It’s possible I knew this verse before high school, but I had never paid much attention to it before then. By the time I was in 10th grade, I knew Isaiah 53 better than any other part of the Old Testament—and it was all because of a heavy metal band. My parents could not understand how heavy metal music could also be “Christian.” However, it was hard for my father, a minister, to argue his case when cassette tapes featuring bands with long, feathered hair were sold in the same Christian bookstore where Dad bought Sunday School materials for our church.
I loved the band Stryper in a way that only a nerdy ninth-grade Christian boy growing up in the 80s could. As soon as I was allowed to, I bought their first album, and within a few months, I had all their albums, t-shirts, buttons, and pins—everything that had anything to do with the band.
My parents wouldn’t let me go see Stryper in concert on their “To Hell with the Devil” tour, but they did let me go stand in line at the local mall to meet the band, get their autographs, and take a picture with them. And there they were: dressed in their yellow-and-black striped costumes and as nice as they could be. Shaking their hands solidified my fan status even more.
All of this is Christian 80s-era heavy-metal silliness, I know. But what is not silly is the band’s impact on me. After church, I would sit in a pew writing “God Rocks” and “Jesus Rules” on tithing envelopes. Then I’d open my KJV Bible to read Isaiah 53 over and over again, concentrating on verse 5—the verse Stryper had named the band after: “By His stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5, NKJV). I knew that part of Isaiah better than most adults, simply because I loved a band—no small thing.
In those formative teenage years I became immersed in the centrality of Jesus, of how He allowed Himself to be wounded and pierced and crushed for our sake, bearing the weight of our sin, so that ultimately, our wounds could be healed through Him. Jesus died so that death and sin could be defeated and we could now live for Him. Thirty-five years later, I cannot get over the truth that this is why He came: to put on flesh and bear the weight of our sin for us. He was wounded to heal, once and for all time, the wounds of our sin and death. Now He sits at the right hand of the Father (Mark 16:19).
Jesus rules, indeed.
Written by Matt Redmond