The most well known verse in Isaiah 53, itself one of the most well known chapters in the Old Testament, heralding as it does the coming of the suffering servant, proclaims that He was (will be):
pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
What a glorious promise, one full of hope and redemption.
Yet of late that promise has not held as much hope as another in the same, that the suffering servant will have
borne our griefs,
and carried our sorrows.
I know that these are being paralleled: grief-sorrow-transgressions-iniquities. I know they are all, then, the same referent, the same promise.
And yet…and yet they remain distinct pairs, the images the poetry of the passage, but not merely a poetic device (for there is no such thing). These are all direct images of what Jesus will do (and now has done and is doing)-healing and bearing and carrying, and thus a related set, perhaps to be viewed merely as four references to the same referent, salvation.
These are all, though, far more powerfully not mere parallels but expressions of the fullness of His coming (and now here and yet to be consummated) salvation.
For you see, of late, it’s been less my sins and transgressions which have caused me grief, and more the griefs and sorrows I feel I carry and bear.
Were Jesus, as I have often falsely conceived him, concerned only with sins and transgressions, He is, at best, a sort of moral repair man. He fulfilled the law because we didn’t. He bore our sins to restore the just relationship with God, to keep the anger and wrath of God at bay. He may even have brought us home to God, but to a distant God who accepts us now that we’re “cleaned up” by Jesus’ acts. Or at least, that’s how my mind (wrongly) goes.
Yet if Jesus is concerned with and has dealt with and is bearing our griefs and carrying our sorrows, He is undoing all that is wrong. He bears not only those hurts that are a result of my sins, but those done to me, and He knows and bears those my sins which were in response to those griefs. He is not merely concerned with the sins, but with griefs and sorrows unrelated to my sin, or perhaps to any direct sin.
He bears the grief I have over lost opportunities, lost acts, missed chances (or so they seem). He carries the sorrows of watching a world where death occurs, where loved ones suffer, where an unexamined life may not be worth living, so says Socrates, but a live overexamined is misery and despair.
Indeed, He is the “ a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.” He is the one to whom, in a simple moment of loneliness, even though all around me are at ease and rest, I can offer that loneliness.
And because He is that one who sees and feels and desires to carry my sorrows and bear my griefs…because He is that One, I feel free to take to him my sins and iniquities, not as moral failings, but themselves as griefs and sorrows, pain and hurt and despair. And to hope, not that He’ll turn moral failure into moral success, but that he’ll transform my sorrow and grief from self-directed to other-giving.
That I might become a man of sorrows, seeking to live with and for others in the grief of joy yet to be and to bear their sorrows in the hope of suffering’s relief.
He is the one who came to bring redemption, to “make his blessings flow,” as the hymn proclaims, “far as the curse is found.” The curse is found-here, in me, in you, in all. And it is into and through us that He makes His blessings flow, the very river of life, the wellspring of hope pouring into, through, and out of us, the well of tears for the sorrow of winter world and the hope of the coming spring.