His Wounds we are Healed
(c) Copyright 2005 Rev. Bill Versteeg
Irresistible appeal marked our
Sovereign’s luxurious ride into Jerusalem. The crowds were
already in a nationalistic mood. They had been together, with meals
celebrating the deliverance God had given them from Egypt, they were
just dreaming of another Passover in which God would kill the firstborn
sons of the oppressing nation that ruled over them. And then there was
this Jesus, doing miraculous signs, just like Moses did. This one even
raised the dead. Those who were there remembered Lazarus. The rest had
heard the rumours. Could it be that he would be another Moses, another
deliverer to set Israel free? To the crowds the answer seemed clear. He
must be the one who comes in the name of the Lord.
The king of Israel. And certainly this was a sign - he came riding on a
Anyone else would have nodded at the adulation. Knowing certainly that it was deserved, we would have all appreciated it. Maybe even gotten a bit swell headed.
But Jesus wept.
It may have started with a majestic parade, his crown may have looked royal, but that was not the crown he was destined to wear. Quickly he was stripped of his dignity as the Sovereign of Israel, the Sovereign of all. On was put the clowns costume, a scarlet robe, a royal staff. Soldiers bowed in mocked obeisance. Chief priests smirked. The conscience of those who taught law wondered about the legality of this proceeding. But they smiled and nodded anyways. Their words wounded with invisible slashes. Their smiles nodded at his humiliation. Their spit his tears. They braided a crown of thorns, and then placing it upon his head, they hit it repeatedly with the staff they’d given him, driving the thorns deeper, ripping scalp causing blood to pour out from every side. In very quick procession, all that was right was going wrong. Peter could not understand. He stood back, denying who he was while watching the mockery. The King of the Jews, the Sovereign of Israel took this crown with grace, it seemed to fit him, the Sovereign over all, fit him better than the crown offered by the people with palm branches.
As we spend this Lenten season focusing on the wounds of Christ, we join with the church throughout history as they focused on the crown of thorns, symbolic of the suffering that inflicts so many, the suffering of mind and emotion.
Each of us comes to church, maybe this has been a good week, maybe it has been a difficult week. Maybe some of us have measured our weeks by our physical health, there are others of us that have measured our weeks by our mental and emotional health. And the reason is because our minds, which are so much a part of who we are is as vulnerable to wounds, scars and illness as the rest of our body. Maybe the pain is that of grief, our bodies go on, appearing healthy, but our minds bear the tear of loss and the tears of the pain. Not one of us is immune to this pain. As in Dutch they have an idiomatic expression which says “Every house has its cross”, we might say, every character has its crown of thorns. Some weeks are good, some are very difficult. And the terrible thing is that these invisible wounds bleed invisible blood that turns us anaemic, tired, incapable of celebrating the joys or grieving the sorrows of life. We have painful memories that have character crippling characteristics. Maybe it was parents, brothers or sisters, fellow students in the school yard, people in places of authority - like these unnamed soldiers, it doesn’t matter who did it, the truth is, the wounds are real and so often our pain continues never soothed, almost always hidden, unrecognized and unhealed.
It was at the very point where the
leaders of the people started to ridicule Jesus, humiliate him, insult
him, that the crown of thorns was driven deep into his head. By his
wounds Isaiah says, we are healed. This morning we want to look a
little closer at that truth.
He did it so that we might first of all understand that he understands us. Scripture calls him a faithful high priest, familiar with all of our weaknesses, familiar with our suffering. As a pastor, the most difficult pain that I have to deal with as I minister to others is their mental and emotional anguish. Jesus understands that. It is no secret to him. He understands the pain of being abused. He understands the emotional wounds inflicted by others. He understands how our lives and characters can be shaped by even the very words others speak to us. He understands your crown of thorns, because he wore one too.
But he choose to accept this crown for a much deeper reason. He accepted this crown for our healing. As we look at Jesus suffering, as we see him sweating blood already in the Garden of Gethsemane, we see Jesus taking on a very difficult task, accepting the pain that was necessary to birth a new creation. Think about that for a few minutes. Jesus accepted this pain, he faced it head on, knowing that this pain was the birth pangs of a new creation. The resurrection in all of its glory, our resurrection, in all of its glory, would not come without these birth pangs. Without this hard and painful work, the dishonoured would not take on glory, power would never overtake weakness, the natural would never be replaced by the spiritual and the perishable with the imperishable. (1 Corinthians 15) These were the transition pains from the kingdom of darkness too the kingdom of light. Like a mother who accepts the pain of childbirth, knowing the joy of the outcome, Jesus for the joy set before him, endured the cross, scorning its shame. (Heb 12) These pains were the creator over all, recreating, to turn our world corrupted by sin into a New Creation.
And so we see that in an ultimate sense, Jesus our sovereign took this crown of thorns so that we might inherit an eternal kingdom in the joy of his presence. By his wounds we are healed.
Yet there is more to this accepting of the crown and we discover that in the way he accepted this crown, in his approach to the pain. He faced the pain, he accepted the pain, and in the process he transformed the pain.
Let’s be honest. We live in a pain avoiding culture. We live in a pain denying culture. If we have pain, we numb it as quickly as we can, from aspirin to morphine or even more powerful drugs, from alcohol to cocaine, we do everything within our power to avoid the pain that is ours. When it comes to the pain of grief, this avoidance becomes even more obvious. We avoid hospitals. Many of us have never visited a very sick person in a hospital, let alone been there when another person died. We keep that to hospitals, we let funeral homes deal with our loved one’s bodies, we burry an attractive box. We do our best to hide from ourselves the pain.
But pain numbed, pain avoided, pain that remains hidden is often pain that does not heal. In this passage we see Jesus, Lord over all, embrace the pain, do the hard work of embracing pain, because only by pushing through the pain, would a new creation be born.
So, we see, in how he dealt with his wounds, how we to need to deal with our wounds in order to be healed. Denying our wounds, hiding them in the depths of our souls bring no benefit to ourselves or others. Secret wounds never have ointment applied to them. They continue to fester and their scars disable. And if we think they are secret, they can never be, because they shape our character, they distort our perception, they turn our souls to a self centeredness that is not ours by choice. Only by facing our pain, accepting our wounds and scars, going through the hard work of experiencing them and understanding them, do we move on to a new creation where God by the power of his Spirit takes even our ashes and turns them to beauty.
I will never forget the journey that Susan (not her real name) went through. As a middle aged small women, she always had a depressed look on her face, sometimes swollen eyes, always dark shading under them, definitely not very attractive. I would see her at work, as a pastor, I would wonder what secrets were behind her character and demeanor. Over time, as she got to know me, and discovered I could be trusted, she started to share her pain, the pain of repeated abuse, the mental anguish that shaped her character every day of her life. With encouragement, she started seeking Christian counselling. As she accepted her pain, and worked through it she began the steps of bringing her abusers to justice. But the surprise of her journey had little to do with the 7 years of imprisonment that one of her abusers got, the real surprise was in how her character came to new life in very beautiful ways, in the capacity to forgive those who for years had not understood her pain and so had further inflicted wounds upon her, in her capacity to forgive even her abusers, in her capacity to love others gracefully. Not only were there changes in character. She even started becoming physically beautiful. She accepted the pain, and in working through it, persevering through it, her God created beauty really started to shine.
Jesus accepted the pain, faced it
head on so that by persevering through the pain, he might birth a new
covenant, an eternal kingdom for us. As our sovereign, he accepted this
crown of thorns so that we might be healed.
(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.