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Let the Healing Begin

Date: Mar. 28, 2015

Author: Dan Bockenfeld

Isaiah 53:1-12

Key Verse: Isaiah 53:5

“But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed.”

I want to start off by telling you a story. A little over a year ago, in January or February of 2014, when we were having all that snow, I decided to clean off the front steps of where my family lives. Now, we don’t usually go out the front of the house, so the front steps were pretty full of snow and ice. Since there is no gangway around the building, I got in my wife’s car along with the snow shovel and some salt, and drove around to the front. I proceeded to shovel the sidewalk outside the gate and then inside the gate in front of the steps. When I finished that, I noticed that at the top of the steps there were those ubiquitous phone books. I was a little perturbed at them being there, so I decided to go to the top of the steps and bring down the phone books. Now, remember, I hadn’t cleaned the snow and ice off the steps yet. I trudged to the top, which is about six feet above the ground, with the shovel in hand. I grabbed the books and proceeded to go down the steps. Part way down, I lost my footing and since I had the phone books in one hand and the snow shovel in the other, there was nothing for me to hold on to. My feet slipped out from under me. The phone books went flying and the shovel slid down the icy steps. My body turned a little bit and I landed on the concrete steps, right on my left shoulder. Now, I weighed about 200 pounds at that time and most of my weight landed on my shoulder. After a moment, I screamed and then I picked myself up. I had no feeling in my entire left arm. I couldn’t move it at all as it hung limp at my side. I got the shovel back in my car and I got in the driver’s seat, but try as I might, there was no way for me to close the door. I had opened it too wide to reach it by reaching over with my right hand. So, I got out of the car and walked around back to go inside. Inside, my wife helped me get my coat and shirt off to see how bad the damage was. There was no bruising, but I still couldn’t feel anything. I took a large amount of ibuprofen and sat. While sitting on the couch, thoughts ran through my mind. If I lost the use of my arm, life would be very different. My job is programming, but it would be difficult to code with only one hand. I already saw how difficult it was to close the door and drive with one hand, and worst of all, I wouldn’t be able to carry my children any more. My wound affected me mentally and emotionally. After about an hour, I was able to move my fingers and within four hours, I had most of my motion back in my arm. When the medicine wore off, the arm and shoulder would stiffen up again, so for the next few weeks, I had a steady diet of ibuprofen to keep the inflammation and pain down.

Being hurt, being wounded was no fun. It preoccupied my mind and could have easily driven me to despair. I know that’s what would have happened if the feeling never came back into my arm. Based on my thoughts during that hour that I had no movement, I would have been a wreck if my arm were paralyzed. I was sore for a while, and, for a few weeks, I couldn’t sleep on my left side, which honestly is a strongly favored side. This fall happened on a Sunday after worship service, but God had mercy on me and he healed me, such that the next day, I was able to go into work a little sore and with a supply of ibuprofen. I didn’t lose a day and I was able to play with my kids, even on Sunday night. Not that I advocate this, but there were no x-rays or doctor’s visits. Seriously, if you are injured, please go and see doctor. If my condition hadn’t improved, I would have gone to the emergency room or seen a doctor, but God worked too quickly in healing me. It was my stupidity that caused me to fall. I shouldn’t have taken the shovel with me so that I could hold on to the railing. Honestly, I shouldn’t have even gone up to get those phone books. I just wanted a short break from shoveling that I went up and set myself up to fail. Many times that is exactly what we do. Sure, like Jose said last night, there are many times where someone else inflicts a wound on us, but honestly there are many more times that it is our own actions that cause the damage. Our sins lead to our own pain.

Now sin means separation from God. So, by definition, every time we step away from God, we sin. Every time we step away from perfection, we become more imperfect. Every time we step away from the author of life, we step closer to death. We are our own worst enemy. I know that it is the wrong season, but who here remembers the movie A Christmas Story? It is a movie from 1983 and in it nine-year old Ralphie Parker wants a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model air rifle. Ralphie's desire is rejected by his mother, his teacher Miss Shields, and even a department store Santa Claus, all giving him the same warning: “You'll shoot your eye out”. Ralphie eventually gets the gun as a gift from his father. The first thing that happens with the gun is that the bb ricochets off a metal sign knocks his glasses off. Without those glasses, sure enough, Ralphie would have shot his eye out. That is us. When we don’t listen to God, we are constantly trying to shoot our eyes out. We end up wounded and in need of healing.

