…the punishment that brought us peace was upon him… Isaiah 53:5
Most images of Christ over the past hundred years have given us a distorted vision of Jesus. Clad in flowing silk robes, sporting a finely trimmed beard, and gently tossing back and forth hair so thick and smooth it must be regularly conditioned with the best shampoo, Jesus has been sanitized for wide western consumption.
In the prophetic words of Isaiah 53 regarding God’s suffering servant, we are given an image of a very different Messiah, one resigned to ugliness and alienation. When he tossed his head, a flowing mane of hair did not follow but rather, a splatter of blood. Christ could never save us by winning a pageant or gaining enough popularity.
We tend now to shudder at the thought of God’s act of propitiation, the crucifixion of Christ by which we are brought peace with God. Incredibly, the crucifixion must have carried a depth of pain, punishment, and rejection beyond what we can imagine. The truth is ‘divine child abuse’ cannot even begin to describe what Christ experienced on our behalf. Are we meant to understand the depth of pain God the Father endured in placing this judgment on His Son? No, we cannot. To minimize or reject the New Testament account of the cross is to not take seriously our own sinful state. Rather, both Father and Son experienced despair and alienation beyond our comprehension that day.
Strangely enough, that pain brought reconciliation with God. Lent, in the faintest of lights, begins to point us toward the divine reality that our peace is gained through the most devastating of losses.
“For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” Colossians 1:19-20