Are you amazed at the number of Christians in your church who are sick or who have died young? I am appalled at the huge number in our church who have cancer of various kinds, diabetes, hypertension, arthritis, heart disease, and a host of other diseases. Is this normal?
I think it may be “normal”, but I don’t think it’s the way things are supposed to be. I know that we live in a “fallen” world, marred by sin. But, you will find in the Bible, God’s inspired word, that Jesus healed ALL who were sick. Even death could not exist in his presence. By the Holy Spirit Jesus actually lives in each of us who are Christians, and are we to believe that he has somehow lost his healing power? Are we to think that he does not love us as much as he did those around him in Bible times?
I think the answer is found in I Corinthians 11:29,30. “For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep.” [italics mine] BTW, “fallen asleep” means you have died. Did you get this most important teaching? What does it mean, “without recognizing the body of the Lord”?
I submit to you that it means that we are guilty of failing to keep in mind at communion how Jesus allowed his body to be “beaten to a pulp” and shredded to the point where it was hard to tell he was even human. Isaiah 52:14 tells us that “…there were many who were appalled at him – his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness”. Jesus did not go immediately to the cross, but first submitted to scourging at the whipping post. And it was no ordinary whipping.
The details of Jesus’ physical wounds are laid out in gory detail in a fascinating article, well-illustrated, in the March 21, 1986 volume 255 of JAMA (the Journal of the American Medical Association) entitled, “On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ” by Dr. William D. Edwards, et al.
First, we need to realize that Jesus was not “killed”, he voluntarily gave up his life for the sole purpose of saving eternally anyone who trusts in his saving grace. But, that’s not all. He also allowed his body to be beaten horribly for the purpose of allowing us Christians to live without all of those diseases and to avoid an untimely death. That’s what is mean when the Bible says, “By his stripes we are healed”.
This is confirmed in Isaiah chapter 53, which is all about Jesus. Verse 4 says, “Surely he took up our infirmities [which in Hebrew means sicknesses and pains] and carried our sorrows…” And verse 5, “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” [italics mine]
We rightly believe that Jesus poured out his blood, having taken all of our sins (past, present, and future) and traded places with us sinners, in order to wash away forever all of our sins. But, we fail to recognize the significance of his sliced and beaten body for our healing.
How many times do we see a crucifix of Jesus hanging on the cross with little or not even a trace of blood? I submit to you that any such remembrance should be absolutely covered in blood and gore, because that’s what he looked like.
Now, more about that whipping. It was customary for a victim of Roman execution to be flogged first. The individual was stripped of clothing and the hands tied up high on a post. He was then whipped on each side of his back, buttocks, and legs. The instrument used (a “flagrum”) which had a handle and a number of thongs to which sharp pieces of bone, glass, or small iron balls were tied.
A single stroke by this whip would have left you bleeding and in severe pain. Just think of it being repeated 38 more times on alternating sides. (as specified by Jewish law – not necessarily the number used by Rome) Your back would be absolutely shredded.
I don’t know how anyone could survive that much pain and blood loss, but Jesus took it for us. The process was intended to weaken a person to a state just short of collapse or death. It was customary for the victim to then carry the crossbar of the cross to the site of crucifixion outside the city walls. No wonder that Jesus needed help.
BTW, the nails would have been driven through the wrists, not the palms, as the latter would not have supported the weight of body. I suppose the palms would suffice if the arms were also fastened to the crossbar with rope, but archaeological bone fragments of crucifixion victims show nail erosion of the wrist bones. In addition, the Shroud of Turin, which most certainly is the burial cloth of Christ, shows that victim with nail wounds through the wrists.
The point of all of this is to show you how much agony Jesus suffered on your behalf in order to allow you, as a Christian, to live a full life span in good health, as well as to enter Heaven at the end of your days. Remember this the next time at communion, or the Lord’s Supper. And you can partake as often as you want to, even at home on your own. If you already suffer from some chronic disease, continue to properly discern the Lord’s body at communion, take part often, and I believe you will see good health returning and your symptoms diminishing.