That brings us to our passage today. It is from the book of Isaiah. Now the book of Isaiah was written 740 and 680 BC, which is about 700 years before Jesus. The author of the book, or at least much of the book, was the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah’s name means: “The Lord is salvation”, which is also one of the main themes of the book. The purpose of the book was to warn Judah and Jerusalem of the imminent judgment and restoration. Sin was running rampant in Judah and a time of judgment was coming. The people of Judah would be forced to leave their homes and live as strangers in a strange land, but the hard times would not last forever, and God promised that his people would be restored – they would be saved. However, more than a mere restoration was coming. Isaiah predicted the coming of God’s great servant, the Messiah, God’s anointed, the promised heir to the throne of David, whose rule would never end. In fact, there are so many Messianic prophecies, with such great detail, in Isaiah that it is sometime referred to as the fifth gospel. Let me give you some examples. A few months ago it was Christmas and one of the things that we know about Jesus is that he was born of a virgin. Did you know that was predicted by Isaiah and recorded in chapter 7? (Isaiah 7:14) Also, when Jesus started his ministry, he and his family lived in the region called Galilee. Wouldn’t you know that Isaiah wrote that the Mighty God, the Prince of Peace would come from Galilee and he would be the heir to David’s throne. (Isaiah 9:1-7) Those are just two examples and today’s passage is an extremely strong third.

We start with Isaiah quoting God, “Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” (1) These questions begin this section in the Bible and they introduce the message of salvation that will come by God’s servant. This passage is a fantastic message for all those who are physically, emotionally or spiritually wounded, but it starts out with a question, “Who has believed our message?” God asks this question because, in our wounded state, it is easy to fall prey to doubt and despair. Many of our wounds have been with us for many years. We’ve had them for so long that we might think that they will never go away. We see it in a great extent in those who were paralyzed or are afflicted with a chronic disease. If your back goes out easily or you have arthritis or you have a genetic anomaly or down syndrome is a part of your life, then it can be very hard to believe that there is healing, complete healing for those pains. It is the same way for our emotional and spiritual wounds. Levi loved money so much that he didn’t care about anybody. There are things that we have done that we are ashamed of and they paralyze us from getting close to others. We desire love so much that we seek to be satisfied in the arms of another person, only to be hurt again and again. We have been down this path for so long that it is hard to believe that there is healing and salvation, but this passage shows that healing comes through God’s servant.

The servant’s description begins in verse 2, “He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.” The servant is called a tender shoot and a root out of dry ground. The kings of Judah were once like a great tree. King David was the strong trunk. He was the firm foundation for God’s kingdom. However, after years of sin, the nation of Judah was exiled and the line of kings was torn down. Only a stump remained in the dry ground. The servant that is mentioned here would be a tender shoot from that stump Isaiah writes elsewhere that “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.” (11:1) From that verse, we can see that the servant is connected with the rebirth of the line of David. Three hundred years before this passage was written, God promised to David that he would establish an everlasting King that would sit on David’s throne forever. (2 Samuel 7:12-13) This servant is that King.

Also the passage says, “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.” (2) Although he was descended form David, the servant would be an ordinary man. There would be nothing physically special about him. He wouldn’t be a giant or a man of great beauty. His clothes weren’t couture items and he had no bling to draw us near. He was to be an everyday Joe Schmo. When Jesus came, he fit both of these items. He was descended from David, but his family was a working class family. His dad was a carpenter and Jesus himself was born in a stable. (Jesus leaves the door open. Joseph: Jesus, were you born in a barn? Please close the door. Jesus: Yes I was born in a barn.) For the first thirty years of Jesus’ life, he was as ordinary as can be. When you looked at his life, there was nothing to draw you to him. His dirty nails and cracked soles looked just like everyone else’s. He had a country accent and did not have any higher education. Jesus was a working class stiff that would fit better in a factory than an office nowadays.

Even though Jesus didn’t have any formal rabbinical training, at around the age of 30, he began ihs teaching and healing ministry. Jesus was taught by God because he was God. He knew the Lord’s word inside and out, because his lips were the ones who told the prophets what to write down. He was the best teacher because he was the author of the material. Unfortunately, the religious leaders of the day thought that he was too radical of a teacher. He didn’t have a degree and did not point the people to their authority. The religious leaders made it a point to make themselves look better and to condemn anyone who broke even the littlest of laws. But, Jesus spoke of God’s grace and love. Jesus spoke of the forgiveness of sins and of healing. Just like we heard last night, Jesus told those religious leaders, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:31-32) Jesus performed many miracles, but the religious leaders ignored them all, because he had undermined their authority. Therefore, they hatched a plan to have Jesus killed. They would capture him and sentence him to death. The religious leaders were supposed to bring the people to God, but they rejected God instead.

