The text for our consideration on the Easter Sunday is from the prophet Isaiah, the 53rd chapter, verses 4-5, which reads, “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 crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and by his wounds we are healed.”
That may seem like a strange choice of words to declare to you on this Easter Sunday. “Stricken, smitten and afflicted” is for Good Friday. This is Easter and we’re ready to leave the dark and gloomy days of Holy Week and move on to the new and more glorious day of Easter, when the whole church on earth and in heaven celebrates the greatest victory the world has ever known.
He is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
Everyone loves to be a part of a good ‘celebration.’ And some know why they’re here and what the celebration is all about. And some are just crashing the party. And some are only here because they have to be but would rather be somewhere else.
And some are wounded. And you know there are lots of different ways people get wounded. And a lot of folks who have been wounded in more ways than one will tell you that the physical wounds are really the lightest and easiest to deal with. It’s the forsaken love, and the betrayed friendship, and the abused trust, and the stolen dignity, that all cuts a much deeper and more painful wound.
Lifelong promises of fidelity for better, for worse, for richer or poorer are broken every day. Drugs and alcohol turn happy families with bright futures into living nightmares. Reputations are hacked and slandered and dignity is shredded. Babies are conceived and miscarried and sorrow is all in all. Countless are the ways in which we are wounded and countless are the wounds we all bear.
And maybe the wounded are wondering what all of this Easter celebration and rejoicing has to do with me? Maybe the wounded are wondering if all these people so joyfully singing their “Jesus Christ is risen today, Alleluia” have managed to escape the pain and loss that they have not?
Or are they all just crashing someone else’s party?
Or could it be that they are all just as wounded as I am but there is something in this Easter story that gives them reason to rejoice?
So, just what did the prophet mean when he said, “by his wounds we are healed?”
He means that Jesus Christ came into this world FOR YOU. It is the wounded who need a doctor and not the well. And He has come to heal our wounds. On Good Friday, Jesus Christ was “stricken, smitten, and afflicted.” And if you think His wounds were only physical, and that His suffering was due solely to the flogging and the piercing and the nailing of his body, you’ve drastically underestimated the depths of His pain.
To what does the prophet point? “He has borne our GRIEFS and carried our SORROWS. He was wounded for our TRANSGRESSIONS and crushed for our INIQUITIES.” These are the emotional and spiritual wounds that He bears in His body that scream of a pain that cuts deeper than any thorns or nails or spear can go.
But we dare not miss the fact that the prophet declares that these ‘griefs that He bears are “OUR griefs.” And these sorrows that He carried are “OUR sorrows.” And the wounds that He bore are for OUR transgressions.” Those are all OUR “iniquities” that He bore in His body.
And so the great news declared on Easter is aimed directly at the damaged and the afflicted and the injured. And the good news is this, “by His wounds, we are healed.”
He is risen. He is risen indeed, alleluia.
Easter is God’s declaration to all who the wounded, “Let the healing begin.”
Christmas is the joyful celebration that almighty God entered into our wounded world to heal it. Easter is the joyful celebration that the mission is accomplished. He has gotten to the root of the problem and healed it.
As one theologian put it, “the whole world has been indicted in a ‘VAST PRIMORDIAL CATASTROPHE.’” Every injury that others inflict on us and that we inflict on others is the debris from the ‘VAST PRIMORDIAL CATASTROPHE.’ This is a ‘DEEP WOUND’ that penetrates all the way to the very heart of God Himself.
There has never been any shortage of remedies proposed, programs put into place, and therapeutic methods that intend to heal this ‘VAST PRIMORDIAL CATASTROPHE’ that we have caused by our sin against God. But none have been successful, because they only treat the surface. None go deep enough to get to the root cause because no one can go that deep.
The prophet Jeremiah used to repeatedly complain about those who ignored the depth of the problem and proclaimed a SUPERFICIAL remedy as though it would get to the root of the problem. “They have healed the wound of my people LIGHTLY, saying, ‘peace, peace,’ where there is no peace.” (Jer.6:14; 8:11).
The injury is too deep for those who caused it to fix. Surface treatments will never do. And they only make matters worse. We can’t fix this by looking inside ourselves. We’re too wrapped up in the problem. It’s got our fingerprints all over it. THIS HAS TO BE AN ‘OUTSIDE’ JOB.
In love for the world, Jesus Christ, came down from heaven. In love, he willingly humbled Himself to descend into the very abyss of that ‘VAST PRIMORDIAL CATASTROPHE’ and heal it with the only thing that can truly heal a wound as deep and destructive as this: “Forgiveness.”
He doesn’t make it disappear or pretend like it never happened. He ‘forgives it.’ The wounds are all still there. Even the resurrected and glorious body of Jesus still bears the marks of the cross. Thomas will be invited to put His hand into them. Even in heaven he is worshipped and adored as one looking like a lamb that was slain.
It is by these wounds that He poured out His forgiveness onto His whole creation. And by faith alone, OUR WOUNDS ARE HEALED BY HIS WOUNDS. “For by His wounds we are healed.”
Foreseeing the ‘deep cure’ that the Messiah would accomplish, the Psalmist declares, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” (Psalm 147:3)
Peter declares that what Isaiah had foretold has now been fulfilled in Christ crucified. “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:24).
Easter is God’s declaration to all the wounded, “LET THE HEALING BEGIN.”
By the blood of Christ, God has atoned for our ‘vast primordial catastrophe’ and restored His ‘VAST PRIMORDIAL PARADISE.’ And in His great mercy and by His grace alone, God has brought you out of the ‘catastrophe’ and into ‘paradise’ through the sacrament mystery of Holy Baptism, where you died with Christ and were raised with Christ and through the faith gifted to you, live in Christ even as Christ lives in you.
By His Word of Promise which cannot fail, you have been taken into the very wounds of Christ Jesus. And by His wounds, you are already healed, even though you still feel the pain inflicted on you, and even though you continue to inflict your pain onto others.
This ‘healing’ that we have in the wounds of Christ, is where we go to find the help we need to deal with those who have wounded us and that we still feel deeply. Day by day, drawing on the forgiveness that He has accomplished for you, you find the strength and courage to willingly humble yourself and forgive those who have wounded you.
The old rule in these matters was to treat every wound with corresponding wound. Moses writes, “if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.” (Ex.21:24)
As we can imagine, this was a rule that did not come close to the ‘deep healing’ that we need to live in peace with one another. On Easter, Jesus declared that a new rule is now in place. Drawing from the bottomless well of His forgiveness that pours out from His wounds, we forgive one another.
On Easter, we celebrate the victory that our Lord has accomplished over every wound that injured us – even the mortal wound of death. The day is coming when will enter into the “new heavens and a new earth” through death. There, “the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind.”
No one will ever again wound you. Neither shall you wound another ever again. “The wolf and the lamb shall graze together… and they shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain.” (Is.65:25)
Until that day comes, we eagerly participate in the feast of victory for our God. Joining in the celebration with angels, archangels and all the company of heaven, NOT as party crashers, but as those who know what we they are celebrating, we come to the banquet table that our victorious Lord has prepared for all His afflicted and injured and scared who hunger and thirst to be healed.
“He is risen! He is risen indeed, Alleluia. “LET THE HEALING BEGIN.”