The Death of Christ

FFF 13:4 (Apr 1967)

The Death of Christ

Leslie S. Rainey

In fifteen God breathed verses (Isa. 52:13-53:12) we are brought face to face with the Servant of the Lord. The primary understanding of the passage is in its relation to the nation of Israel. To fail as the Jews in discerning Christ is to render the utterances unexplainable. The work of redemption is entrusted to the tried and trusted Servant of the Lord who will deal “discreetly and prosperously.” All other servants have feet of clay and leave their work unfinished. It is no wonder the prophet commences with the Hebrew word, “Behold,” in order that we might pause, pray and inwardly digest the “golden passional of the cross.” In verses 4-6, there are ten expressions of grief and suffering: borne, carried, stricken, smitten, afflicted, wounded, bruised, chastisement, stripes, and laid, that unveil the physical, moral, spiritual and judical sufferings of Christ as nowhere else in the Bible.

The first word, “He hath borne,” is rendered, “He carried our sorrows,” and immediately links us with One who was “touched,” the Man of compassion. Someone has said, “God had a Son without sin, but not without sorrow.” As a man He entered into the woes, lamentations and mournings of men and thus He alone can heal the broken heart. The Hebrew word “griefs” means “sickness or disease,” and points out how intimately the Saviour was identified with the sufferings of the multitudes that thronged around Him longing to experience the touch of healing. The thought of His carrying our sicknesses does not take us into the field of bodily healing. Sickness and sorrow are seen as the fruit of sin, and when Christ healed sickness, it was an earnest or sign of what He would do. If He can heal sickness, which is a by-product of sin, surely He can take care of sin itself. The next verb brings out the fact, “He loaded Himself” with our sorrows. Such is the common lot of man for back of sorrow is sin and this is the most horrible thing in the world, marring all that is beautiful. It is the source of all suffering and sorrow, trial and tragedy, groaning and grief, darkness and death. Christ took our sin, our sufferings, and our death, and it is no wonder the prophet records it as deaths ( v.9), for He tasted death for every man and in every conceivable way at the cross.

“In every pang that rends the heart,
The Man of Sorrows had a part.”

He was “stricken” or “plagued”; God was its source. Jerome said, “Christ was afflicted with leprosy.” Even some rabbis refer to the Messiah as the “Leprous One,” because in verse 8, it actually says in the Hebrew, “For the transgression of My people the plague was upon Him.” This is the same word for the plague of leprosy. He was “smitten” or as the great Hebrew scholars render it, “He was defeated in His cause with God.” The word “afflicted” means to be bowed down, humbled, afflicted with sorrow. They tell out the heart of the Christian doctrine of substitution: the disease and the doctor; the need and the news; the ruin and the remedy; the sin and the salvation. Hallejuiah! What a Saviour!

Following on we come to one of the most vivid verses in all the Bible portraying the sufferings of Christ. The word “wounded” means to be pierced through and has special reference to being mortally wounded as one slain violently in battle. No stronger expression for excruciating agony leading to death can be found in the Hebrew language (see Zechariah 12:10; Ps. 22:17). The word “bruised” means crushed and refers to His inward and outward sufferings. In other places it is rendered. “break in pieces” (Ps. 72:4) and “broken” or “smitten” (Ps. 143:3). Sin left the bruising marks of hellish hatred on the blessed person of our Saviour, and the scars will never be obliterated unto the ages of the ages. The word for “chastisement” is aptly rendered “punishment” and means discipline acquired by force. Christ endured the corrective disciplinary punishment which rightly belonged to us. There is a chastisement inflicted by love (Prov. 3:11) and also in a punitive sense (Jer. 30:14). What punishment was borne by our Saviour in order to procure our peace! The cross is the key to all situations as well as to all Scripture. The word for “stripes” brings out the thought of welts or contusions raised by scourging. In Exodus 26:3, it is rendered, “to have fellowship with;” “to couple or join.” Christ was joined to our sin in having joined Himself to the punishment due to it, and we are now united to Him through grace, thus partakers of His benefits. He received the weals of our desert, we receive the wealth of His redemption. The last word of the ten, “laid” means to “strike” and in another tense suggests violent collision either in the physical or the moral sense. The Son of God received the stored up wrath of God over the centuries when it fell with relentless fury and merciless indignation upon His holy person. The death of Christ for all inevitably involved the death of all… Surely the examination of these words ought to bow our heads in worship, and burn in our hearts the message of the Cross (Gal. 6:14).