Last week, we learned that we receive healing as part of our Salvation from our sins.
Today we are going to consider a basic question regarding our healing and that is – did Jesus bear our sickness along with our sins on the cross of Calvary?
In order to do that let us focus on the famous passage from Isaiah 53. 800 years before Jesus’ birth, Isaiah prophesied in detail the suffering and death of Jesus on the Cross. This chapter also touches upon the aspect of Jesus’ death on the Cross for our sicknesses. Let me show you how.
WHAT HAPPENED ON THE CROSS REALLY?
“He was despised and rejected by men, man of sorrows and acquainted with grief and was one from whom men hid their faces and was despised we esteemed him not.”
“He has borne our grief and carried our sorrows. Yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God and afflicted.”
“Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush Him, He has put Him through grief”
The word ‘grief’ that appears in these verses here refers to ‘sickness’. Besides this bearing of grief or sickness, the other thing that Isaiah says Jesus bears is the sin of mankind. We see it in verse 12 where it says that “He bore the sin of many.” Now the significance of this distinction is that if Jesus bore our sickness on the Cross, then we don’t have to bear its pain and curse now. We can experience freedom from the clutches of disease.
Let us now look at another Old Testament passage that portrays what happened on the Cross.
Leviticus 16:22 says that, ‘The goat shall bear all their iniquities on their self to a remote area and he shall let the goat go free in the wilderness.’ This part of the ancient sacrificial system depicts what happens to the sins of mankind. It is taken away to a land of no return. Jesus bore our sins and removed it from our record completely. Once we repent and confess our sins, He does not hold it against us ever again!
Now, let’s focus on the word ‘grief’ that we read in Isaiah 53. The original Hebrew word that is used is ‘choli’ which means sickness.
This word appears in several other places. Let’s look at a few of them.
- KING AHAZIAH’S SICKNESS
2 Kings 1:2 says that Ahaziah fell sick and he sent messengers to, ‘Go inquire about Baal-Zubeb, the god of Akron whether I shall recover from this sickness.’ The word used here for sickness is the same as that in Isaiah 53 (meaning choli or grief).
- KING HEZEKIAH’S SICKNESS
Isaiah 38:9 says, “writing of Hezekiah after he was King of Judah and had recovered from his sickness’. The word used here for sickness is also the same as that in Isaiah 53.
- THE NEW TESTAMENT USAGE
This same word is used in many other translations and versions of the Bible including that of the Jewish Publishing Society. We can see a further proof of it in Matthew 8:17 that says, “This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah. He took our illnesses and bore our diseases.” Now the book of Isaiah does not say anywhere that Jesus bore our sicknesses and illnesses. So what is Matthew referring to here? He is referring to the word ‘grief’ that Isaiah uses to say that Jesus bore our sicknesses and diseases.
JESUS THE HEALER
Let’s look at the verse Matthew 8:17 in detail to understand better what Matthew was referring to.
After the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus began to perform miracle after miracle and healing several sick people. Matthew 8:2 says that a leper approached Jesus and said, ‘Lord if you will you can make me clean.’ Jesus healed him. Then comes along a centurion in verse 5 and seeks Jesus’ help in healing his servant. Jesus healed the servant too. Then Jesus went to Peter’s house and healed Peter’s sick mother-in-law.
Further, in verse 16 we read, ‘that evening they brought to him many who were oppressed by demons and he cast out the spirits with a word and healed all who were sick.’ Then Matthew pauses and writes in verse 17, ‘this was to fulfill that was written by Isaiah, he himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses’.
FULFILLMENT OF THE PROPHESY
Matthew says that Jesus healed to fulfill Isaiah’s prophesy. Let’s break it down further to understand it better. Jesus wasn’t healing because of a spurt of compassion. It was His desire, purpose and intention always. And in just a short while, it would culminate on the Cross where He would die bearing man’s sin, sickness and shame. Even though His death hadn’t occurred yet He healed the infirm knowing fully well that He would bear the curse of sickness along with sin soon on the Cross.
Let me try to explain it with a modern day example. When we go to a store and swipe our credit card for a purchase, we haven’t technically paid for it yet. It will be charged to our account and we will pay for it at the end of the month when the bill comes to us. In the interim we give an assurance to the shopkeeper that it will be paid even though we are taking the product home.
Similarly, Jesus’ healing of the sick was an assurance that the price for the healing would be paid soon on the Cross along with that of our sins.
It’s like in football when one player passes the ball to another player. His intention is not just to pass it but to ensure that it can score a goal. Similarly, Jesus’ death on the Cross was meant to not only fulfill God’s prophesy through Isaiah but also so that we can receive our healing.
HOW DOES IT IMPACT US TODAY?
Now this fulfillment of the prophecy was not limited only to that period. It extends to us too today and we can enjoy the freedom from the curse of sickness and illnesses. Jesus has already paid the price. He bore our sicknesses, carried our pain and cried out from the cross ‘It is finished’!
Therefore, it has come alive in our lives. We can receive healing by standing on the Word of God.
