OUT OF TOMES
The writings of theologians and pastors who have come before us can serve as an invitation to think more prolongedly and with greater specificity on God, and His glorious works and ways. In this ongoing series, I cull quotations on passages of Scripture from Christian Classics Ethereal Library to help spur your consideration, discernment, mediation, and worship. You can link to the full sources below or start your own search on a biblical text here.
As I await Christ’s glorious second coming, I do not miss the greater difficulty and, in a sense, the superior grandeur of His first mission. God was not esteemed. God was not esteemed? And yet, the humblest has been most highly exalted (Matt. 23:12; Phil. 2:9).
All that we might witness in Jesus’ first coming—all of the peace He brought, the sorrows He bore, the friendship toward mankind! Can I look at God’s awe-inspiring character and step forward asking Him to bring peace to my life on my terms? When I look to this God and what He has done, I think: He is beautiful. May I become more like Him, the epitome of humility and service.
Now, have you come to Christ for peace and left wanting?
Perhaps that is because you have not yet known that God defines mankind’s needs, in addition to mankind’s way to peace; perhaps you do not yet agree with God about your needs. John Calvin reflects that Christ came not merely to cure bodies, but to cure souls. Through faith in Christ, the eternal penalty for sin is removed and the soul is able to esteem the Baby we celebrate at Christmastime as Lord. All people are born in sin—all people are born needing to make a transfer of allegiance from serving self to serving Christ.
He came to give Himself up for all who would come to Him so that we might have the privilege of giving ourselves up to this humblest and highest One. Be reassured that peace can be found on these terms—the Lord’s terms—and that it is free to all who would come.
…Christ cured various diseases; though it is certain that he was appointed not to cure bodies, but rather to cure souls; for it is of spiritual disease that the Prophet intends to speak. But in the miracles which Christ performed in curing bodies, he gave a proof of the salvation which he brings to our souls. That healing had therefore a more extensive reference than to bodies, because he was appointed to be the physician of souls; and accordingly Matthew applies to the outward sign what belonged to the truth and reality.
The passages in which Christ is represented as a sacrifice for sin, are too numerous to be here specially considered. The New Testament, and particularly the Epistle to the Hebrews, as before remarked, declares and teaches, that the priesthood of the old economy was a type of the priesthood of Christ; that the sacrifices of that dispensation were types of his sacrifice; that as the blood of bulls and of goats purified the flesh, so the blood of Christ cleanses the soul from guilt; and that as they were expiations effected by vicarious punishment, in their sphere, so was the sacrifice of Christ in the infinitely higher sphere to which his work belongs. Such being the relation between the Old Economy and the New, the whole sacrificial service of the Mosaic institutions, becomes to the Christian an extended and irresistible proof and exhibition of the work of Christ as an expiation for the sins of the world, and a satisfaction to the justice of God.
It is not however only in the typical services of the old economy that this great doctrine was set forth in the Hebrew Scriptures. In the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah this doctrine is presented with a clearness and copiousness which have extorted assent from the most unwilling minds. The prophet in that chapter not only foretells that the Messiah was to be a man of sorrows; not only that He was to suffer the greatest indignities and be put to a violent death; not only that these sufferings were endured for the benefit of others; but that they were truly vicarious, i.e., that He suffered, in our stead, the penalty which we had incurred, in order to our deliverance. This is done not only in those forms of expression which most naturally admit of this interpretation, but in others which can, consistently with usage and the analogy of Scripture, be understood in no other way. To the former class belong such expressions as the following, “He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows.” Our griefs and our sorrows are the griefs and sorrows which we deserved. These Christ bore in the sense of enduring, for He carried them as a burden.
At this point let us speak of His healings. Isaiah says thus: He took our infirmities and bare our sicknesses: (Isa. liii. 4) that is to say, He shall take, and shall bear. For there are passages in which the Spirit of God through the prophets recounts things that are to be as having taken place. For that which with God is essayed and conceived of as determined to take place, is reckoned as having already taken place: and the Spirit, regarding and seeing the time in which the issues of the prophecy are fulfilled, utters the words (accordingly). And concerning the kind of healing, thus will He make mention, saying: In that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and in darkness and in me the eyes of the blind shall see.
He had not come on earth to take a kingdom, but to die. He had not come to reign and be ministered to; but to shed his blood as a sacrifice, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
It is almost impossible for us to conceive how strange and incomprehensible these tidings must have seemed to his disciples. Like most of the Jews, they could form no idea of a suffering Messiah. They did not understand that Isaiah 53 must be fulfilled literally; they did not see that the sacrifices of the law were all meant to point them to the death of the true Lamb of God. They thought of nothing but the second glorious coming of Messiah, which is yet to take place at the end of the world.
In the Hebrew for "borne," or took, there is probably the double notion, He took on Himself vicariously (so Isa 53:5, 6, 8, 12), and so He took away; His perfect humanity whereby He was bodily afflicted for us, and in all our afflictions (Isa 63:9; Heb 4:15) was the ground on which He cured the sick; […] Messiah's time of darkness was temporary (Mt 27:45), answering to the bruising of His heel; Satan's is to be eternal, answering to the bruising of his head (compare Isa 50:10).
—Jamieson, Faust, and Brown
Break forth, O beauteous heav'nly light,
and usher in the morning;
O shepherds, shrink not with affright,
but hear the angel's warning.
This Child, now weak in infancy,
our confidence and joy shall be;
the pow'r of Satan breaking,
our peace eternal making.
Break forth, O beauteous heav'nly light,
to herald our salvation;
He stoops to earth–the God of might,
our hope and expectation.
He comes in human flesh to dwell,
our God with us, Immanuel;
the night of darkness ending,
our fallen race befriending.