He Bore our Sicknesses

took-our-sicknessThe vandalizing of shalom has brought with it the ravaging of our bodies. We experience in our bodies the effects of the curse of sin on our world. Sickness is a part of life that we all know, some of us more so than others. Disease, illness, deformity, and pain are common, but they are not supposed to be normal. God did not create the world with sickness as part of His original design, and when Jesus returns sickness will be no more. The gospel can give us hope in the midst of sickness.

Matthew famously speaks of this reality in chapter 8 of his gospel. In verses 14-17 he gives tells us Jesus’ healing ministry and places that within the context of the prophetic words of Isaiah. We read:

14 And when Jesus entered Peter’s house, he saw his mother-in-law lying sick with a fever. 15 He touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she rose and began to serve him. 16 That evening they brought to him many who were oppressed by demons, and he cast out the spirits with a word and healed all who were sick. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: “He took our illnesses and bore our diseases.”

Jesus’ healing ministry is indicative of his Kingdom authority. One sign that the Kingdom of God has come is that Christ is pushing back the effects of the curse. He is demonstrating His messianic nature by means of healing. This is the point he communicates to John the Baptist. When the latter is in prison he inquires of Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another” (Matt. 11:3). Jesus answers John by pointing to all his miraculous works: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them (11:4). Jesus reveals that He is the Messiah, the anointed one of God, the chosen servant to set the world right, by means of His healing ministry. As the Messiah Jesus will eventually abolish sickness, there is great personal comfort that we can take in this news.

Because of Jesus my sicknesses do not have to define me. As a follower of Jesus, every aspect of your story is connected to His greater story. This is true even of your pain. In fact, Paul tells us that our sufferings are a participation in the sufferings of Christ (2 cor. 1:5; Phil. 3:10; 1 Peter 4:12-13). Listen to what he says to the Colossians:

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church (Col. 1:24)

There is a link between your suffering and Christ’s suffering. Not that Christ’s suffering is incomplete or deficient, but rather that your suffering identifies you with Christ. He says the same thing to the Romans too:

and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. (Romans 8:17)

In other words, your suffering does not define you, but it does identify you with Jesus, who himself suffered while on this earth. Michael Emlet helpfully explains it this way:

Your connection with Jesus means that your identity is bigger than that of a chronic pain sufferer. Your long-term experience of pain, or any other chronic illness, has the potential to define who you are…Paul is saying that your suffering actually confirms your identity as a child of God. It does not undermine that identity, even thought it sometimes feels that way in the midst of your pain. This perspective reminds you that as your suffer, you suffer in Christ. Your life (both suffering and, ultimately, glory) is intimately connected with his life. (Chronic Pain, 14)

Because Jesus is Messiah we are not owned by our sicknesses.

Because of Jesus my sicknesses cannot rob me of ultimate joy. When I fully grasp the reality that Christ’s messianic rule will do away with all sickness I can find hope and joy once again. Paul tells us that if we have an eternal perspective this momentary affliction will not be able to steal our joy. So, we read in Romans 8:

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (Romans 8:18-25)

There is still groaning, Paul says, but it’s not the same. We groan not simply out of misery, but in anticipation of the future glory that is promised us. Pain will not last, it will not endure. Though it is a great trial now, it is not eternal. Glory, joy, peace, rest, hope, and relief are eternal in the presence of God and Christ. I can endure suffering now for a little while, because I know what awaits me is eternal joy (1 Peter 1:6-9).

Because of Jesus my sicknesses have a purpose. My struggles may feel like isolated sorrows. Your pain and disease and illness may feel like a random struggle you are forced to endure, but even your sicknesses fall under the reign and rule of God. In an essay on pain Ed Welch discusses the various causes of pain, citing others, Adam (the Fall), personal sin, and Satan as potential causes. Ultimately, he says, even these fall under the governance of God’s will (Eph 1:11); see figure 1 (“Exalting Pain? Ignoring Pain? What do we do with Suffering?”).

God's Reign over All Things

Your suffering has a purpose within God’s plan. You may not always be able to discern that purpose, and it may not always be pleasant, but God can be trusted with your pain.

Finally, because of Jesus I know I am understood. Jesus’ own experience of pain, his own experience of my pain and suffering assures me that He understands and cares. Pain can be so isolating. No one understands exactly how you feel because even if they have the same disease as you your experience is ultimately your own. There is great comfort in friends and we should not deny that, but the greatest comfort comes from knowing that Jesus knows exactly how we feel. He “bore our sicknesses.” He can relate to you like no one else. Jesus experienced suffering, to an even greater degree than we have, and He is ready to show us compassion and care. He may not alleviate what you are experiencing, but He understands what you’re going through. Be encouraged by this truth: you are not alone, Jesus knows how you feel. And one day He will put an end to all pain and suffering.

We all experiencing pain, illness, and suffering now. It comes in various forms: emotional, psychological, physical, relational, even spiritual. Christ knows it all, and one day he will bring an end to it all. As Messiah he has bore our sicknesses and our sorrows. As Messiah he has guaranteed the eventual destruction of sickness. The end of sickness is coming, cling to Christ while you wait, friends.

 

 

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