Summary: The message is a reflection on the sacrifice of the Christ--why it was necessary for Him to be pierced and why it was required that He be crushed. The message is a reminder that our peace results from His suffering in our place.

“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.” [1]

Midst the ubiquitous celebrations of this Christmas Season, as the streets of our cities are decorated with colourful banners and houses are festooned with multicoloured lights, Christians must be reminded of the reason for our celebration. As families gather for meals, seated together around tables groaning under the weight of meals carefully prepared, and as the adults toast one another with libations they would not otherwise quaff at any other time of the year, it is far too easy to forget what we are celebrating. A visitor from another planet might carry back to those awaiting a report of far-flung intergalactic travels a report that the people of earth celebrate the fact that they can celebrate. That visitor might well report that during the Christmas Season the people of earth are enthusiastic, even ecstatic, about the feasting, the drinking, the partying that benignly ignores the excess. That visitor from a distant planet might report, “The people of earth are celebrating because they can celebrate.”

When we actually pause to think about what we celebrate, we are not rejoicing over a child in a dirty feed-trough, we are rejoicing in the knowledge that we have received a pardon—a pardon from condemnation that we richly deserve. We were born under sentence of death. A child is born into a family, and we celebrate. We rejoice because the innocence of that child bespeaks promise. No one can say what that child might accomplish during the few years of life, but we are filled with hope.

There is, however, a dark truth that haunts any celebration of the birth of a child—and that dark truth is that death reigns. Though the child may live ever so long, and our hopes are for a long life, that life must end in death. That is the dark confession made by the Apostle when he wrote, “Just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come” [ROMANS 5:12-14]. Death reigned; and death reigns.

Though death appears to reign at this present time, it is the child lying in that dirty manger Who will conquer death and give hope to broken humanity. Our first father sinned, plunging the race into ruin, and ensuring that death would reign over mankind. When the child in the manger is grown, He will give His life as a sacrifice for mankind’s broken condition, delivering us from death, provided that we accept His gift. Therefore, we read, “If, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ” [ROMANS 5:17].

The Apostle sums up the argument by pointing to all that God has done, writing, “Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” [ROMANS 5:18-21].

Christmas is not about the birth of a child, then; Christmas points forward to the provision of life for all. Christmas points forward to deliverance from death, the conquest of death, hell and the grave, the victory of life for those who are willing to receive the gift that God provides through the sacrifice of Christ the Lord. Christmas shifts our gaze away from our personal celebration to the One who was wounded for us. We who are broken and in need of redemption are at the centre of the need for Christmas. Our frail, weak condition is central to the story of the Advent of the Christ. For without Christ’s taking on human flesh, He could not have provided the sacrifice we required in order to be reconciled to God.

Thus, Isaiah speaks of our need when he writes,

“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.”

Christ Jesus, the Son of God was born of a virgin so that He might provide His sinless life as a sacrifice for our sin. Now, because of His sacrifice, I am able to proclaim, as do all who are twice-born, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” [GALATIANS 2:20].

PIERCED FOR OUR TRANSGRESSIONS — “He was pierced for our transgressions.” Reading Isaiah’s words, it almost seems as if Isaiah stood before the cross witnessing all that took place there. It is as if Isaiah saw the nails pierce His wrists to pinion Him to the tree. It would be easy to believe that Isaiah saw the nail driven through the calcaneus to affix the Son of God to the cross. As we read what is written, it appears that the Prophet actually witnessed the spear thrust upward through the Saviour’s side, piercing the diaphragm, and slicing into the pericardial sac. “He was pierced for our transgressions.”

It is easy to overlook the smaller elements of our sentences. Our mind functions in such a way that even if one of these smaller elements of grammar should be missing, we compensate for the absence without actually thinking of what has been omitted from the sentence. For instance, in the opening words of our text, a preposition may easily be overlooked; and yet that preposition is critical. We understand what is written without actually thinking about what we have read.

We focus on the fact that the One of whom Isaiah wrote was pierced, and we focus on the fact that this One was crushed. It is certainly important to recognize Who was pierced and Who was crushed, but of itself, that recognition misses the thrust of what the prophet was saying. The preposition “for” makes this divine assertion meaningful.

