He was wounded for our transgressions,
crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the punishment that made us whole,
and by his bruises we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have all turned to our own way,
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all. –Isaiah 53:5-6
Misunderstood, deserted, betrayed: these are just a few of the very human experiences of pain and suffering that Jesus experienced. Apart from the cross, which brings suffering of untold measure, agony beyond our understanding, and beyond the physical torture, there was much more that Jesus endured. Betrayal by his best friends, those who had been with him for three years, who had journeyed with him, shared bread and company. The pain of being misunderstood; after all, how many times did he warn them that he was going to Jerusalem to die, and how many times did he explain the need for the messiah to suffer? How many times did Jesus try to prepare them, only to have his words returned by blank stares and shaking heads? In the end, he was deserted—left alone to face the principalities and powers that would pass judgment on him, left alone to face the mob screaming “Crucify him!”
Left alone, deserted, abandoned, betrayed: these surely caused as much agony as the physical wounds of the whip and the cross. In some ways, the wounding of the soul is as deep and torturous as the wounding of the body. In some ways, the wounding of the soul cuts much deeper and leaves marks unseen yet also often untended, uncared for, unhealed.
How often have you felt misunderstood? How often have you tried to explain an experience, a joy or a sorrow, only to have the person you want to share it with not understand you at all? How often have you said something innocent and had another misunderstand and become hurt or offended? How often have we felt misunderstood, wounded by those closest to us who just don’t seem to get it? Jesus also was misunderstood by those closest to him—he bore that pain on the cross.
Have you been abandoned or deserted when you needed someone the most? Have you reached out for help only to find there is no one there? Or, have you reached out and found someone there, but been unable to help them understand what you need or what you are feeling? Have you been let down by someone you relied on?
How often have we failed to live up to someone’s expectations of us? How often have others been unable or unwilling to be there in the ways that we needed them? How often have we felt abandoned or deserted?
Jesus was abandoned by those closest to him, as when it mattered most and they ran—and, he bore that pain on the cross.
We all experience betrayal, sometime unintentionally, sometimes maliciously. We all experience the brokenness of a promise unkept, the loss of trust in someone we care for. We have all of us fallen short, not followed through, broken trust, or been unable to do what we said we would do.
Jesus was betrayed by one closest to him. Do you suppose that knowing what Judas would do made it less painful? Do you suppose that even foreknowledge would soften the blow of being betrayed with a kiss? Jesus was betrayed in the garden by one with whom he had journeyed and trusted—and, he bore that pain on the cross.
All of these woundings, all of these places of sin, were borne on the cross. The sin of betrayal, the sin of abandonment, the sin of misunderstanding, the sin of disunity, the sin of broken trust… these were carried to the cross. These sins, and all others as well, were carried to the cross and died with Jesus. All our wounds, the places we have hurt others and the places that we have been hurt, can be found there in the wounds in his hands and feet. All our pain and sorrow could be heard in his voice when he cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” He carried it all, he ended it all.
Jesus’ death means that sin, pain, death, sorrow are not the final word. Jesus’ death means that hope, love, peace, and eternity will triumph over the grave. In his death, we can lay down our burdens, we can lay down our sins, we can lay down our wounds, and know that we worship a God who truly understands us, who will never betray or abandon us. We worship a God who keeps promises and calls us to unity in the Son. We approach the throne of grace knowing that in Jesus there is resurrection, in Jesus there is new life—not someday, but today. In Jesus, we can live a new life, receive salve for our wounds, and go into the world knowing that we have been forgiven, freeing us to forgive others for what they have done to us.