I don’t like being sick, but it might be even more difficult to see your child sick. You try to comfort them and help them heal, but there’s only so much you can do. There have been times when I would say to my child that if it were possible I would trade places with them. And it’s true. If you’re a parent you’ve probably had the same sentiment. We would gladly bear their pain if we could spare them. But as much as we want to take their pain, we just can’t.
One of the prominent pictures of God throughout the Bible is that of a father. God is our father providing for us, guiding us, teaching us to walk, and even disciplining us. And I get this sense that just as I hurt when my children hurt, he hurts when we hurt. And as a compassionate father he nurses us back to health. He helps us heal just like we do for our kids. And I imagine that God has those same feelings I have for my children when they are sick. He too would gladly bear our pain to spare us. Though I can’t do that for my children, he can and has done that for us.
The greatest sickness we suffer from is sin and the greatest pain we will ever experience is separation from God, our Father. And that’s what sin does. It keeps us from our Father, the source of all that is good. That separation is painful to us, but it is equally painful to God. And our Father has done something for us that we all wish we could do for our children. He traded places with us.
That is what the cross is all about. Jesus’ death on the cross is God bearing the pain of sin for every one of us. I’ve heard criticisms that it’s cruel for God to punish someone else for what we have done, but that’s not what happened. God punished himself in so much that Jesus is God. Jesus makes that claim and the biblical writers confirm it. “Jesus is God in the flesh” is an indispensable teaching of Christianity. God does on the cross what every parent wishes they could do for their child – he suffers for us. This is how much God loves us.
I believe God knew he would have to do this, even before he created us. He knew that parenting requires sacrifice and from the beginning he was willing trade places with us. Long before Jesus came, the prophet Isaiah painted this beautiful picture of God’s fatherly love:
Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering. 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.
God took our pain. Jesus suffered for us. He took my place. But after all, that’s what a good father does, and He is a good Father.