Isaiah is emphasizing the truth that we who are the redeemed of the Lord are a people divinely loved. The Prophet’s words anticipate the testimony of the Apostle to the Gentiles, who has testified, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” [GALATIANS 2:20]. There is the focus that each follower of Christ must see—the Son of God loved me and gave Himself for me! Make that statement personal. If you have never personally applied that statement to yourself, do so now: “The Son of God loved me and gave Himself for me!” And if you’ve made that confession at some point in the past, reaffirm your position now, saying, “The Son of God loved me and gave Himself for me!”

When Isaiah makes the assertion that Messiah was pierced for our transgression, it is essential that we remember that important as it is to recognise Jesus as the One Who was pierced, the Messiah is not the focus of Isaiah’s words—it is us who are redeemed who are the focus of divine mercy and grace. If we had not been broken and ruined by the Fall, we would not need One to be pierced in our place, we would not need One to be crushed because of our iniquities. However, it is precisely because we are each laden with transgressions and because we are each filled with iniquities that we needed One willing to take our place. We needed One Who would allow Himself to be crushed beneath the weight of our sins. We needed One Who would receive in Himself our pain, our grief, our brokenness, our sin—and that One is the Son of God. We needed a Deliverer, and the Living God has provided that Deliverer in the Person of His Son.

When we read the word “transgressions,” we have a general idea of what is meant. The fundamental idea of the word Isaiah used speaks of a breach of relationships between two parties. The word might speak of rebellion against a ruler, it could indicate casting off allegiance to one to whom allegiance is due, or it could speak of a crime. [2] The essential concept that should be carried away as we read what the Prophet has written is that each of us have committed transgressions, acts that are contrary to a standard. What is more horrendous still is that the primary focus of this particular word is on the rebellious nature of the sin. [3]

We are rebels at heart! And our rebellion is against the Living God. We have sinned against the Creator, the True and Living God, by exalting our desires above His will. And we have been in rebellion since birth! Shortly, the Prophet will write,

“All we like sheep have gone astray;

we have turned—every one—to his own way;

and the LORD has laid on him

the iniquity of us all.”

[ISAIAH 53:6]

We chose our own way rather than choosing the path that God marks out for us. We wandered off as though the will of the Father didn’t matter. Like stupid sheep, we followed what was evil and wicked rather than seeking what is good and noble.

I know you’ve heard what the Apostle has written at other times, but I invite you to listen again to Paul’s words in light of Isaiah’s mournful cry for broken humanity. Bringing together numerous sentences condemning us that are found in the ancient texts, Paul summed up our condition, writing,

“‘None is righteous, no, not one;

no one understands;

no one seeks for God.

All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;

no one does good,

not even one.’

“Their throat is an open grave;

they use their tongues to deceive.’

‘The venom of asps is under their lips.’

‘Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.’

‘Their feet are swift to shed blood;

in their paths are ruin and misery,

and the way of peace they have not known.’

‘There is no fear of God before their eyes.’”

[ROMANS 3:10b-18]

Had we never rebelled, if we were not rebels at heart, it would not have been necessary for the Son of God to provide His life as a sacrifice. However, we are a rebel race! Our race was born in rebellion. Our first parents were created to know God, to walk with the LORD and to enjoy sweet fellowship with Him. However, our first mother was deceived, and our first father chose to rebel against the LORD who gave Him life. Therefore, it is written, “Just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come” [ROMANS 5:12-14].

What a dark reminder we confront when we read David’s words written after he had been confronted for his sin against God because he slept with Bathsheba and ordered Uriah, her husband, to be executed. David confessed a truth that few of us appreciate,

“Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,

and in sin did my mother conceive me.”

[PSALM 51:5]

We are delighted to have our little ones nearby. Their presence speaks of life and innocence. Thus, we rejoice to witness their vitality, and the more so as they are learning of the love of God. However, we must never forget that they are sinners from birth. We each went astray from birth. We are confident that the innocent are kept safe in Christ, though they are not necessarily saved. Little ones have not become conscious of their sinful condition, and thus they can not understand the need for salvation through faith in Christ the Risen Saviour. Nevertheless, sin contaminates all that lives in our world.

The suffering saint, Job, was undoubtedly correct when he asked the question,

“Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?

There is not one.”

[JOB 14:4]

Though Eliphaz was hardly a paragon of righteousness, though he proved himself to be biased and bigoted, he nevertheless spoke a great truth when he said,

“What is man, that he can be pure?

Or he who is born of a woman, that he can be righteous?”

[JOB 15:14]

Eliphaz’ statement recognizes that each of us is born dying. We are under sentence of death from our mother’s womb. What is more distressing still is that impurity marks the paths of our lives because we began without perfection. We may smile at the newborn child and coo that she is just perfect, but inwardly, we know that this child must one day die. She will live, and then she will die.

