June 08, 2008

The Cross as Medicine

Isaiah 53

The punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.
Isaiah 53:5


Sunday school children learn that “Jesus died on the cross to save us from our sin.”

But how does that work?

Why does Jesus’ death on a cross produce salvation?

And what kind of salvation does it offer?

The Bible answers that question, in part, by giving us lots of poetic images. The good news of salvation is so rich that it takes a wide array of images to begin to unpack its meaning.

One powerful and memorable image is that of healing. Think of the cross this way: we human beings have a spiritual disease. We need just the right medicine to target our disease and restore us to health. Once we are cured, we discover how good it is to have spiritual health and vitality again.

Part of the power of this image is that it is real and tangible for us. We can understand it because we know what it’s like to be sick or in pain and then to be restored. Our pride and self-centeredness are as real as a deep gash or a cancerous tumor. This, in turn, helps us see that the healing the cross brings isn’t just a nice idea. It is as real as a heart transplant.

As you worship God today, celebrate the good news: in Jesus, the great physician (Mark 2:17), we have the perfect medicine for all our diseases.

Dear Jesus, help us to frankly acknowledge the spiritual cancer that we battle each day. Help us look to you alone to heal and restore us to full spiritual health and vitality. Amen.

About the author — John D. Witvliet

Dr. John D. Witvliet has served as a professor at Calvin College and Calvin Theological Seminary for the past 11 years, as well as serving as Director of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. He and his wife, Charlotte, have four children.

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