Punishment and Peace

Isaiah 53:5 “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” (NIV)

In this brief passage from Isaiah 53 in what is known as the Messianic Prophecy, several words, descriptive words jump off the page.  First, it says He, meaning Jesus, was pierced.  As Webster defines, to pierce means, “to run into or through as a pointed weapon does; to make a hole through.”  Let that sink in for a moment.  Often, we read this passage as we have hundreds of times and blow right past some of these words.  It’s easy to do.

As silly as it sounds, when I hear the word “pierce” my mind immediately recalls the day I took my oldest daughter to get her ears pierced.  She was a little nervous so I promised I would get another piercing in my ears, and we would do it together.  It was a successful day for both of us and I wore that second set of earrings proudly knowing I had supported her that day in more than just an emotional way.  By choosing to have my ears pierced again, I was bonding with her in the physical experience of pain as well.  One thing is for sure, those holes have never closed either!  They are a reminder to me of a special moment shared together. 

Jesus was pierced in the most violent and vicious way for you and me.  Likewise, His piercings did not dissipate as seen in John 20:27 when Jesus appears in the upper room to His disciples speaking directly to Thomas, “‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Stop doubting and believe.’”  Remember, he is the one forever memorialized as a doubter!  The nail-scared hands and feet of Jesus bear witness to the ultimate bonding of physical pain that we did not have to endure.  They are a reminder of a moment we shared with Him because we were His only thought as He hung on the cross. 

Back to Webster’s to learn more about the word crush, “to squeeze or force by pressure so as to alter or destroy structure; to subdue completely.”  The last part of this definition gives me great pause. When God created the world, including Adam and Eve, He gave them some initial instruction in Genesis 1:28, “God blessed them and said to them ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”  They were given the freedom in the Garden of Eden to rule completely over God’s creation.  It was a position of authority and power given to them by the Creator himself.  Jesus allowed Himself to be crushed or subdued.  All glory and splendor were minimalized in a single moment on a cross where our sin became the sweat of His brow.  He had all authority from the Father and could have escaped at any time, yet He made a choice.  Not only that, but He refused to subdue the actions and will of those around Him.  The crushing of the cross is a reminder of a moment we shared with Him because we were His only thought as He hung on the cross. 

Finally, the last phrase in this passage that arrests my attention is, “the punishment that brought us peace was upon him. . .”  There is a definite difference between punishment and discipline.  I remember my mother explaining this difference.  When I was disciplined, she would remind me that I was not being punished because punishment was without love.  Rather, discipline was full of love.  As a child, I recall it didn’t feel very loving.  As an adult, I recognize this difference.  To separate me from my parents, sister, or friends through “grounding” me for a time was the absolute worse type of discipline for me.  To be cut off and isolated from the laughter happening in the next room was pure torture!  When my sentence was complete and I could again join the rest of the family, no one acted as if I had been absent.  I was included in whatever was taking place as if nothing had happened.  No one mentioned my offense any further and I would be at peace with my family once again. 

What Jesus endured was unloving punishment for a guiltless crime.  There was no love in the whip that shredded His back.  The taunts from the crowd to “crucify him” were void of care or concern.  The soldiers beat him with closed fists full of hatred and disdain.   Isaiah prophesies in verse 3, “. . . he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”  Jesus was punished by the people He came to save.  The punishment Jesus endured is a reminder of a moment we shared with Him because we were His only thought as He hung on the cross. 

It is ironic how being pierced, crushed, and punished can equal peace. More than that they offer us healing in the deepest places of our souls.  Jesus shares many things with His followers, but this journey was never part of the plan.  The cross is the ultimate moment where we should have shared His physical suffering and yet, we find ourselves shielded instead. 

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