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What's in a Pronoun?

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Goal:  That the hearer will believe more firmly in the vicarious atonement of Christ.

You may have heard the question “What’s in a name?”  New parents can spend hours looking through books of names and their origins and meanings when trying to decide the name for their first child, or any child for that matter. Parents know that a name is very special. 

Here today, I want to ask you a similar question, something a little more general, perhaps. Today, I am going to pose the question to you all…”What’s in a pronoun?” …Oh, no, you may be thinking, this crazy Seminary student is going to give us an English lesson…I tell you it is far more than that.  In the text for our message today, Isaiah 53:4-5, personal pronouns are used 13 times in these two verses.  Thirteen times! “4Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.”

So, what is in a pronoun?  When the pronoun is in the first person, “us” or “we”…“I” there seems to always be sin and sorrow…sickness and disease…confusion and misconceptions associated with it.  And our text for this message is no different.  The words translated as “griefs”  and “sorrows” can also be translated as “sickness” or “disease” and “pain” be it either physical or emotional pain.  Because of original sin, humanity is filled with sickness and disease, as Paul describes in the book of Romans, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned” (5:12).   Humanity and the Earth were cursed by God after the fall (Gen 3:14-19), first the serpent, then Eve and Adam and the earth itself because of the couple’s actions. 

Our bodies are naturally susceptible to sickness and disease because of this original sin. However, our actual sin, those we commit ourselves can also have an effect on our bodies.  Sin is a real problem each and every one of us faces, whether it is the consequences of original sins or those physical and emotional sufferings that are a direct result of a sin-filled lifestyle. In the midst of sickness or disease it is easy to fall into the mindset that we are being punished by God for our sinful actions.    This reminds me of a story I recently read in an article in Men of Integrity (March/April 2001)

A distressed father sat at the bedside of his comatose son, hurt playing basketball. At a crucial point in the game, the 16-year-old lunged for an errant pass going out of bounds. As he toppled over a spectator's chair, one of its legs caught him in the stomach and damaged vital organs. Because he felt little pain, the teen continued to play the game's final minutes while he hemorrhaged internally. By the time the pain grew enough to warrant a trip to the hospital, it was almost too late. The doctors worked frantically to save him, but the outcome was uncertain.

Though the son eventually recovered, those awful hours of waiting for the slightest signs of recovery forced family members to ask questions they'd never before faced. The father was alone on his bedside shift one evening when the pastor visited. Trembling with emotion, the father asked, "Will God kill my son to punish my sin?"

"No," said the young minister, searching for words that would comfort and grant renewed trust in the God this father now so desperately needed. "The Lord's not punishing your son for your sin. He couldn't, because God punished his son for your sin."

So now, it is time to look beyond ourselves, and change the focus of our pronoun study to the other person, the third person pronouns, He and Him.  Isaiah paints a very clear picture of how He…how Jesus surely carried these things…these griefs and sorrows…these sicknesses/disease and pain…he carried our sin to the cross.  “Yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.  The world around Him, those at the cross as well as the world today believe that Jesus died for His own sin…after all, He claimed to be the Messiah…He claimed to be the Son of God, this was blaspheme in the minds of the Jewish rulers…People today who look at the “historical Jesus” see a man who was executed for crimes against religion and Rome. 

But to those who have faith, to us who believe in the promises of God, we place our trust in all those third person pronouns in verse 5, “But He was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His stripes, we are healed.”  Jesus endured this for us, for you…for me; the third person for the first person.  Jesus endured the ridicule of the religious leaders, the beating and whipping by the Roman soldiers which ripped open the flesh on His back…He endured the long walk out of Jerusalem up Golgotha finally to endure the cold metal spikes driven through His hands and feet…for you…for me…Jesus suffered not only the physical pain and torment of the cross but also the separation from His Father.

Jesus died on the cross that Friday afternoon for you and for me. He was “wounded for our transgressions…crushed for our iniquities…with His stripes, we are healed!   Through Jesus death and resurrection we obtain healing of the greatest disease plaguing each and every one of us, the disease of sin.  The promise does not stop here though. Isaiah shows what Christ would go through both physically and spiritually for us.  He suffered bodily being whipped and nailed to the cross to physically die…He suffered spiritual separation from God for us as well, for “[God] made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor 5.12). Not only are we healed spiritually through the forgiveness of sins, but we will be healed physically as well. 

Jesus was raised from the dead early that third day.  He conquered not only sin and the devil on the cross just a few short days prior, but He also conquered death.  The promise of the empty tomb is the promise of the resurrection for us.  Paul explains this in his letter to the church at Corinth, “So also is the resurrection of the dead.  It [the body] is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body (1 Cor 15:42-44a).  When Christ comes back riding the clouds we shall all be raised and given a new body, one that does not see sickness or disease, one that does not sin, a body that will never experience grief or sorrow.  The victory is in the third person, He did this for us. 

Here at Immanuel Lutheran these promises are retold and experienced week after week. As we gather together each week, we hear God’s promises being proclaimed in the readings of the Word of God from the lectern and preached from this pulpit.  Most of us have experienced God’s promises in the sprinkling of water in baptism there at the font or wherever you may have been baptized where we were crucified with Christ and raised to new life in Him; it is also there, at the altar, where we receive the body and blood of Christ for the forgiveness of sins and strengthening of our faith.    All these are gifts given by Him for us. 

So, what’s in a pronoun? There is healing…life…hope…there is comfort. We have all these because there has been a most blessed exchange…His life for ours! For “…with His stripes, we are healed!”  AMEN

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