In every pang that rends the heart,The man of sorrows had a part;
With boldness, therefore, at the throne
Let us make all our sorrows known.
“He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows …” (Isaiah 53:3-4, ESV)
Behind the story of Jesus’ baptism and temptation is the principle that Jesus experienced everything that we could experience. This is both for his work of redemption, that he would be “made like his siblings,” but also because of the compassion of God. Compassion comes from the Latin words for “suffer with.” Jesus, in his baptism and temptation, before he could begin ministering to the world, had to enter into our suffering.
Isaiah calls the Messiah “a Man of Sorrows.” But the Hebrew word there does not refer only to emotional trouble. Some versions call him “a man of suffering,” and that can refer to physical or non-physical suffering. The same word is used for physical suffering when God promises that he will redeem the sons of Israel from Egypt:
“And the LORD said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows.” (Exodus 3:7)
It is also the same word used in Isaiah 53:4: “He has carried our sorrows.”
Christ’s physical suffering allows him both to comfort and heal us in our physical suffering. The HCSB translation does not shy away from this:
“He was despised and rejected by men, a man of suffering who knew what sickness was. He Himself bore our sicknesses, and He carried our pains …” (Isaiah 53:3-4, HCSB)
Jesus’ redemption plan includes suffering; it includes pain; and most importantly, it includes sin. We cannot talk about the symptoms without talking about the disease, and we cannot cure the symptoms without curing the disease:
“But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5, ESV)
Many have tried to re-interpret and reconfigure this passage, but there is no escaping the prophecy, hundreds of years before Christ, of a human redeemer, a man of suffering, executed as a criminal, though having done no violence (v. 8-9); presented as an offering for sin (v. 10); and satisfied by the results of his suffering, when his days are prolonged, which could only happen through his resurrection. (v. 11-12)
Jesus by his suffering represents our suffering to God, and God’s suffering to us. God gave his Son to show us that even at our darkest, he knows every affliction we are going through. Not only does he sympathize with suffering sinners, but he became sin for us, so that we could become the righteousness of God.
Jesus, thank you for showing us the compassion of God, in that even while we were enemies, you chose to take upon yourself our fallen estate, and deal with our sins as the root of all our suffering and trouble.