How did Jesus take on the sin of the world? How does someone take someone else’s sin? In a legal sense it simply meant taking the punishment. But this doesn’t account for the agony Jesus experienced in the passion. So what was going on? I believe that there is a prophetic passage in Isaiah 53 that speaks about this.
To lay a foundation we need to look at how Jesus described sin. He described sin in a number of different ways. These included Blind, Sick, Lost and Dead. When we look at these examples we realise that Jesus did not view sin in a legalistic way. Instead, Jesus viewed sin as something that had infected us, and needed to be fixed/healed.
Yet, we still have this notion in modern Christianity that sin is something that needs to be punished. This comes from a view of penal-justice. It’s the whole, “Someone has to pay!” type of justice, and it doesn’t fit with the life and teaching of Jesus. This belief has blinded us to thinking that the only reasonable form of justice is punishment. However, the judgment of God is not simply punishment, it is restorative.
Jesus brought sight to the physically and spiritually blind.
Jesus healed the physically and spiritually sick.
Jesus found, saw and accepted the physically and spiritually lost.
Jesus raised the physically and spiritually dead back to life.
Jesus clearly showed us that sinners don’t need punishing, they need loving. They need healing and life, they need to be found, they need to taste and see that God is good.
So why do we think Jesus had to be punished? One of the answers is because we have misread Isaiah 53 to think that God the Father punished God the Son. But this passage actually proves the opposite. It proves that Jesus was not punished to settle a legal fight, but was infected with the sickness of sin, and defeated it on behalf of humanity. It is a beautiful passage, that helps us see God as our loving defender not a vindictive judge. Isaiah 53 is The Prophetic Message We Missed, that shows how Jesus took on the sins of the world. Let’s break it down together.
Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished (naga – primarily translated as touched) by God, stricken (nakah – primarily translated as smite or slain) by him, and afflicted. (`anah – primarily translated as afflicted or beaten down)
The prophet Isaiah is prophesying that humanity will consider Jesus to be touched, slain and beaten down by God. Interestingly, these words used to describe His punishment are not used again in this chapter. This is important because although we think Jesus was harmed in that way, God had much better plans!
But he was wounded (chalal – translated as profane or polluted 59 times. Some versions say wounded which is only used 3 times) for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment (muwcar – instruction or correction. Never used as punishment except in this verse) that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.
The first word, “But” is clear. We thought Jesus was punished by the Father, but something different is happening at the cross. This is huge! So much of the church still believe Jesus was beaten to death and punished by God the Father. However, instead of Jesus simply being wounded by our sin, He was polluted by our sin. Instead of His punishment bringing us peace, His instruction or correction brings us peace. How was He polluted? Let’s keep reading.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him (paga` – This word means to meet or encounter. Often used as a prayer term. For example translated interceded in verse 12) the iniquity of us all.
How did Jesus take on the sin of the world? This verse tells us how by using prayer language. Sometimes when we pray, God will lay a burden on our hearts to pray for someone or something. Often as we pray for someone, we can begin to experience what they are experiencing. We can sense their loneliness, their desperation, and their fear. This verse describes Jesus taking on all our sin, lost-ness and fallen-ness, in the same way!
By oppression and judgment he was taken away. Yet who of his generation protested? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was punished. (nega` – This word is only translated as punished in this verse. The rest of Scripture, over 70 times, translates this word as plagued.)
Here we see the theme of verse 6 continue. Jesus was not punished for our sin. He was literally plagued by our sin. Let’s recap. He was contaminated, or infected by our sin. God the Father laid this prayer burden on Jesus heart, and Jesus began to experience what we experience. Jesus can now identify with our sin. He can identify with our lostness, our blindness, our sickness and and of course death.
For he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.
Being infected by sin was not something God The Father placed on Him so He could be punished. Rather, it was a burden or a fight, that was placed on Jesus so He could intercede and defeat it for us!
An example of how Jesus defeated lostness is seen as He hung upon the cross and quoted Psalm 22 by calling out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” If we read through that Psalm we see the scene of the cross, and finally the faith of Jesus in verse 24, “God has not hidden His face from Him but has listened to his cry for help.” Jesus took on our sin, and experienced our lostness. But He did not stay there, He beat it by remaining faithful.
This passage clearly prophesies that we thought Jesus was punished by God the Father, but we were wrong. Instead we see a picture of the God of Compassion. God the Son, felt such extreme love towards us that all our sin and shame came upon Him as a burden. He identified with us in our brokenness and deception and experienced what we experience. He felt our shame, darkness, fear, and lost-ness. And instead of submitting to it, He fought it off, remained faithful and defeated it!