Several years ago, when I worked at a Christian Book and Music Store, my dad paid me a surprise visit. After the traditional hug was exchanged, I walked him around the store, stopping at the art piece pictured below, taken from the painting, “Forgiven,” by Thomas Blackshear II. (Dad actually surprised me by getting me this for Christmas the following year). This piece has always got to me; the man is obviously bone-weary, exhausted, and it’s only the love and support of the Savior preventing him from failing. I can relate to that aspect of it, but moreso the tools in his hands.
The man has a large nail (more like a spike, really) in his left hand and a hammer in his right hand, and the nail-scarred hands of Christ can be seen. Translation: even though the man’s wrongdoings were what nailed Jesus to the cross, the Lord still forgave him.
Jesus, the Christ, was tortured, executed, martyred. For me. For you.
Sometimes I look in the mirror and wonder, “Why on Earth would You do that, Lord? I’m beyond unworthy. My transgressions have metaphorically nailed You to that cross ten thousand times over the years, yet You still love me.”
I don’t get it, man. I really don’t, but thank God for it.
In the Bible, Isaiah had a prophetic utterance regarding the terrible suffering Jesus endured on our behalf. For those who take the time to study these verses carefully, I believe you’ll find them as fascinating and heartbreaking as I do:
“The servant grew up before God—a scrawny seedling,
a scrubby plant in a parched field.
There was nothing attractive about him,
nothing to cause us to take a second look.
He was looked down on and passed over,
a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand.
One look at him and people turned away.
We looked down on him, thought he was scum.
But the fact is, it was our pains he carried—
our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us.
We thought he brought it on himself,
that God was punishing him for his own failures.
But it was our sins that did that to him,
that ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins!
He took the punishment, and that made us whole.
Through his bruises we get healed.
We’re all like sheep who’ve wandered off and gotten lost.
We’ve all done our own thing, gone our own way.
And God has piled all our sins, everything we’ve done wrong,
on him, on him.
“He was beaten, he was tortured,
but he didn’t say a word.
Like a lamb taken to be slaughtered
and like a sheep being sheared,
he took it all in silence.
Justice miscarried, and he was led off—
and did anyone really know what was happening?
He died without a thought for his own welfare,
beaten bloody for the sins of my people.
They buried him with the wicked,
threw him in a grave with a rich man,
Even though he’d never hurt a soul
or said one word that wasn’t true.
“Still, it’s what God had in mind all along,
to crush him with pain.
The plan was that he give himself as an offering for sin
so that he’d see life come from it—life, life, and more life.
And God’s plan will deeply prosper through him.
“Out of that terrible travail of soul,
he’ll see that it’s worth it and be glad he did it.
Through what he experienced, my righteous one, my servant,
will make many ‘righteous ones,’
as he himself carries the burden of their sins.
Therefore I’ll reward him extravagantly—
the best of everything, the highest honors—
Because he looked death in the face and didn’t flinch,
because he embraced the company of the lowest.
He took on his own shoulders the sin of the many,
he took up the cause of all the black sheep (Isaiah 53:2-12 MSG).”
Next Time: “Jesus, Loser and Lord”