I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the following passage: “He (Christ) was numbered with the transgressors” (Isa. 53:12, Mark 15:28). I believe that in our own way we too are called to this, and that it’s a key to moving past our old life and into the life Christ intends for us.
Because… well, let’s start by facing a simple truth here: We are among the transgressors.
This isn’t to dismiss or excuse some of the truly horrific sins that others perpetrate upon us or others. But for the majority of us, most of our lives aren’t about those kind of transgressions. They’re about responding to everyday hurts—insults, gossip, other inconsiderate acts—or even “bigger” but not necessarily deeper sins committed against us—deliberate acts where we’re deemed inferior or just not good enough, slanderous words against our reputation, things being “taken” from us….
Even in more extreme cases, I think this idea of being numbered with the transgressors applies. Every so often, we’re surprised by a news story about an act of extreme forgiveness. Many of us think it can’t possibly be legitimate—that they’re just saying it but that they really still harbor anger or resentment. Or maybe we just resign ourselves to the idea that we’re incapable of that degree of forgiveness in the face of that kind of abuse or injustice.
But when we allow ourselves to “be numbered with the transgressors”—and I don’t just mean sheepishly shrugging “yeah, I’m a sinner just like everyone else,” but looking straight at the people around you who carry sins that do offend and maybe even repulse you, and admitting “These are my people, too; I really am like them except for Christ, and He chose to be numbered with them”—that’s a place where God can work. That requires us to check our pride and self-righteousness at the door. And it opens us to the opportunity to overlook the sins of others—not excusing or denying them, but understanding they’re part of the same mess we’re in and truly forgiving them and finding compassion in its place.
Jesus lived a perfect life and died for every one of those sins—yes, even the ones people commit against us. And He calls us to follow Him and “be perfect,” by learning how to die to those sins, and the hurt we’ve suffered from them, as well.
Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”
“Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”
Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.
The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, and so the Jewish leaders said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.”
But he replied, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’ ”
So they asked him, “Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?”
The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there.
Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” The man went away and told the Jewish leaders that it was Jesus who had made him well (John 5:2-15, NIV).
You might be wondering “What’s the connection between this passage and what you were saying before?” But do you notice something in this story? No-one’s terribly motivated for this guy to get well—including the man himself. But Jesus is.
This scenario seems to run counter to the conventional wisdom propagated around us, but the fact is, this is how we really are—both in terms of ourselves and those around us. We’d rather read a self-help book and feel healed, than actually be healed. We’d rather stick with the status quo, no matter how much it actually hurts, than encounter the fear of the unknown that comes with truly being healed—or in seeing other “invalids” in our lives healed. We’re a lot more like the nitpicky Pharisees here than we’d like to admit.
Jesus asks the invalid at the pool, “What do you want me to do? Do you want me to heal you?” Think about this in terms of your own “internal injuries.” Would you rather identify yourself by your hurt, your blindness—say it: your willfulness in withholding forgiveness—or would you rather get on with your undiscovered future, by growing into your new life and identity in Christ?
The beginning of healing is admitting that you’re broken. That’s true of your internal state, and it’s just as true about all the broken relationships around you. So lay down your hurt. Take Jesus’ yoke. Be numbered with the transgressors. You’ll start to see them differently. And more importantly, you’ll let Jesus bring healing and grace to you—and them.
Lay It Down Today
I’ll keep this simple: Where do you need to be “numbered with the transgressors” today? Is it an act of forgiveness? Is it treating some “weird” person you avoid with the same dignity you’d want? Is it reaching out somehow to the more marginalized of society—not just by being charitable but by being present and available?
You know what you felt as you read today’s entry, so I won’t get in the way of what God wants to do with it. But start making it happen today. Respond to what God’s trying to tell you.