Continued from Part 7
5:4: “Surely our diseases he did bear, and our pains he carried; but we considered him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.”
The servant as a vehicle for bearing “our” diseases and pains.
Did Jesus heal the sick and infirm? Matthew makes use of Isaiah 53:4. He writes: “This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah, ‘He took our sicknesses and carried our diseases’” (Matthew 8:17). The context shows that Matthew understands this verse literally to mean “he took away sickness,” and thus he sees Jesus’ supposed miracles as fulfilling prophecy concerning healing the infirm rather than as a reference to his allegedly removing sin by dying on the cross. However, whether literally or figuratively Jesus never bore the “diseases” or “pains,” that is, the humiliation and adversity of Israel or, for that matter, of any other people.
Faith healing and miraculous cures are not impossible. However, they are attributed to Jesus not because they happened but rather because pre-Gospel tradition expected them to happen. Certain illnesses may be relieved or even disappear because of the deep trust the infirm place on the “faith healer,” but that does not necessarily mean the “healer” is working under a divine mandate. In the case of Jesus, it may be that he brought about some faith-healing “cures” but these were magnified and replicated more in story than in reality.
The servant is considered as one “stricken,” (nagua‘). Nagua‘ is used in the Jewish Scriptures in connection with being stricken with leprosy (nega‘ tzara‘at, “the plague of leprosy” ̶̶̶ Leviticus 13:9).
Jesus was not stricken physically with leprosy, so Christians cannot claim that he literally fulfilled this verse. Even metaphorically, nagua‘ cannot be applied to Jesus who was not shunned as a loathsome pariah. The application to Jesus of nagua‘, that is, stricken metaphorically in the manner of one who has leprosy and treated as a leper by fellow human beings, is unwarranted. The respectively supportive, indifferent, or hostile audiences Jesus confronts in the Gospels shows a variety of responses to his message, but none can be compared to nagua‘; not even in the description of his last few hours of life.