March 18, 2017

“All for Sinners’ Gain”

Isaiah 53:3-7

He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.

—  Isaiah 53:5

From before I can remember, my parents spent part of each day teaching the stories of the Bible to their children. My fourth-grade school teacher often did the same, applying those stories so that his students could see how they fit into them.

A hymn helped make that happen for me. That hymn, “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded,” was originally written in Latin, then translated into German and set to majestic somber music, then retranslated into English and included in many Christian hymnbooks. I vividly recall a Sunday-evening worship time more than 50 years ago when the haunting music and lyrics of that hymn hit home for me. “My Lord, what you did suffer was all for sinners’ gain; mine, mine was the transgression, but yours the deadly pain.”

So far this month, we have projected the guilt for Jesus’ suffering onto many people in the gospel stories: the Jerusalem religious leaders, the betrayer Judas, Peter and the other fleeing disciples, the Roman governor Pilate and his brutal soldiers. But we’ve been hinting at something else too: the Christian faith also teaches us to look in the mirror, and to see in our reflection one whose sins also nailed Jesus to the cross.

“Who was the guilty? Who brought this upon you? It is my treason, Lord, that has undone you. ’Twas I, Lord Jesus, I it was denied you; I crucified you.” Lord Jesus, have mercy upon me, a sinner. Amen.

About the author — Fred Bultman

Fred Bultman began a “second career” as a pastor in 1997, after a first career in the banking business.  He served as pastor to congregations in the U.S. and Canada. In retirement, he continues to enjoy sharing in the ministry of the churches in and around his home in Fremont, Michigan.

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