God showed Isaiah this and we see it in verse 3, “He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.” The people loved Jesus. They loved his ministry, his message and they thought that he was the Messiah. When he last arrived in Jerusalem, the people treated him like a king, putting palm branches on the ground and shouting “Hosanna!” which means “Save!” The people hung on his every word until the religious leaders had Jesus arrested. When Jesus was arrested and wrongly sentenced to death, the Roman governor brought him before the people, wanting to let him go. You see, the governor found no reason to kill Jesus, but the people were no longer shouting “Hosanna”, they were shouting, “Crucify him!” They had turned their backs on their savior. If that wasn’t enough, at the time of Jesus’ arrest, every one of Jesus’ closest friends, his disciples, ran away leaving Jesus alone.

Because the crowd was so insistent that Jesus be crucified, the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate relented and ordered that Jesus be crucified. Crucifixions were held outside the city and were very public. The Romans had Jesus carry his cross, and as he carried the lumber on his back, there were women weeping and mourning for him (Luke 23:27). They were filled with sorrow because they thought that Jesus was “punished by God, stricken by him and afflicted.” (4) Crucifixion is a horrible way to die. It is designed to inflict the most pain and suffering before the condemned die. It was reserved for the worst of offenders like murderers and those who commit treason. When the people saw Jesus carrying his cross, they thought that he must have done something truly bad to deserve crucifixion and God was extracting his justice on Jesus. They thought, “Jesus may have hid all the evil in his heart, but now it was time for his sins to be laid bare before God."

Isaiah continues, “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” (5) Crucifixion was very gruesome and painful. It is so painful that we invented a word to describe it: the pain was excruciating. Nails were driven through nerve centers in the hands and feet to make it especially painful. When the condemned was lifted up, the three points where the nails were driven were all that held up his body. The crucified would hang there for days in unmentionable pain, naked and waiting to die. Usually, people wouldn’t die from blood loss or dehydration or pain; they would die from suffocation. It was impossible to breathe the way the body hung on the cross. A person would have to raise himself up on the nails that pierced his flesh, so that every breath would be filled with mind-numbing pain. Jesus was pierced with nails through his hands and feet. Jesus was crushed to the point of death. He was innocent, but he died in the most horrible way.

When you look at verse 5, you can see that there is more to the crucifixion than a mere mistake. “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” (5) And continuing on, “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (6) It was all for us. Jesus was crucified for us. Our sins had led us to wander astray. We turned away from God and that has its consequences. In Leviticus 26, God lays down the punishment for disobedience with its ultimate end point, “If in spite of this you still do not listen to me but continue to be hostile toward me, then in my anger I will be hostile toward you, and I myself will punish you for your sins seven times over.” (Leviticus 26:27-28) The punishment that Jesus went through was not for him, but for us. The longer we wander away from God and are hostile toward him, the worse the punishment should be, but Jesus took that punishment for us. He was pierced for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities. God’s justice was satisfied when Jesus went under the bus for us.

Now, I said that Jesus went under the bus, but the term is usually thrown under the bus. However, in this situation, Jesus was not thrown under the bus. To be thrown under the bus means to be unwillingly sacrificed for selfish purposes. That would mean that someone forced Jesus to take the fall for us. But this passage says of God’s servant, “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.” (7) When many people are arrested and tried, they usually try to explain why they are innocent. Some will vehemently cry out proclaiming that they didn’t do it, whether they are guilty or not. It is in our human nature to defend ourselves, but when Jesus was arrested, he put up no fight. When Jesus was tried, he did not say anything about the accusations made against him. When he hung on the cross, he didn’t try to convince anyone of his innocence. Jesus didn’t try to convince the people that he was innocent or try to explain his innocence to God. Jesus was a willing participant in the plan. Just before his arrest, Jesus was praying to God. Jesus knew what was coming and asked God to change the plan. At the end of the prayer, Jesus completely accepted his part in God’s plan. Jesus spoke of his life, “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” (John 10:18) Jesus was not some helpless victim. It was his decision to go to the cross and take our punishment. You can see that it was Jesus’ decision in that he did not cry out about his innocence. Instead, he cried out that we would be forgiven. Jesus cried out on the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)

As Jesus hung on the cross, the people mocked him and humiliated him. They called for Jesus to come down if he was the Son of God, but he couldn’t. If Jesus came down, then he didn’t take our punishment. If he came down, then he wouldn’t be God’s son. He took the shame and humiliation and by day’s end, Jesus died. Isaiah wrote, “By oppression and judgment he was taken away. Yet who of his generation protested? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was punished. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.” (8-9) Jesus died on the cross. He gave up his life. His last words were, “It is finished,” (John 19:30) Jesus completed his task. Because he was crucified and considered a criminal, Jesus would have been assigned a grave among the other criminals, possibly a mass grave. However, a wealthy man named Joseph asked Pilate for Jesus’ body and placed it in his own fresh tomb.

