I remember back in my school days that whenever we had a substitute it was usually a pretty happy time for our class. Because having a substitute usually meant that that we didn’t have our normal workload and that we could pretty much goof off without having to worry about too many consequences. But there is one substitute who filled in for us in the greatest way possible. The substitute that I’m referring to is the Lord Jesus Christ. His substitutionary death on our behalf begins to be foretold in the Old Testament book of Isaiah. In the 53rd chapter of Isaiah’s prophecy we read these words; “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 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”, (Isa. 53:4-5 NKJV). We have in these verses a picture of the vicarious atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ who offered himself as a sin offering on our behalf. The book of Leviticus speaks of the cleansing that is affected by the appointed sacrifices in the Old Testament. The Lord Jesus was our great sin bearer. He carried our burdens and our sins. The word “carried” denotes bearing a heavy burden. It stresses the idea of the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ, not for His own sake but wholly and solely for the sake of sinful men and women.
The word “yet” in verse four sets up a striking contrast between what we had viewed Him and what Christ has actually done for us. The great burden of the destiny of the human race rest not upon us, but upon the Lord Jesus Christ who has taken that burden upon Himself. We see the real cause of Jesus is suffering in verse five where it tells us “that He was wounded for our transgressions”. The word “wounded” speaks of being pierced through with a sword or a sharp weapon. Jesus was “bruised for our iniquities”. The word “bruised” has the idea of crushed and in the Hebrew language is the strongest expression to denote a violent and painful death. The afflictions and sorrows that Jesus bore were on our behalf. Jesus was crushed beneath the horrible load of human sin. But He did that so that we can have peace with our heavenly Father. The word “peace” (shalom) in verse five speaks of a general well-being, a lack of war and peace with God. Our punishment fell upon the Lord Jesus Christ as an innocent man. His death and destruction appear to confirm that he was indeed a great sinner. When in actuality He was suffering and died for our sins. The Scripture says, “And by His stripes we are healed”. When Jesus was flogged before his crucifixion the whip had leather tips with pieces of iron, bone or stone attached. These stripes refer to the pitiless scourging that occurred before the Lord Jesus’ death. But those stripes issue forth in our healing. The cuts and the wounds that caused Jesus deep hurt and pain issue forth in the restoration of humanity to a relationship with the God of the universe. We are ultimately healed and given eternal life through what the Lord Jesus Christ did. This word “healed” is not primarily referring to a physical healing but rather to a spiritual healing that guarantees a future glorified body. Sin is likened to a disease and all of us have been caught in the terrible web of sin and were totally blind and dead in our sin. But God being rich in mercy towards us has made a way for us into God’s eternal presence. Jesus’s motivation in his death was to make it possible for us to be healed of our sin sickness. He is the one who as our substitute can bring us into God’s eternal presence. In the last part of verse six we read these words, “and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all”. Christ has made a way for us to experience peace with God. Our divine Shepherd bore all of our sins. Was it right that all of our sin should be laid on Christ? From a human perspective we must say “NO”. But because our guilt and punishment so forcibly struck the Lord Jesus Christ we can know that it was the divine plan and it wasn’t an accident. The Lord has laid on Him all of the punishment that we deserved. What a great reason for rejoicing this is and for yielding our lives and allegiances to the Lord Jesus Christ. Remember that the words in Isaiah were written 700 years before the time of Christ. I agree with the hymn writer who wrote, “Jesus paid it off, all to Him I owe; sin had left the crimson stain- He washed it white as snow”. So let us rejoice in our great substitute who has made a way for us into God’s eternal presence. He truly is the best substitute of all for those who are trusting in Him and resting in Jesus’ finished work.
Pastor Rich Sivo