“Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. 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” (Isaiah 53:4-5). In these words of prophecy by Isaiah, we are given an understanding of the central mystery of our faith, the incarnation of Jesus Christ. And what a great mystery it is.
When Adam, the first one made in the image of God, freely chose to reach out for that apple in Garden of Eden, that fiat, that fall from grace, became the origin of every sin and suffering in the history of mankind. All of the descendents of Adam and Eve, from that moment, were born into the same flaw and failure. Every war, every disease, every injury whether physical, mental, or emotional, and death itself, can find its genesis in that Original Sin. And the history of humanity is replete with the sufferings of every kind that are the results of the continuing rebellion of human free will. We are sinners, and from the moment that Adam and Eve fell, our hearts have borne the emptiness of that loss and yearned for a return to that heavenly home.
For many millennia, humankind could only hope for the redemption that God, in his faithful love, promised to Adam and Eve from the beginning. That hope was kept alive through a few righteous men and women, like Isaiah. The Old Testament is filled with that hope as well as with the lengthening list of stories of failure and rebellion. In its many pages and many books, from Genesis to Malachi, we see so much of our own stories, for our human nature was the same then as it is now. For we remain fallen, we remain sinners to this day. But with the incarnation, the promise of God was fulfilled. The long promised Messiah came among us and we came face to face with the Great Mystery of God’s love for us.
Isaiah’s words here are, of course, a prophecy about Jesus. Jesus is the One who would be stricken and afflicted. It was he who would freely choose to take upon himself the punishment for all of humanity’s sins, for the sake of humanity, for the sake of each and every one of us individually. He chose, of his own free will, to be pierced for our sins, crushed by our iniquities, to suffer for us out of a love for us that is so profound that it can only be understood as mystery. Such an all encompassing, self-sacrificing love, is beyond our ken. And yet, this mystery, as inexplicable as it is in human words, has an even greater dimension. In this self-sacrifice, in this suffering taken on so blithely by the Son of God, the promise of eternal peace was made possible for all of humanity once again. The gates of Paradise were once again opened to us, forever. By his suffering, by the shedding of his blood, we are healed. This mystery is the very center of our faith. This is the reason for our awe, our thanksgiving, and our joy. We do not deserve this magnanimous love, yet it was freely shown to us in Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross. “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10). This is the reason for our faith and for our earnest and humble thanksgiving.
Lord, In Jesus you showed us the incomprehensible depth of your love. Help us to honor you and give you thanks for that love you have for us by choosing freely, more and more every day, to love our spouses, our children, our brothers and sisters, and our neighbors as you loved us. We know we are weak, but we put our trust in your love and your grace. It is Jesus’ name that we pray. Amen!
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