To help the seeker to a true faith in Jesus, I would remind him of the work of the Lord Jesus in the room and place and stead of sinners.
"For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” (Rom 5:6). "Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree." (I Peter 2:24). "The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all." (Isa 53:6). "For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God." (I Peter 3:18).
Upon one declaration of Scripture let the reader fix his eye. "With His stripes we are healed" (Isa 53:5). God here treats sin as a disease, and He sets before us the costly remedy which He has provided.
I ask you very solemnly to accompany me in your meditations for a few minutes, while I bring before you the stripes of the Lord Jesus. The Lord resolved to restore us, and therefore He sent His only begotten Son, "very God of very God" that He might descend into this world to take upon Himself our nature in order for our redemption. He lived as a man among men. In due time, after thirty years or more of obedience, the time came when He should do us the greatest service of all, namely, stand in our stead and bear "the chastisement of our peace" (Isa 53:5). He went to Gethsemane; and there at the first taste of our bitter cup, He sweat great drops of blood. He went to Pilate's hall and Herod's judgment-seat, and there He drank draughts of pain and scorn in our room and place. Last of all, they took Him to the cross and nailed Him there to die—to die in our stead.
The word stripes is used to set forth His sufferings, both of body and of soul. The whole of Christ was made a sacrifice for us. His whole manhood suffered. As to His body, it shared with His mind in a grief that never can be described. In the beginning of His passion, when He emphatically suffered instead of us, He was in an agony; and from His bodily frame a bloody sweat distilled so copiously as to fall to the ground.
It is a very rare occurrence that a man sweats blood. There have been one or two instances of it, and they have been followed by almost immediate death. But our Savior lived—lived after an agony which to anyone else would have proved fatal. Before He could cleanse His face from this dreadful crimson, they hurried Him to the high priest's hall. In the dead of night they bound Him and led Him away. Anon they took Him to Pilate and to Herod. These scourged Him, and their soldiers spat in His face and buffeted Him, and put on His head a crown of thorns.
Scourging is one of the most awful tortures that can be inflicted by malice. It was formerly the disgrace of the British army that the "cat" was used upon the soldier—a brutal infliction of torture. But to the Roman, cruelty was so natural that he made his common punishments worse than brutal. The Roman scourge is said to have been made of the sinews of oxen, twisted into knots, and into these knots were inserted slivers of bone and huckle-bones of sheep. Every time the scourge fell upon the bare back, "the plowers plowed upon my back: they made long their furrows" (Psa. 129:3). Our Savior was called upon to endure the fierce pain of the Roman scourge; and this not as the finish of His punishment, but as a preface to crucifixion. To this His persecutors added buffeting and plucking out the hair. They spared Him no form of pain.
In all His faintness, through bleeding and fasting, they made Him carry His cross until another was forced by the forethought of their cruelty to bear it, lest their victim should die on the road. They stripped Him, threw Him down, and nailed Him to the wood. They pierced His hands and His feet. They lifted up the tree with Him upon it and then dashed it down into its place in the ground, so that all His limbs were dislocated according to the lament of the psalmist, "I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint (Psa. 22:14a).
He hung on the cross in the burning sun until the fever dissolved His strength, and He said, "My heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels. My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death." (Psa. 22:14b-15). There He hung, a spectacle to God and men. The weight of His body was first sustained by His feet, until the nails tore through the tender nerves. Then the painful load began to drag upon His hands and rend those sensitive parts of His frame. How small a wound in the hand has brought on lockjaw! How awful must have been the torment caused by that dragging iron tearing through the delicate parts of the hands and feet!
Now were all manner of bodily pains centered in His tortured frame. All the while His enemies stood around, pointing at Him in scorn, thrusting out their tongues in mockery, jesting at His prayers, and gloating over His sufferings. He cried, "I thirst" (John 19:28), and then they gave Him vinegar mingled with gall. After a while He said, "It is finished" (John 19:30). He had endured the utmost of appointed grief and had made full vindication to divine justice. Then, and not until then, He gave up the ghost.
Holy men of old have enlarged most lovingly upon the bodily sufferings of our Lord, and I have no hesitation in doing the same, trusting that trembling sinners may see salvation in these painful "stripes" of the Redeemer. To describe the outward sufferings of our Lord is not easy. 1 acknowledge that I have failed.
Christ's soul-sufferings, which were the soul of His sufferings, who can even conceive, much less express what they were? At the very first I told you that He sweat great drops of blood. That was His heart driving out its life-floods to the surface through the terrible depression of spirit which was upon Him. He said, "My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death" (Mat 26:38). The betrayal by Judas and the desertion of the twelve grieved our Lord, but the weight of our sin was the real pressure on His heart. Our guilt was the olive-press which forced from Him the moisture of His life. No language can ever tell His agony in prospect of His passion. How little then can we conceive the passion itself?
When nailed to the cross, He endured what no martyr ever suffered. Martyrs, when they have died, have been so sustained of God that they have rejoiced amid their pain. But our Redeemer was forsaken of His Father until He cried, "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” (Mat 27:46). That was the bitterest cry of all, the utmost depth of His unfathomable grief.
Yet it was necessary that He should be deserted because God must turn His back on sin and consequently upon Him who was "made to be sin for us" (2Co 5:21). The soul of the great Substitute suffered a horror of misery instead of that horror of hell into which sinners would have been plunged had He not taken their sin upon Himself and been made a curse for them. It is written, "Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree" (Gal 3:13). But who knows what that curse means?
The remedy for your sins and mine is found in the substitutionary sufferings of the Lord Jesus and in these only. These "stripes" of the Lord Jesus Christ were on our behalf. Do you ask, "Is there anything for us to do, to remove the guilt of sin?" I answer: "There is nothing whatever for you to do. By the stripes of Jesus we are healed. All those stripes He has endured and left not one of them for us to bear."
"But must we not believe on Him?" Yes, certainly. If I say of a certain ointment that it heals, I do not deny that you need a bandage with which to apply it to the wound. Faith is the linen which binds the piaster of Christ's reconciliation to the sore of our sin. The linen does not heal; that is the work of the ointment. So faith does not heal; that is the work of the atonement of Christ.
"But we must repent," cries another. Assuredly we must and shall, for repentance is the first sign of healing. But the stripes of Jesus heal us and not our repentance. These stripes, when applied to the heart, work repentance in us. We hate sin because it made Jesus suffer.
When you intelligently trust in Jesus as having suffered for you, then you discover the fact that God will never punish you for the same offense for which Jesus died. His justice will not permit Him to see the debt paid, first by the Surety, and then again by the debtor. Justice cannot twice demand a recompense. If my bleeding Surety has borne my guilt, then I cannot bear it. Accepting Christ Jesus as suffering for me, I have accepted a complete discharge from judicial liability. I have been condemned in Christ, and there is therefore now no condemnation to me anymore. This is the groundwork of the security of the sinner who believes in Jesus. He lives because Jesus died in his place and stead. He is acceptable before God because Jesus is accepted. The person for whom Jesus is an accepted Substitute must go free. None can touch him. He is clear.
O my hearer, will you have Jesus Christ to be your Substitute? If so, you are free. "He that believeth on him is not condemned.” (John 3:18). Thus "With His stripes we are healed.” (Isa 53:5).
From Around the Wicket Gate. By Charles H. Spurgeon 1834-1892