WHAT DOES BEARING OUR SICKNESS MEAN?
Now we have been saying that Jesus bore our sicknesses on the Cross. Let us unpack it to see what ‘bearing of sickness’ actually means. If we look at the Cross, we see that Jesus was scourged and beaten by the Romans. His body was a bloody wreck. He was cursed, mocked and humiliated. But we do not physically see any bearing of sin or sickness by Him. But in reality that’s exactly what was happening behind the scene. Isaiah 53:5 says, “by his stripes we are healed.”
Stripes were the marks left behind on Jesus’ back after He was flogged. The sharp whip tore His skin and flesh apart and blood poured out from His wounds. It was a gruesome and cruel murder.
Now even though on the outside he was being beaten, spiritually he was being punished for the curse of our sins and sicknesses. And do you know by whom? Not by Pilate, or the Roman soldiers or the Jewish people.
But by God Himself.
Isaiah 53:10, says, ‘it was the will of the Lord to crush Him. He has put him to grief and sickness.’
The Lord crushed Him or punished Him or beat Him with our sickness and sins.
Let’s look at a few other places in the Bible where this meaning comes through clearly.
2 Chronicles 26 talks about King Uziah. He had started out well in life. But soon he got proud and decided to burn incense before God Himself. As per the Old Testament laws, that was strictly the job of God’s priests. Nobody else was permitted to do it. God got angry with him for his insolence and arrogance that He struck him with leprosy. The word used to describe ‘strike’ is the same that is used in Isaiah to describe that Jesus was smitten or struck.
THE CURSE IN DEUTERONOMY
Again in Deuteronomy 28:22, it says, ‘the lord will strike you with disease and with fever, inflammation and fiery heat drought and blight and mildew’. Here also we read that God warned the Israelites that He would ‘strike them’ with diseases if they disobeyed Him.
Also Genesis 12:17 says, ‘But the Lord afflicted Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife.’ Here we see that the word used is ‘afflicted’.
As a side note, let me hasten to say that not all diseases are from God. Often it is the result of the broken and cursed world that we live in. But there are many other times when God does strike people with illnesses as part of His judgment against the intentional, continuous, unrepentant rebellion.
Isaiah 53:4 refers to three words – stricken, smitten and afflicted. All these three words differ in meaning but the implication is one. Jesus was struck, smitten and afflicted by God for our sicknesses and sins. He had to punish sin and sickness and He didn’t have any other choice save that of laying it on His Son. Isaiah 53:10 (King James Version) says, ‘it pleased the lord to bruise him.’ The Young’s Little translation says ‘he delighted to do so’.
It sounds contradictory to the God that we have seen in the Bible so far, right?
In fact Ezekiel 18:23 says, ‘Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Lord God’. Similarly Hosea 11:8, says, ‘how can I judge you? How can I do this? My hurt is torn within me, my compassion is overflows and I am not sure what to do.’ In both these passages we see the heart of God that yearns for the wicked and evil people to repent and turn to Him.
Yet, it pleased God to punish His Son on our behalf. Not that God had to force it on Jesus. In fact, Jesus voluntarily laid down His life for us. The Father God crushed His Son with the penalty, burden and weight of our diseases and sins so that we would be healed and forgiven. The stripes on His body are the tangible marks of our illnesses and sins. So today we don’t have to bear the painful effects of it.
QUIETLY AND MEEKLY
Lastly, let me show you one more unique response of Jesus as He was being punished. Isaiah 53:7 says, ‘He was oppressed and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth. Like the sheep before his shearer, he is silent, he opened not his mouth’. Jesus did not open His mouth and protest or lament so that the punishment could be carried out completely without any interruption. It was not that Jesus could not have said a word and have had legions of angels coming to His rescue. But if he had, then we would not have been able to experience and enjoy God’s forgiveness and healing. So today when we are attacked by the enemy in the form of sicknesses and temptations, we can resist it in God’s name. He did not open His mouth then, so that we can today open our mouth against sickness and reject it.
We see an example of this in Acts 22. Paul comes to Jerusalem and even though initially he receives a warm welcome, soon people turn against him and plot to kill him. A riot breaks out and people advance to mob him. Paul attempts to speak to them but the crowd goes berserk. The Roman commander in Acts 22:24, ‘ordered him to be bought in to the barracks and examined by flogging to find out why they were shouting against him like this’. Till then Paul had not defended himself, then in verse 25 he says, ‘is it lawful for you to flog a man who is a Roman citizen and uncondemned?’ The commander was surprised and nervous suddenly. A Roman citizen was privileged in those days. They could not be handled randomly. In fact Paul was a naturally born citizen while the commander had acquired his citizenship by paying money for it. Immediately, he was freed and let go. If Paul hadn’t opened his mouth he would surely have been punished.
But Jesus, even though He had all the reason to prove who He really was by protesting against the injustice meted out to Him, kept quiet. As a result today we have freedom from all sicknesses and sins when we are born into the family of God. We have all the privileges and rights of a citizen of the Heavenly Kingdom. We can rebuke our illnesses with God’s Word and receive God’s healing.