Isenheimer Altar

The Isenheimer Altar by Matthias Grunewald is a powerful painting of the crucifixion. It stood in a monastery of the Antonian Hospitalers where people were cared for during the plagues that afflicted Europe during the late Middle Ages. In the painting, His body is covered with boils. “Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried” (Is. 53:4). In His affliction He became one with the afflicted.

I fear that many have lost this understanding of redemption. Their view of Jesus is more like the previous verse in Isaiah, “He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face. He was despised, and we did not esteem Him” (53:3). They don’t want redemption through suffering. They want redemption from suffering. They have given up expecting help from God, and seek to humanize all earthly institutions.

In the West, it began with the Enlightenment. If humanist philosophers, like Kant and Hegel, were right, then we should be more free, reasonable, and disciplined. That would require a higher view of humanity than God. Communism was the next movement to create a godless social order of equality, except the masses weren’t equal with the dictatorial rulers. Now we have liberal social progressives who are going to fundamentally change America – sadly they have mostly succeeded. Apparently they are mesmerized by the “progress” being made in Zimbabwe, Venezuela, South Africa, etc. The New Age movement says we are gods. Is not self-rule the heart of all these movements?

C.S. Lewis wrote, “to render back the will which we have so long claimed for our own, is in itself, wherever and however it is done, a grievous pain.” I don’t know any painless way to die to self-rule. “For we are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal body” (2 Cor. 4:11). We are His children, “heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom. 8:17,18).

Dr. Neil

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