Chapter 11 Vicarious Expiation

But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed (Isaiah 53:5).

When Philip met the Ethiopian eunuch and heard him read from Isaiah fifty-three and was invited into the man’s chariot to guide him in the exposition of it, we read that “Philip opened his mouth … and preached unto him Jesus” (Acts 8:27-39). This was a demonstration of the fact that the Gospel was “promised afore by His prophets in the Holy Scriptures” (Romans 1:2), and that “the righteousness of God without the law is… witnessed by the law and the prophets” (Romans 3:21). And no prophet is clearer in the expiatory sufferings of our Lord, as the ground of our salvation, than is Isaiah.

The Nature of Our Lord’s Sufferings

The conjunction “but” refers us back to previous verses in which it is said that it was thought by the Jews He was “stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.” They thought Him an imposter and that His death on the cross was a just punishment for wicked blasphemy. But there was always a remnant in Jewry who were enlightened to see that Jesus was indeed the promised Messiah. Furthermore, some day, when Israel passes through the tribulation, they will come forth with this chapter as an expression of national repentance. “We thought that!” they will say, “but we were wrong!” They will come to the place where all of us must come if we are to be saved—the place where we recognize that “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed.”

There are here three words to describe our Lord’s sufferings: “wounded,”—which means His body was transfixed to the cross by nails, and this would also include the piercing of His side with a spear by the Roman soldier; “bruised,”—which means pummeled or battered or whatever caused His face to be “marred more than any man’s”; “chastisement,” —which means the enduring of all that sin deserved. It would include also the scourging which often lifted the skin from the back and exposed the inner organs.

The Scripture tells us His soul was poured out like water, and all His bones were out of joint: that his heart was like wax and melted in the midst of His bowels (Psalm 22:14). We must then add to these awful physical sufferings, the mental anguish which seemed to be so great as to bring Him into sore amazement. Added to this distress was the deepest suffering of all—the abandonment and forsaking of the Father when He cried, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46). This was none other than the ultimate agony of the human soul—the second death.

The Cause of Our Lord’s Sufferings

These sufferings had no cause in Himself. He thought no sin; did no sin; knew no sin; could do no sin. He was God’s Righteous Servant. They were sufferings indeed for sin—but for our sins. The sound of the word “sin” is brief, but what a dark abyss it is! Before the worlds were made it began in heavenly places and dragged down an untold number of angels into devildom. It then entered Eden’s garden and slew the innocence of the first man. From thence it has rolled on into an enormous mountain. It is man’s ruin. It drove man from sweet and peaceful fellowship with God. It changed a loving child into a hardened rebel. It darkened man’s mind. It made His heart a nest of unclean birds—a spring of impure waters—a whirlpool of tumultuous passions—a hotbed of ungodly lusts—a den of defiant schemes. It has not only caused all human misery and spawned death, but has built the prison walls of hell—kindled quenchless fires there—forged eternal chains there.

All of this sin had to be borne and all its merited woe poured out on the head of the holy Lord Jesus as a Sin-bearer. If He was wounded for transgressions, they were ours. If He was bruised for iniquities, they were ours. Our sins were the procuring cause of all His sufferings. They were endured by Him on behalf of those He came to save. He stood in our place and suffered what we should have suffered. He is our complete Sin-offering. He paid in anguish and in blood our every due. Wrath was endured by Him. Penalties were paid by Him. Sufferings were suffered by Him. An infinity of woe was borne by Him. Only a God-Man could have endured and absorbed it all.

The Design of Our Lord’s Sufferings

When He came into the world, it was as the Lamb of God to take away “the sin of the world” (John 1:29)—“to finish the transgression and to make an end of sins” (Daniel 9:24)—“to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself (Hebrews 9:26). Thus the whole purpose of His sufferings was expiatory. Is not this the truth of truths? It is this truth which is the light—the feast—the joy—the strength—the rapture of every saved soul. Our sins slew the Son of God. They cannot now slay us. His death is ours. Therefore we live. God’s smile is upon us, not because our sins are none, but because each of us has died in Christ. God gives us every pledge that He approved—attested—received—delighted in—His offering of Himself. Release from every woe—admission to God’s Home in Heaven—are ours.

What then? Through these expiatory sufferings of our Lord we are reconciled to God through the body of His flesh by death. We who were afar off are brought nigh. We who were rebels in His universe have had the hostility taken out of us. “O Lord, I will praise Thee: though Thou wast angry with me, Thine anger is turned away, and Thou comfortedst me. Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song; He also is become my salvation” (Isaiah 12:1, 2)—“God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself (2 Corinthians 5:19)—“Ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold…but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:18, 19).

“With His stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). So concludes our text. It means we are healed of all our soul’s infirmities by His sufferings on the cross. Those wounds alone are our refuge. He has settled all our accounts. He has finished all our transgressions. He has made an end of all our sins. He has made peace for us through the blood of His cross.

Thy sorrows, Saviour, we retrace,
And tears of praise Thy griefs compel,
What love and grace illume
Thy face As Jesus, our Immanuel.

Amid Thy loneliness below,
What scorn and outrage Thee befell:
Deep shame and woe, rude blow on blow,
Endured for us, Immanuel.

But oh, what grief, what agony,
When wrathful judgment’s awful spell
Burst over Thee, on Calv’ry’s tree,
God’s Lamb for Us, Immanuel.

And when Thy glorious face we see,
How shall the bursting paean swell!
Our souls shall be outpoured for Thee—
Outpoured for Thee, Immanuel.

—F. Allaben