Someone has noted that our life can be summed up with a hyphen. One day we will lie in a tomb, and a stone above the place where we are laid will give pertinent information: The Date We Were Born – The Date We Died. A hyphen will separate those two dates, and that hyphen will serve to describe the sum of our life. We began life on a certain day and we concluded life on another day, and everything between those two dates will be indicated by a hyphen. The hyphen may bespeak of a period of many years, or the hyphen may indicate a matter of days. However, the time between the beginning and the end can be recorded in a few words.

James, the half-brother of our Lord, warns, “What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” [JAMES 4:14b]. There it is! The whole of our days can be described as a mist rising from the warm earth in the early morn to be pushed about by the gentle zephyrs before evaporating in the heat of the rising sun. The cycle repeated endlessly in multiple lives born only to end the days after a brief time. Surely it is true that our days are best described as a hyphen, a grammatical device to separate the beginning and the end.

When I think in this fashion, I understand the dark assessment of the Qohóleth. “What happens to the fool will happen to me also. Why then have I been so very wise?” And I said in my heart that this also is vanity. For of the wise as of the fool there is no enduring remembrance, seeing that in the days to come all will have been long forgotten. How the wise dies just like the fool! So I hated life, because what is done under the sun was grievous to me, for all is vanity and a striving after wind” [ECCLESIASTES 2:15-17].

These statements are but an anticipation of Jesus’ assertion, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” [JOHN 3:6]. All flesh is sinful and under sentence of death. How else are we able to account for the death of a little child? How can we account for the fact that sin brings death when the one who dies is so innocent? Is it not this, that we are born in sin, and the flesh is contaminated by an deadly virus we call “sin?” To make such a statement is not a surrender to the darkness—it is the assertion we are forced to make because of reality.

CRUSHED FOR OUR INIQUITIES — “He was crushed for our iniquities.” Is there a difference between a “transgression” and an “iniquity?” God’s Prophet, guided by the Holy Spirit, apparently held the opinion that there is a difference between these two concepts. Perhaps we can gain insight into Isaiah’s thinking by performing a lexicological study of these two words in that original language.

The words are similar, though there are critical differences in what is conveyed. The word that is translated “iniquities” comes from a word that evokes the concept of the home. The common meaning of this Hebrew word speaks of a wrong act with the focus on the liability or the guilt for the wrong. The understanding of this particular word would convey the idea of that which is bent, that which is perverted or made crooked. [4] Contrasted to that is the word translated “transgressions.” This word especially applies to those who reject God’s authority. [5] Therefore, we have two concepts introduced in the text—that which is made crooked and that which has rejected God’s authority. Either condition is serious; and either is sufficient to condemn us.

We have already spoken of the fact that Messiah would be pierced for our transgressions. Thus, the text has established that our estrangement from God condemned Messiah to be pierced because of our deliberate violation of God’s will. We rejected God, if not deliberately then by ignoring Him and refusing to do His will. This is our transgression for which Messiah would be pierced. To this point, we have not given much thought to the fact that Messiah would be crushed for our iniquities. Messiah must be crushed because we are bent and because we go astray, crushed because we cannot maintain straight paths. Therefore, let’s focus on the matter of our iniquities. Let’s think about those facets of our life that are bent and crooked.

Whenever we speak of our fallen condition, we are confronted by our depravity. There is nothing about my life that would compel Holy God to love me, much less like me. As Isaiah began his prophetic message, he confronted Israel, crying out,

“Ah, sinful nation,

a people laden with iniquity,

offspring of evildoers,

children who deal corruptly!

“Why will you still be struck down?

Why will you continue to rebel?

The whole head is sick,

and the whole heart faint.

From the sole of the foot even to the head,

there is no soundness in it,

but bruises and sores

and raw wounds.”

[Isaiah 1:4a, 5-6a]

What was written about Israel could have been written of the whole of mankind. We have nothing in us that could be said to be compelling to the Living God.

In a passage found later in this prophetic word, Isaiah writes of all mankind,

“We are all like one who is unclean,

all our so-called righteous acts are like a menstrual rag in your sight.

We all wither like a leaf;

our sins carry us away like the wind.

No one invokes your name,

or makes an effort to take hold of you.

For you have rejected us

and handed us over to our own sins.”


