But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:5
In this verse, God tells us what happened at the cross. And what happened at the cross can be summed up in one word—substitution. We all know what substitution is…
One of the players on the soccer team gets injured and she cannot continue. So she limps off the field and the coach sends in a substitute, who plays in the place of the injured player.
This is what happened when Jesus suffered and died on the cross. He took our place. He became our substitute. The heart of what this means is—the punishment that would have been ours (because of our sin) was on Him. Isaiah says that this is how God heals us and brings us peace.
But the people in Jesus’ day thought God had no place for Him. They thought God was punishing Him for His sins: God struck Him, smote Him, and afflicted Him. And, in a profound sense, they were right. God did strike Him. God did smite Him. God did afflict Him. But it was not for His transgressions, it was for ours. It was not for His iniquities; it was for ours.
The amazing truth—that Jesus became our substitute—could only be known by revelation. No one could work this out by observation or intuition. If we were at the cross when Jesus was crucified, none of us would have said, “I see what’s happening. Jesus is dying as my substitute.”
The only way we could ever know this is for God to tell us. And this is precisely what God does here in Isaiah 53. Jesus purchased our restoration, and He did it by substitution. In this verse, God reveals why Jesus suffered, what Jesus suffered, and what came from His suffering.
Why do we need a substitute?