By His Wounds we are Healed:
Wounded Side - Wounded Relationships

John 19:28-37, Leviticus 26:9-13

(c) Copyright 2005 Rev. Bill Versteeg


Leviticus 26
9 “‘I will look on you with favour and make you fruitful and increase your numbers, and I will keep my covenant with you. 10 You will still be eating last year’s harvest when you will have to move it out to make room for the new. 11 I will put my dwelling place among you, and I will not abhor you. 12 I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people. 13 I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt so that you would no longer be slaves to the Egyptians; I broke the bars of your yoke and enabled you to walk with heads held high.

John 19
28 Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. 30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
31 Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jews did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. 32 The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. 33 But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34 Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. 35 The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. 36 These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken,” 37 and, as another scripture says, “They will look on the one they have pierced.”

God invited us to go for a walk, like friends do, without a hurried pace, without pretence or competition. A simple invitation, like a friend, to go for a walk.  I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people. That was the invitation to Adam and Eve, that was the invitation to Abraham, that was the invitation to Israel, that was his invitation in his three years of ministry. “Come you who are weary and burdened, come, rest, follow me. Let’s go for a walk.” That is God’s invitation, that was and is Christ’s invitation to us.

Walking together, like friends, like groom and bride, a common pace, a fellowship and companionship:  "Let’s walk together." That was the invitation. For Adam and Eve, the walk was too much. Into the relationship crept a betraying competitiveness, a desire to be like God, a desire through which the creature betrayed the creator. Walking together became impossible. How can two be friends when one’s ear is attuned to enemy? Can two walk together when an enemy, listened to, sows the seeds of distrust? God one day was walking in the garden looking for another stroll with Adam and Eve, only to discover that their friendship had been betrayed. For the first time, Adam and Eve were hiding things from God. The transparency of friendship gone. To use old terminology that literally relates to a spear, God got shafted.

Even though wounded, God’s appeals for friendship continued. “Let’s go for a walk.  I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people.”

Enoch did. He walked with God.  Scripture records that as the character of his life, his existence both in time and eternity.

Abraham did. Although he started as a idol worshiping enemy, God gave him an invitation - “Walk with me.” The invitation was to trust the promises of God, and Abram learned through failures to obey, to trust, to risk his future on the faithfulness and character of God. That was friendship. He was a friend of God. And so Abraham has become the father of all those who walk in the footsteps of faith. He is the father of all those who are God’s friends.

Abraham became the father of a nation - a nation to whom the invitation was given:  "Let’s go for a walk" - this time through the desert toward a promised land.  12 I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people. 13 I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt so that you would no longer be slaves to the Egyptians; I broke the bars of your yoke and enabled you to walk with heads held high. The promise was blessing, real reasons to be proud without competition, the promise was someone who is as close as a friend can be, always protecting their best interests. All of these, sons and daughters of Abraham. If the father is a friend, maybe the family will be also.

But Israel’s friendship was repeatedly a betraying friendship. They turned to other trusts, they turned to idols, they turned to enemies in hope of their future, no matter what God did, it seemed they would, for the better part, trust in relationships they could manipulate. God got the shaft, piercing deeper and deeper, the pain of betrayal and rejection sharper, every living step that God took got harder to take. Israel understood what God wanted, as the prophet Micah had said:

What does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

But to keep in step with God, to seek justice, to love mercy; No, the human heart was too filled with greed for gain, manageable relationships and idols. Friendship had become an impossibility. And so as the history of Israel concluded, God’s cry through Hosea the prophet was

4 “What can I do with you, Ephraim?
What can I do with you, Judah?
Your love is like the morning mist,
like the early dew that disappears.

God, who wanted friendship was at the end of his wits. What else could he do? And then, like a bright idea, he choose to send his own son, God himself, to live with them, walk among them in their relationship to the enemy. Expose to them who he really is. Let them see his character without the lies distorting the truth. Let them see his love and mercy. Win their friendship by becoming one with them.

Jesus invited them - “Come follow me, let’s go for a walk together.” 28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

A few would come, because in Jesus they saw the light of life. They heard the call to come for a walk and their lives were changed by it. But the many many who heard the call, God’s own people Israel who heard the invitation, they saw the character of God in Jesus, faithful, trustworthy and true in all of its glory, but they would have none of it. It was those, invited to be the friends of God, invited to walk with him that cried out in the courtyard “Crucify him. Crucify him!” It was as if those who had been invited to be friends became the worst kind of enemies.