We have nothing to offer God that would compel Him to consider us. Years ago, an American divine preached a sermon that precipitated a massive turning to the Faith. As result of that sermon revival broke out and many were swept into the Kingdom of God.

In that justly notable sermon, the New England divine warned, “The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect, over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked: his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; he is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight; you are ten thousand times more abominable in his eyes, than the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours. You have offended him infinitely more than ever a stubborn rebel did his prince: and yet, it is nothing but his hand that holds you from falling into the fire every moment. It is to be ascribed to nothing else, that you did not go to hell the last night; that you was suffered to awake again in this world, after you closed your eyes to sleep. And there is no other reason to be given, why you have not dropped into hell since you arose in the morning, but that God’s hand has held you up. There is no other reason to be given why you have not gone to hell, since yon have sat here in the house of God, provoking his pure eyes by your sinful wicked manner of attending his solemn worship. Yea, there is nothing else that is to be given as a reason why you do not this very moment drop down into hell.” [6]

Lest you imagine the preacher to have been needlessly harsh, consider that he concluded the message with a plea to believe the Lord. The preacher pleaded with those who heard, “Let every one that is yet out of Christ, and hanging over the pit of hell, whether they be old men and women, or middle aged, or young people, or little children, now hearken to the loud calls of God’s word and providence. This acceptable year of the Lord, a day of such great favour to some, will doubtless be a day of as remarkable vengeance to others… Therefore, let every one that is out of Christ, now awake and fly from the wrath to come. The wrath of Almighty God is now undoubtedly hanging over a great part of this congregation. Let every one fly out of Sodom: ‘Haste and escape for your lives, look not behind you, escape to the mountain, lest you be consumed.’” [7]

I suppose it would be easy for any of us to dismiss the Prophet’s distinction of the two punitive actions inflicted upon Messiah—piercing and crushing. And in a similar manner, it would be relatively easy to argue that the reason for these two distinct actions was the same. However, one should not casually dismiss what is written. Surely, God means for us to recognize something of critical importance. Messiah was prophesied to be pierced for our transgressions; He was prophesied to be crushed for our iniquities. We must not miss the fact that we are the cause of Messiah’s suffering. Our rejection of God’s authority over our lives and our perverted perspective on life were the causes for Messiah’s sacrifice. We are guilty! And we are helpless! We require a Saviour.

When I read that the suffering Messiah would be crushed for our iniquities, my mind turns quite naturally to think of the weight of sin that pressed down on the Saviour. The Son of God took upon Himself the weight of sin for the totality of mankind. What the Son of God bore as He hung on the cross beggars imagination. It is impossible for any of us to even guess at the cost imposed upon the Saviour so that we could be set free.

CHASTISED FOR OUR PEACE — “Upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace.” Messiah took upon Himself our punishment—punishment that we deserved. Consequently, the peace that forever eluded the natural man was purchased by Messiah. All mankind longs for peace. However, the definition of peace differs dramatically, depending upon whom you happen to be speaking with. For many, perhaps even for most of mankind, peace speaks of a state of being undisturbed. If we are left alone to do what we want without restrictions, we say we are at peace. However, for the Christian who is walking in the Spirit of Christ, peace speaks of a state of confidence. Peace speaks of freedom from censure, freedom from condemnation, freedom from guilt, freedom to excel. Peace speaks of confidence that the Christian is accepted by the Father and that there is no condemnation because that believer is in Christ the Son of God.

Our world longs for peace; and yet, peace seems to elude us; peace seems to be just beyond our reach. Nations are in turmoil; worse still, human hearts are roiled and turbulent. Few seem capable of walking in confidence that reveals a heart at peace with itself or even with the world in which he lives. Years ago, I first read the words penned by Isaiah. Somehow, what he wrote concerning God’s offer of peace and the absence of peace for the lost seems apropos for our consideration at this point. Isaiah wrote,

“‘Peace, peace, to the far and to the near,’ says the LORD,

‘and I will heal him.

But the wicked are like the tossing sea;

for it cannot be quiet,

and its waters toss up mire and dirt.

There is no peace,’ says my God, for the wicked.’”

[ISAIAH 57:19b-21]

This is a great conundrum to me—the LORD offers peace, and the wicked refuse His offer of peace. How could it be otherwise, since we are cautioned in the Word of God, “The mind that focuses on human nature is hostile to God. It refuses to submit to the authority of God’s law because it is powerless to do so. Indeed, those who are under the control of human nature cannot please God” [ROMANS 8:7-8 ISV].

