THE HEALING POWER OF THE CROSS

I was staring at a bull in church. The bull was on a jacket. It looked aggressive, intimidating—like the Chicago Bulls are. I thought of mascots like the Timberwolves, the Bears, the Giants, the Vikings.  I’ve got one I’d like to recommend—how about the Minnesota Lambs?  Laughable?  Fact is, that is God’s symbol of strength. The testimony will read that “they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb” (Rev. 12:11a). 

The world views strength as domination, control, conquest.  God’s power is shown in surrender. Jesus said, “I have power to lay down my life.“ God takes delight in showing a rebellious world how puny it is.  “For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength” (I Corinthians 1:25).  

The prophet (Isaiah 53:1-6) introduces this Lamb. Far from being either attractive, overpowering, or domineering, he was a reject,  an insignificant “root out of dry ground” (v.2a).  Rather than astounding the crowds, the writer wonders, “Who has believed our message?” (v.1). Instead of being received by the human family, he was repulsed.   He said “yes” to rejection from the get-go, from a shameful birth by a young mother who didn’t have a husband, to an itinerant traveling ministry that embarrassed his family, to an excruciating death with his naked body pinned to a cross on a main thoroughfare. In this action we see Christ’s power to heal sin, sorrow, and sickness!

THE CROSS BRINGS HEALING FROM SIN.  Some may say, “We don’t need healing; we need forgiveness.” At a seminar I went to at San Pedro Hospital, they spoke of alcoholism as a disease.  I felt like objecting: “No, it is sin.”  But I thought about the words of Jesus to the Pharisees:  “They that are well have no need of a physician but they that are sick” (Matt. 9:12). I also thought of the prophet Isaiah, saying that “he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Is. 53:5).  Peter wrote centuries later that “he himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed” (I Pe. 2:24).

What we need to know is that the cross brings healing not only from the penalty of sin but also from its power.  To forgive the sinner lifts the guilt.  Jesus said to the woman caught in adultery, “Neither do I condemn you…” (John 8:11a).  It gave her power to receive the truth that followed:  “Go and sin no more.”

THE CROSS BRINGS HEALING FROM SORROW.   We have sinned, but we have also been sinned against.  Sin brings guilt; sorrow brings shame and sadness.   A man forsakes his family for another woman. Another hopes for a promotion and instead is terminated unjustly after thirty years of loyal service.  A sister cheats her brother out of the inheritance, and he barely makes ends meet for the next ten years.  Filled with bitterness, he becomes an alcoholic. We need healing because our hearts have been broken by sorrow. Good news: Jesus is the healer of broken hearts.  His hometown sermon was taken from Isaiah 61:  “He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted…” (1b).  And He did that through the power of the cross:  “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows…” (Isaiah 53:4a).  The psalmist wrote, “He has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted” (Psalm 22:24).  He so strongly identifies with the sorrowful that “in all their affliction he was afflicted” (Isaiah 63:9). Many carry the pain of the past, with an identity tied to their sorrow.  “I am the divorced woman,”  “I am the man who lost his job,”  “we lost our child”.  We need to know that there is power in the cross to lift the shadows that put a cloud over our future.  Jesus can give us a “crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair” (Isaiah 61:3). The psalmist writes confidently, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Ps. 147:3). The cross heals not only sin, but it also heals sorrow! Good news!

THE CROSS BRINGS HEALING FROM SICKNESS.   The invitation of the master for Matthew to follow him brought two surprises:  that Jesus would call a tax-gatherer (otherwise known as a thief),  and that Matthew would respond to the offer.   When Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law, it turned into a public healing service.  Matthew thought back on the day as he wrote, “This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:  ‘He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases’” (Matthew 8:17). I find no greater reason to pray for the sick than this—that on the cross Jesus not only carried our sins and our sorrows but our sicknesses as well.  

On what basis can we pray for healing for family members and friends. God revealed Himself as a healer before revealing Himself as a Father. We read, “…for I am the Lord, your healer” (Exodus 15:26). They didn’t know yet to say, “Our Father,” but they could call God, “Our Healer!”

Jesus wants us to apply the cross to our sins, our sorrows, and our sicknesses.  “He shall see the fruit of the travail of his soul and be pleased” (Isaiah 53:10b). John could hear all of heaven, including “myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain’” (Rev. 5:11,12).  May you know the power of the cross and of the Lamb in your life—today.

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