Who does this to Jesus? Is it the Romans? Is it Herod? Is it Pilate? Is it the Jews? (we hear this one, don’t we?) Is it me? Or you? Is it Satan? Is it God the Father?
“and all the while it was for our sins he was wounded, it was guilt of ours crushed him down; on him the punishment fell that brought us peace, by his bruises we were healed. Strayed sheep all of us, each following his own path; and God laid on his shoulders our guilt, the guilt of us all.”
Our sins put Jesus on the cross; that’s certain. But God the Father puts the guilt of our sins on His Son. Otherwise, we carry our guilt to the grave and beyond. Jesus’ bruises – the punishment He bears – free us from the same. Rather than anxiety, we gain peace.
Who does this? God the Father.
Do you suppose the Great Physician then decides to let us fall back into guilt? Wallow around it in like pigs? Shame on us if we even attempt to return to our squalor. For we are washed in His Son’s very blood.
Jesus receives a lot of human attention while He heals in valleys and preaches from hilltops; but when He is carried away and nailed to the cross, only a few remain at His feet – most of these are women and of little account themselves.
“Nay, here is one despised, left out of all human reckoning; bowed with misery, and no stranger to weakness; how should we recognize that face? How should we take any account of him, a man so despised? Our weakness, and it was he who carried the weight of it, our miseries, and it was he who bore them. A leper, so we thought of him, a man God had smitten and brought low;”
At this point, Jesus is completely despised and feared by most. He has disappointed many who expected Him to take over the world, literally. Instead, He hangs on a cross and dies a criminal’s death – a death of immense cruelty.
He must be “a leper;” “a man God has smitten and brought low.” He must be of no account, after all. Oh, too bad. How awful. I guess I was a fool to follow him. I’ve got to find a good place to hide. I don’t want to wind up hanging next to him!
Here is the key difference ( beyond the obvious that our Adversary is evil and our Lord is good ) between Satan and God — Satan offers us a wage that we earn; God offers a gift that is free and that no amount of effort or good intention can earn.
Sin offers death, for wages; God offers us eternal life as a free gift, through Christ Jesus our Lord.
Paul worries about the Colossians – they do not know him personally. He is with them in spirit, but not face to face. He is concerned they are deceived by high-sounding, religious jabber that may call them away from our Head, that is, Jesus Christ who is the full embodiment of “the Godhead.” Paul seeks to encourage them to avoid the principles which appear spiritual on the outside and follow after the One who nailed those principles to a Cross. He writes:
“as ye have taken Jesus Christ our Lord, walk ye in him,
7 and be ye rooted and builded above in him [rooted and built above in Christ], and confirmed in the belief, as ye have learned, abounding in him in doing of thankings.
8 See ye that no man deceive you by philosophy and vain fallacy, after the tradition of men, after the elements of the world, and not after Christ.
9 For in him dwelleth body-like all the fullness of the Godhead.”
Paul calls the Colossians to “abound in Him in doing of thankings” and in so doing, confirm themselves as “in the belief.” They are not to worry over whether they’ve eaten the right thing or celebrated the correct day; rather they are to abound in love, in unity, and in thanksgiving. As Paul writes elsewhere:
“8 The time will come when we shall outgrow prophecy, when speaking with tongues will come to an end, when knowledge will be swept away; we shall never have finished with charity. 9 Our knowledge, our prophecy, are only glimpses of the truth; 10 and these glimpses will be swept away when the time of fulfilment comes. 11 (Just so, when I was a child, I talked like a child, I had the intelligence, the thoughts of a child; since I became a man, I have outgrown childish ways.) 12 At present, we are looking at a confused reflection in a mirror; then, we shall see face to face; now, I have only glimpses of knowledge; then, I shall recognize God as he has recognized me. 13 Meanwhile, faith, hope and charity persist, all three; but the greatest of them all is charity.” (1 Corinthians 13: 8-13, KNOX)
No law gives what the Spirit gives, says Paul. The Spirit yields a harvest, says Paul. The law does not, and can not. The law is capable only of pointing out sin. This is the law’s value – that it convicts us of wrongdoings.
But the Spirit, says Paul, yields a better harvest – its fruits are “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, forbearance, gentleness, faith, courtesy, temperateness, purity.”
These qualities emerge not from awareness of sin, but from the power of our God, indwelling as the Holy Spirit.
Whereas the spirit yields a harvest of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, forbearance, gentleness, faith, courtesy, temperateness, purity. No law can touch lives such as these;
The author of your hope – if you are a Christian – is God. He fills you with joy and peace “in your believing.” He desires for you to “hope in abundance.” You must recognize your hope comes “through the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Perhaps you try to generate this joy and peace and hope through sheer will-power. Stop trying so hard. Jesus says, “I Am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” He says, “I have come that you may have life, and that abundantly.” He promises, “I go to prepare a place for you, and if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again. If it were not so, I would have told you.”
Therefore, Paul prays:
May God, the author of our hope, fill you with all joy and peace in your believing; so that you may have hope in abundance, through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Paul the Apostle reminds us – quite strongly here – that we are no longer underneath a weight of guilt; we are free from its power to hold us back, to keep us downtrodden, to make us ashamed. Not only are we free from guilt and its power; we are free not to sin. For even as sin gives occasion for grace, God forbid – says Paul – that we would continue in it. For how “can we breathe its air again?” he asks.
I love this image – breathing the dead air of sin. With our fascination with zombies ( in the USA, at any rate ), we likely have a visceral reaction to imagining walking among dead people, breathing the air around them. Don’t we hope to be as far away from that corrupted flesh as possible? I would think so!
“Does it follow that we ought to go on sinning, to give still more occasion for grace? 2 God forbid. We have died, once for all, to sin; can we breathe its air again? 3 You know well enough that we who were taken up into Christ by baptism have been taken up, all of us, into his death.4 In our baptism, we have been buried with him, died like him, that so, just as Christ was raised up by his Father’s power from the dead, we too might live and move in a new kind of existence.5 We have to be closely fitted into the pattern of his resurrection, as we have been into the pattern of his death;[a]6 we have to be sure of this, that our former nature has been crucified with him, and the living power of our guilt annihilated, so that we are the slaves of guilt no longer.[b]7 Guilt makes no more claim on a man who is dead.[c]8 And if we have died with Christ, we have faith to believe that we shall share his life. 9 We know that Christ, now he has risen from the dead, cannot die any more; death has no more power over him; 10 the death he died was a death, once for all, to sin; the life he now lives is a life that looks towards God.[d]11 And you, too, must think of yourselves as dead to sin, and alive with a life that looks towards God, through Christ Jesus our Lord.”