“Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.” (Isaiah 53:4)
By taking our sin, Jesus faced the unimaginable sorrow of absorbing the Father’s righteous, just wrath. At the cross, Jesus was rejected for us so that we might be accepted in him. There was also the pain of being betrayed, not just by the creatures he made, or even his own people, but also by one of his disciples. But the Bible (and Isaiah 53:4) also connects the grief and sorrow of Jesus specifically to the sin he bore for us. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” And then Galatians 3:13, Paul adds, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us.”
We struggle to imagine just how much emotional and mental anguish and grief it would have caused Jesus to take on our sin because we’re so used to sin. It’s familiar to us, and we’ve become too accustomed to it, but not so with Jesus. Jesus was the sinless lamb of God. He’s the perfectly holy, completely righteous, and absolutely pure Son of God who never once sinned. And so, when our sin is placed on Jesus, when Jesus becomes so identified with the sin he carries for us that Galatians says he “becomes sin,” the sorrow and grief he intensely felt would have been unimaginable. Not just physical pain, but mental and emotional pain.
When Jesus walked into the Garden of Gethsemane, anticipating the coming cross, he told his closest disciples that his soul was overwhelmed to the point of death (Matt. 26:38). If the thought of carrying our sin led him to such grief and pain, just imagine what it must have felt like once he’s finally there on the cross, bearing the full weight of our sin. We will never fathom the depths of what Jesus endured for us.
Jesus carried our sin and all that comes with it. The guilt that comes from sin, the shame, the weight, and the burden are all on his shoulders. Jesus takes all of it. Not just some of my sin, but all of it. Not just some of my punishment, but all of it. He faces the hurricane force winds of the grief and sorrow that come with sin and he stands there and bears it.
He takes the death I deserve. He takes the rejection, grief, and legal punishment my sin deserves before the just Judge of the universe. The Father sends the Son in love, so that God’s righteous justice could be enacted and his grace could be poured (Rom. 3:21-26). Wrath and mercy kiss.
More Than Substitution
The amazing thing on Good Friday isn’t that Jesus dies on a cross, but that he does so in my place. And actually, through the cross (and empty tomb) there is even better news than substitution; there’s a great exchange. It’s not only what Jesus takes for me but what he gives to me. The glories of the gospel are seen not only in how Jesus substitutes himself and takes what I’ve earned, but it’s also how I receive and enjoy all the blessings he earned.
Jesus takes our sin so we might receive his righteousness. He dies so that we might have life. Jesus is rejected by the Father so we might be embraced by the Father. He takes our cross of grief and we get his crown of glory. He became a curse for us so that we might get blessings in him. Jesus carries our sorrows, and we receive his joy.
As we contemplate the cross, keep one eye on what Jesus takes from you that you deserved and one eye on what Jesus gives you that only he deserved. Because he endured the bitter sorrow of Good Friday, we can experience the triumphant joy of Easter Sunday.