If the chastisement inflicted upon the Messiah was meant to bring us peace, then it follows that as I rest in Him I should experience peace. That is the expectation of reasonable people, and it is the experience of multiplied millions throughout the ages. This is the experience of people from multiplied cultures and societies. This must surely be the meaning of Jesus’ promise to each one willing to receive it. Jesus promised, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” [MATTHEW 11:28-30].

Imagine! You and I can find rest for our soul. Though the world is aflame with rage and bitterness, though relationships are destroyed and torn asunder for no valid reason, though our stability is repeatedly threatened, we can know peace by resorting to the Prince of Peace. Resting in Him, I can be confident. Though the whole world should crumble, I can plant my feet on the Rock that cannot be moved; and I shall be secure.

WOUNDED FOR US — “With His wounds we are healed.” Healed? Doesn’t that statement make you wonder what the affliction might have been that required healing? What debilitating condition so impacted our lives that we require healing? What is it within our makeup that requires healing? What it is that threatens us and thus demands healing? Within the Evangelical community are good people, sincere people, who argue that physical healing is the primary result of Christ being wounded. They cite this statement from Isaiah’s prophecy as “proof” of that assertion. But is that what is in view? Is God primarily concerned for our physical well-being, our health? Is that the reason why He sent His Son as a sacrifice, so we could be free of physical ailments?

Throughout the years of my service before the Saviour, I have heard the voices of prominent televangelists who insist that physical healing is in the atonement. Most of those individuals, despite their professed belief and despite even statements that supplicants who were not healed in their services didn’t have “enough” faith, somehow still managed to die. Their healing prowess didn’t deliver them from dying!

Kathryn Kuhlman thought she was able to heal; but she somehow failed to heal her diseased heart. Even as the pain increased, she was fearful that slowing down her “ministry” would invalidate her claim that God heals as she demanded of Him. In fact, she increased her appearances and healing services. A. A. Allen died during an alcoholic binge—unhealed! These are just two of a multitude of faith healers who died.

Listening to many voices within Evangelicalism, one would think that physical healing and personal comfort was the reason Jesus gave His life as a sacrifice on the Cross. And yet, for all the demands for physical healing, everyone that claims to have been healed dies in any case. Let me remind you of a dark truth that we don’t often speak about—every prayer for healing ultimately fails. What I mean is this—each person “healed” dies. This is equally true just as is true that each person who is not “healed” shall surely die. For any one of us, is it any less difficult to face death when we are dighty than it is to face death when we are twenty? Do people grieve less when a beloved grandparent dies than when a young father or mother dies? Death is indeed the last enemy [see 1 CORINTHIANS 15:26]. Despite the emphasis on physician assisted suicide in our world today, most of us are still of the opinion that willingly taking one’s life reveals desperation, a sense of hopelessness that overwhelms the individual. Thus, the one who chooses to take his or her life surrenders to an emotional and/or mental crisis.

Nevertheless, it remains true we are each under sentence of death. Here is a truth that must be confronted—we are tripartite beings. We possess a body which is dying from the moment of conception. We are living souls, and each soul must give an answer to God who gives us our being. We are spiritual beings, and our spirit is dead. When we come to Christ to receive the salvation which He purchased through His sacrifice on the Cross, we seek complete redemption. We need a new spirit, and God gives us His Holy Spirit who is from the point of salvation in us and with us. Our soul is saved, so that we have a new perspective on our existence. Having been saved, we now have the mind of Christ. This body is dying, but we have the promise of the resurrection so that we will be enabled to seek Christ as He is because we will be like Him.

Years ago, a song-writing duo contributed a marvellous hymn that is still found in many hymnals to this day. The words of this hymn provide a personal confession as each one singing the hymn admits, “Jesus was wounded for me.” The song progresses through the message of the Gospel, noting that Jesus died for me and that He rose for me. Then it lifts our eyes from this present moment to emphasize that He lives for me before culminating in the testimony that He is coming for me.

Wounded for me, wounded for me,

There on the cross He was wounded for me;

Gone my transgressions, and now I am free,

All because Jesus was wounded for me.

Dying for me, dying for me,

There on the cross He was dying for me;

Now in His death my redemption I see,

All because Jesus was dying for me.

Risen for me, risen for me,

Up from the grave He has risen for me;

Now evermore from death’s sting I am free,

All because Jesus has risen for me.

