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. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. — Isaiah 53:4-6
The joy of Christmas and the victory of Easter must continually be on our minds during this season of Advent. Christmas without the crucifixion means nothing. Without the manger in Bethlehem, we could never have the cross at Calvary or the empty tomb of Joseph that first resurrection morning. If we try to rush past the pain and hurt foretold hundreds of years before the birth of Christ, we won’t witness the true power of God’s promise.
It’s interesting that the Jews thought the Messiah would be a conquering king who would throw off the chains of Roman oppression and make Israel a free nation. It’s hard to understand the depth of their perspective but one thing is clear: the people then aren’t so dissimilar to people now. Although God is fully aware of our needs in this life and promises to provide for them, He is looking at the eternal perspective. Simply, He is the only One who knows the whole story.
In today’s focal Scripture I am reminded that the crucifixion of Jesus was no accident. God the Father didn’t look down as Jesus was being arrested in the Garden and say… “I think I can use this”… the pain Jesus would face was part of the plan. I am a man well acquainted with pain and grief, but my most grief filled moments don’t begin to scratch the surface of what Jesus faced. My deepest pain and despair fall so far short of what Jesus faced my suffering seems pointless to even remember.
Recently a friend gave me a copy of a story called “The Ragman”, one I would recommend you read. In it, a person observes a man pulling a cart full of rags through a city. The ragman called out: “Rags! New rags for old! I take your tired rags! Rags!” The story recounts time after time how this Ragman visited the broken, the destitute, the hurting, and He called them to give Him their old rags for His new. Over and over again the pains, hurts, and despair of the people were given to the Ragman as He took them on Himself to bear.
Today as your heart turns towards Bethlehem, remember this: every sin and suffering you have experienced was placed on Jesus. The crucifixion was not only about the physical pain and torture we could see, it was also about the precious Lamb of God bearing every sin as the wrath of God was poured out on Him who knew no sin so that we could become the children of God. Whatever pain and heartache you are facing this Christmas season, give it to Jesus. Only He can bear it and give you something that only He can: new life.
Father forgive us. So often our perspective is so limited by our circumstances. It’s hard for us to see past the blinding pain and hurt, but you are well acquainted with that grief and suffering. Lord thank you that You are not far away from us in the midst of despair. Thank you that You are near to the brokenhearted. Today Lord I pray for every person reading this devotion that you would comfort them, strengthen them, and remind them that regardless of what they are facing: You will not leave or forsake them. Thank you for Jesus, it is in His name we pray, amen.