Jesus died. If Jesus was God, then how could he die? How in the world could people have killed God? It is a question that many people have. It is important to believe that Jesus died, but it is also important to know that he did not stay dead. “After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.” (11) Jesus paid the full price for our sins and died, but he came back from death. To us, there is nothing more certain and final than death, but that didn’t stop Jesus. He conquered death. There is so much good in the knowledge that Jesus rose from the dead. It proves that Jesus is truly the master of life and death. It proves that Jesus is God. It proves that death is not final. We can live because he lives.

The wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23) All of the sin that we have committed, every transgression ascribed to our names, every step we have taken away from God leads us to death. Every wound that is afflicted upon us is a fatal wound. Our souls bleed when we sin and if nothing is done about it then our souls will bleed out. If our wounds are not bound, then they can become infected. The more we sin, the more damaged we become. Our hearts become complacent and numb. If you are in to drinking, you know that when you first started, it doesn’t take much to get you buzzed. However, the more you drink, the more it takes to get you back to the buzzed state. You begin to tolerate more and more alcohol. Your body is becoming numb to the effects. It’s the same for drugs or fame or adrenaline. When we live in sin, we never live satisfied and we need more and more. The more we have, the more we change. If you have ever seen a meth addict, that is what sin does to our souls. It just hollows us out and one day, it takes our life unless we can stop and be healed. But how is that even possible? We’ve lives of sin and a sick person has a hard time healing himself.

If we go back up into the passage, we can see, “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” (5) Jesus’ wounds are healing to our souls. By Jesus taking the punishment that was due us, the healing can begin. The first step in being healed is to no longer be held captive by sin. The cycle of sin brings perpetual wounding. To be healed, the cycle of sin must be broken. A man named Paul, who was a very wounded person once wrote, “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.” (Romans 6:5-7) When Jesus took our punishment on the cross, he nailed our sins to the cross with him. Our old self was crucified with him so that the cycle of sin, the perpetual wounding machine, can be broken. We don’t have to be burdened with sin anymore. The guilt that we carry can end when we accept the forgiveness that Jesus brings. He hits the reset button on our lives.

The second step in being healed is to really understand what Jesus has done for us. Jesus broke the power of sin, death. Jesus broke death. He showed us that death is not the end. We have been stuck in despair and pain ultimately because of death, but Jesus’ resurrection removed that block. When you realize it, all the burdens that we carry just feel lifted. It is like we are a new person. Paul again wrote, “Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.” (Romans 6:8-10) The death that Jesus died, he died to sin once for all and everybody who accepts that Jesus’ death is the final death joins with him in his new life.

Now, I am not going to lie, being fully healed may take time, and in this life, we still may have scars and thorns. Paul again wrote of his thorn, “Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (1 Corinthians 12:7-9) I don’t know about you, but a thorn sounds like a wound to me. God would not fully heal the wound because it reminded Paul of God’s grace. Because of the wound, Paul would rely more on God than his own ability.

Paul struggled with that thorn his whole life, and our healing may require struggle and complete reliance on God too. I have a wound that has been healed, but parts of it still linger like scar tissue. More than twelve years ago, my sin dealt me a fatal wound. I got my girlfriend at the time pregnant. She decided to have an abortion and I followed along. Afterwards, I was guilt stricken and there were many days where I was brought to tears because of my actions. It wrecked my soul. About a year after the abortion, at an Easter conference like this one, I confessed my sin and healing was able to begin. A few years later, I was still a complete mess on the anniversary of the abortion, but knowledge of Jesus’ death and resurrection brought forgiveness to my heart. I was a murderer, but Jesus took my punishment on the cross. He took my death and gave me new life. I was set free. I was healed. There are occasions where I am still affected. My wife and I were watching a movie October Baby. In it a young girl finds out that she is adopted and is determined to find out the truth about her. She eventually finds out that she was an aborted baby, and there is a scene that someone is describing the aborted baby moving, and it drove me to tears. I couldn’t watch any more, it was more than I could bear. It is a scar that maybe God will take away one day, but until then it reminds me of how much Jesus loves me and what he has done for me.

Jesus’ death and resurrection brings healing to our weary and wounded souls. Jesus took the punishment for our sins. He died for us, and that opens wide a door for us to be healed. When Jesus rose from the dead, he kicked death in the teeth, and death is now rendered impotent. It doesn’t matter what sort of wounds we have. We might be lonely, racked with guilt, filled with anger, doubt and fear, but none of that has to remain. We need only to accept Jesus’ death and resurrection to know what healing tastes like. There is no wound that is too deep or has been around for too long that Jesus cannot heal. Because he lives, all fear is gone and our future is clear.

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Jesus Kept on Preaching and Healing

Luke 4:31-44

Key Verse: 4:43

but he said to them, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.”

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