet we read during our meal explained the distinct marks on the crackers: the lines represented the cuts inflicted on Jesus’ body by the cruel Roman whips. The dark spots pictured the bruises He suffered from being beaten, and the small rows of holes, the gash where the spear pierced His side.¹
I praise God that He saved my parents and gave me and my siblings the joy of celebrating Passover from the perspective of fulfilled prophecies. Every time we’ve eaten a Passover meal, I’m grieved by the blindness of those who eat without seeing God’s fulfillment of the promise to pour out His wrath on the suffering Servant so that they might have peace. And I long for my unsaved relatives to know this Jesus who suffered wounds so that they might be saved from their sins. That’s the healing Isaiah 53 points to.
Part of Isaiah’s prophecy is this not seeing. In the midst of hideous suffering, God’s people would “esteem him stricken.” Isaiah says the people of Israel misunderstood why the Servant of the Lord suffered so. They assumed on the basis of the law that He was cursed (Deuteronomy 21:22). And indeed He was, but not for anything He did. He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities.
The curse Jesus bore points to the grace of God. Galatians 3:13 says, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.'” They thought the man of sorrows was getting what He deserved. But esteeming the situation that way gets it backwards. He never sinned. No one ever deserved suffering less than He did. He was perfect. His suffering is what we deserve.
Let that sink in. God’s chastisement of our sins landed squarely on Jesus on the cross. He took our beating. In exchange for Him taking our punishment, He offers us peace with God. That’s grace.
Surely we should respond with whole-hearted praise, thanksgiving, and wonder! But also, Peter calls for action in response to this remarkable gift: “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness” (1 Peter 2:24, emphasis added). Jesus died so that we are able to kill sin and live to righteousness. And Jesus died in order that we would be killing sin and living to righteousness. This is the right response to His free gift of grace.
May we never take God’s forgiveness for granted or cease to praise Jesus for what He suffered in our place. May our lives bear the marks of His grace.
¹ Stan R. Kellner, Behold the Lamb: A Practical Guide to Celebrating the Passover Feast (Colorado Springs: Sheresh Ministries, 1997), 18.
How does the extent of Jesus' sacrificial suffering strike you?
How does knowing His suffering was for your sin make you feel about your sin?
Ask God to give you godly sorrow over your sin and fitting gratitude to our Savior, Jesus.
Candice Watters is Mom to Harrison, Zoe, Churchill, and Teddy. She is the author of Get Married: What Women Can Do to Help it Happen and editor of Fighter Verses. Together she and her husband Steve co-authored Start Your Family: Inspiration for Having Babies. The Watterses are committed to helping parents disciple their children.