9 Even my close friend, whom I trusted,
he who shared my bread,
has lifted up his heel against me.
(Psalm 41:9)

If you remember the story, Pilate, the one with justice in his hands could not understand their hatred. This man Jesus had not done anything worthy of death - that was his judgement. But those who had been friends, now turned, were filled with a passionate hatred. “Crucify him, Crucify him!” And so, regretfully, like to many politicians, instead of seeking justice, he bowed to public opinion and expedience and gave the desired sentence:  "Crucify him!"

What started with an invitation to go for a walk together ended with a journey to Golgotha.. Though he came to his own, his own would not receive him. Those who were supposed to be the friends of God, crucified him. God got the shaft. Friendship betrayed and turned to hatred took the life of the son. This appeared the end of a very tragic story that started with the invitation “Let’s go for a walk together.”

Many of us know in our hearts this kind of pain. The pain of broken relationships. Those who were once friends, friends no more. Now it is impossible for us to walk together. For some of us, that friend was a spouse, and betrayal is the deepest kind of wound, like a shaft to our rib cage, every breath we take is racked with pain, the kind of pain that kills life, kills joy, kills hope, kills purpose. For others of us, it was a friend that we knew well, but that friendship is over, their values and ours became different, were shown to be different. As our hearts desperately miss that companionship we remember, our minds process and process through sleepless nights: "What can we do, how can we resolve the difficulties, the pain?" The wounds of betrayal are dirty, infected, festering wounds. There is no healing because the wounds are filled with the dirt of regrets, the filth of defiling words spoken, the gangrene of reading between the lines, interpreting through distrust and anger. And in the process, the shaft of betrayed friendship takes away our life.

This morning, understand that this story that started with an invitation “Let’s go for a walk” and concluded with a friend crucified, that story is our story. Our story about our relationship with God. For everyone of us was called to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and everyone of us has found other loves, betraying commitments, turncoat desires, treasonous allegiances, we have loved the enemy and hated our true friend. And our betrayal killed Jesus. It is fitting that the soldier, who had little understanding of what was happening, thrust the spear in Jesus side after Jesus died. It was not the soldiers physical spear that killed him, it was the spear of betrayed relationship that we speared him with that killed him. The soldiers spear just made the reality of our wounding him visible, and checked to make sure that our work, in killing him through betrayal, was complete. And it is fitting that John quotes and says They will look on the one they have pierced.” It does not say; They will look on the one the soldier pierced. Those who did the act of piercing Jesus side - that’s all of us, plural, friends of God that became haters of God.

“Come, let’s go for a walk together.” How the invitation turned sour in us, because of us.

But that is not the end of the story. “By his wounds, we are healed!” says Isaiah (53).
“By his wounds we are healed” says the apostle Peter, one who understood all to well his own role in betraying his friendship with Jesus. 1 Peter 2:24 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.

The story has not ended because the death of Christ.  Christ was a true friend, taking the incredible pain of betrayal, dying the death of betrayal, and then pressing on through betrayal and death to new life and new opportunity. That is at least one of the themes of the vindication of the resurrection. For the risen Christ comes to us and gives us another chance, a renewed opportunity at friendship with God. His desire for us, his love for us, so persistent, that he was willing to push through the pain of forgiveness to a renewed relationship with us.

Over the years of pastoring, I have met a good number of people who feel like they have betrayed God so deeply that they have committed an unforgivable sin. They feel that God could not forgive what they have done. Maybe in the silent times, your thoughts go that direction, you are one of those people, friends of God turned haters, contemporary Judases, not able to fathom the possibility of forgiveness for you.

“Let’s go for a walk together” says God. The invitation continues. He has pressed through the pain of forgiveness. His desire, his invitation is for you! As the Good Shepherd of the sheep, he invites you to examine his wounds, he invites you by name, he invites you to come and follow, intimately - “Let’s go for a walk together.” Yes we were enemies of God, the worst kind of enemies; ones who once were invited to walk with him, but we betrayed him, wounding him, piercing him - that’s what we did, but now he invites us to look at that wound, see the work of forgiveness accomplished in his death, and hear the invitation of his resurrection.  “Come, lets go for a walk together.”

The new Testament, after the resurrection is filled with the invitation. The people of the early church were called people of the Way because they were learning to walk in faith as friends of God. Paul says in Galatians right after describing the fruit of the Spirit 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. The invitation is to walk with God again. Learn to trust, he has forgiven. In Revelation, it is the Spirit and the Bride that say “Come!” Come walk with me, drink from the water of life. Enjoy once again my blessing, my presence. Be able to walk with your head high because you and I can walk together.

Come, walk with me!

 


(NIV) Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright (C) 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

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