Sing of Man of Sorrows

O ur world is wracked with suffering. Despite humankind’s technological skills, we seem unable even to stop either human hunger or human anger. We are still buffeted by earthquakes, floods and cyclones. We can cure many illnesses but we cannot prevent death. We still grieve. We still know fear and anxiety. We still experience mental torment of many kinds. We still hate, and all too often the hatred leads to violence. 

The Bible tells us that pain and sorrow came into the world because of the Fall. After Adam and Eve’s disobedience, their lives became hard. Eve was to experience painful childbirth and Adam was to experience painful toil (Genesis 3:16-17). The Hebrew word for “pain” in these verses is itzavon, and it occurs in only one other place in the Bible.  When the same Hebrew root is used as a verb, it means to be filled with sorrow or grief. So the pain that came from the Fall is not a normal pain. (There is another Hebrew word for that.) Rather, it is a pain that has grief at its core: a spiritual or mental state of mind which manifests itself as physical pain.

Therefore, the cure for this sin-caused, sorrow-filled pain is spiritual, not physical. 

That cure was provided for us by God’s Suffering Servant, who has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows (Isaiah 53:3-4 AV) or, in some Bible translations, our pain and our suffering. It is interesting to note that when the Gospel writer Matthew quotes Isaiah, showing us that Jesus was that Suffering Servant, the emphasis is more on pain and sickness than on sorrow: “He took up our infirmities and bore our diseases” (Matthew 8:17 NIV). In Isaiah’s next verse we are told how He also bore the full weight of our sins, which pierced and crushed Him.

The message is that, on the cross, Jesus bore for us every kind of sin and suffering, whether physical, mental or spiritual. 

Although we are now beginning to prepare for Good Friday and Easter Sunday, let us for a moment think back to Christmas. The symbolism of the three gifts brought by the Magi to the infant Jesus is often mentioned, for example, myrrh pointing to death because of its use to embalm bodies (Matthew 2:11; John 19:39). But myrrh has medicinal, healing properties too. In ancient times it was used as a painkiller. It is also a sedative, producing a feeling of calm and relaxation. 

Mark tells us that at Golgotha, just before the crucifixion, Jesus was offered wine mixed with myrrh. It was a Jewish tradition to offer this mixture, intended to dull the pain and stupefy the mind so as to reduce the suffering. But Jesus our Saviour refused it (Mark 15:23). He knew that He had to bear all humanity’s sins, past, present and future, in their full bitterness. That had to include all the agony, whether of mind or of body, which sins produce both in the sinner and in the one sinned against. His mind was to be filled with an awareness of every sin ever committed across the span of eternity, as if each one were seared on His memory simultaneously. He was not to avoid the mental anguish any more than the physical agony or the spiritual desolation.  

We can never realise the full depth and breadth of what the Man of Sorrows endured for us on the cross (Isaiah 53:3). But let us rejoice in His saving death and resurrection. We might sing of the Man of Sorrows in the words of the well-loved hymn: 

Man of sorrows, what a name For the Son of God, who came Ruined sinners to reclaim; Hallelujah, what a Saviour!

But perhaps the most wonderful thing of all is that the Man of Sorrows, now our risen Lord glorified in heaven, still feels our sorrow and suffering, still weeps when we weep (John 11:33-35). He bears our every burden – if we will let Him.

International Director, Barnabas Aid

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