Living for me, living for me,

Up in the skies He is living for me;

Daily He’s pleading and praying for me,

All because Jesus is living for me.

Coming for me, coming for me,

One day to earth He is coming for me;

Then with what joy His dear face I shall see,

Oh, how I praise Him—He’s coming for me! [8]

Each Christian can testify—Jesus was wounded for me; Jesus died for me. However, our hope lies in the fact that Jesus has risen for me and that He is living for me. Were that all we had, it would be enough. However, each Christian can say, Jesus is coming for me.

Here, then, is the truth concerning the death of our Saviour. Jesus surrendered His life because of us. He died to rescue us from judgement because of our sinful, broken condition. Death is the condition each of us faces, and judgement after that. One writer has aptly written of the fate that lies before each of us in our fallen, lost condition. “It was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.” [HEBREWS 9:23-28].

It is the Advent Season, and the thoughts of Christians and even the thoughts of many outside of the Faith, turn to the birth of the Son of God—even if only for a brief moment. However, there is no particular joy, and certainly no universal joy, at the birth of a child if there is no benefit for all. Seven hundred fifty years before the Christ was born in Bethlehem, Isaiah prophesied that the purpose for His coming was to rescue lost people from judgement. This One would take upon Himself the sin of all mankind. He would taste death for all, so that none need suffer the judgement of Holy God.

Nevertheless, how will the lost know of the provision for life that God has provided if they are not told. To be certain, God has given us the Bible, the revelation of the mind of the Living God so that no one need claim ignorance of His will. However, not all will read the Bible, and most that do read it will dismiss what is written because they have no desire to give up their own wilful way. As God tells us, “This is the basis for judging: that the light has come into the world and people loved the darkness rather than the light, because their deeds were evil” [JOHN 3:19 NET BIBLE].

People have become so accustomed to the darkness of their lives that they are actually distressed and angry when their deeds are exposed as the light shines upon them. “I’m not as bad as some of you Christians!” they cry out, “I’m as good as you!” What is this except a puerile effort at deflection, a pitiful effort to avoid exposure as a sinner.

This is precisely why the Lord has left His people in the world. Our responsibility is to reveal the grace of God. We confess that some of those in the world are better than us, if we are comparing the conduct of our lives. However, we do have this—we have been saved, delivered from judgement and brought into the Family of God. We are redeemed by the mercies of Christ the Son of God. Our sins are forgiven, and we no longer exalt ourselves. Rather, we point all to the grace of God, urging all who will hear to receive the life that is offered in Jesus our Lord. An old hymn pleads with the people of God to reveal the compassion of Christ by reaching out to sinners to rescue them.

Brethren, see poor sinners round you slumb’ring on the brink of woe.

Death is coming, hell is moving—Can you bear to let them go?

See our fathers and our mothers and our children sinking down.

Brethren, pray, and holy manna will be showered all around. [9]

If you wish to know the message of Christmas, it is this—“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life” [1 TIMOTHY 1:15b-16]. Now, the offer of grace is extended to all who will hear.

God calls, “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. One believes with the heart, resulting in righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, resulting in salvation” [ROMANS 10:9-10 CSB]. Having voiced this gracious offer, the Apostle cites the ancient words of the Prophet Joel, “Everyone who calls on the Name of the Lord will be saved” [ROMANS 10:13 ISV].

This is the gift of God, the reason for celebrating the birth of the Christ—Jesus came to give His life as a sacrifice for sinful people. Now, for all who will receive Him—crucified and risen from the tomb and now ascended into Heaven, our Saviour will forgive sin and save. Amen.

[1] Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

[2] G. Herbert Livingston, “1846 ???????,” R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, (ed.), Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Moody Press, Chicago 1999) 741

[3] James Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Hebrew (Old Testament) (Logos Research Systems, Inc., Oak Harbor, WA 1997)

[4] Carl Schultz, “1577 ?????,” ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Moody Press, Chicago 1999) 650; see also Ludwig Koehler et al., The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (E.J. Brill, Leiden 1994–2000) 800

[5] G. Herbert Livingston, op. cit.

[6] Jonathan Edwards, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” (sermon), The Words of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 2 (Banner of Truth Trust, 1974) 10

[7] Op. cit., 12

[8] William G. J. Ovens, Gladys W. Roberts, “Wounded for Me”

[9] George Arkings, “Brethren, We Have Met to Worship,” from Spiritual Songster, 1819