“…and with his stripes we are healed.” – Isaiah 53:5
To be healed implies in some way that I am improperly functioning. The cold I currently have is an improper functioning of my healthy respiratory system. To acknowledge sickness and the need for healing is to see a right functioning that we ought to embody. Yet returning to this proper functioning is no easy process.
Treatment and healing are two deeply connected yet deeply distinct occurrences. During college I shredded the ulnar collateral ligament in my elbow while throwing a javelin. I had surgery to repair the ligament, but the healing process lasted months afterwards with odd moments of pain still making me acutely aware of the treatment that occurred to my elbow. Treatment took a day, healing often requires a lifetime.
How, then, are we to view this healing action of the Suffering Servant? How can the suffering of this servant not only treat, but also heal us? The disease of sin ravishes us, requiring not only treatment, but also healing. Often, I have come to accept Christ’s death as the treatment for my sin, but failed to see it as the healing process itself. We are not only washed white in Christ’s blood, but there is a continuing prescription for my spiritual disease. Peter points to this twofold work of Christ in his first epistle: “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24). Righteous living, friendship with God, is our proper functioning. Christ’s death is a once for all atonement. Yet it is also a gift of daily healing.
To be treated for and healed from sickness are two distinct but interconnected processes. Christ treated me and continues to heal me. At the Lord’s Table and in this season of Lent, I am reminded of what is done and what still is happening. Yet it all is by Christ through the Spirit, the Physician still at work.