Who are you? How would you answer that? What defines you?
Let me help you answer correctly with more questions:
Who is Jesus? What has he done? And how will you respond?
How you answer these questions is of primary importance.
Your money is going to be spent by someone else. Your muscles will waste away and be eaten by worms. Your looks will fade like the day. Your clothes will be eaten by moths.
Your memory will be lost by future generations.
But how you answer these questions, who is Jesus?, what has he done?, and how will you respond?, will define you for eternity.
To answer these questions, where do you turn? Do you sit here today so confident in your own faculties to trust yourself, to answer on your own? Are you confident that the answers given by the majority of people around you are right?
Friends, let me tell you, THE trustworthy source on these questions is GOD ALMIGHTY himself. So let’s now turn to his sure, sufficient, and authoritative Word together and hear from him.
The entirety of God’s Word is about Jesus…
Is this not what our Lord Himself explained on the Road to Emmaus, in Luke 24?
“25 Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken…27 And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.”
This noted, for our consideration of these all important questions we will turn our attention to the Book of Isaiah. Let’s read now from 52:13-53:12.
Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, He shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high. 14 As many were astonished at thee; His visage was so marred more than any man, And his form more than the sons of men: 15 So shall he sprinkle many nations; The kings shall shut their mouths at him: For that which had not been told them shall they see; And that which they had not heard shall they consider. 53 Who hath believed our report? And to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? 2 For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, And as a root out of a dry ground: He hath no form nor comeliness; And when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. 3 He is despised and rejected of men; A man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: And we hid as it were our faces from him; He was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, And carried our sorrows: Yet we did esteem him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted. 5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: The chastisement of our peace was upon him; And with his stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned every one to his own way; And the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, Yet he opened not his mouth: He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, And as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, So he openeth not his mouth. 8 He was taken from prison and from judgment: And who shall declare his generation? For he was cut off out of the land of the living: For the transgression of my people was he stricken. 9 And he made his grave with the wicked, And with the rich in his death; Because he had done no violence, Neither was any deceit in his mouth.
10 Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: When thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, He shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, And the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. 11 He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: By his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; For he shall bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, And he shall divide the spoil with the strong; Because he hath poured out his soul unto death: And he was numbered with the transgressors; And he bare the sin of many, And made intercession for the transgressors.
I have 8 brief points about Jesus.
1. Jesus is the Servant.
Our passage this morning is the fourth song written by Isaiah about this Servant of God, the one who would be faithful where Israel failed, and who would save God’s elect people from their sin.
I wonder if Mary and Joseph recalled these songs when the Angel announced to them the name of Mary’s child?
Matthew 1:20-21 reads, “Behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. 21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.”
2. Jesus, the Servant of God in Isaiah, is fully God and fully man.
Such is the splendor and uniqueness of the incarnation! God Almighty, Eternal Ruler, Creator of Mankind, became a man in Christ Jesus, without setting aside any of his divinity. In the incarnation, we see the 2nd Person of the Trinity take on a 2nd, complete nature. Thus, Jesus is one person with two distinct, complete natures, natures that are not mixed or diminished, but that exist together in perfect unity.
Let’s see this from our passage. First, Jesus is fully man.
Verse 2 reads, “For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, And as a root out of a dry ground: He hath no form nor comeliness; And when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.”
Jesus had a real, earthy birth, from a small, drive-by town, with little known parents, and for 30 or so years worked a splintery, sweaty job. He was a plain man, one you wouldn’t do a double take for if you passed him on Main Street in Jerusalem.
He was born in Bethlehem, a town noted for its smallness among the clans of Judah, as was prophesied in Micah 5:2. In fact, he wasn’t even born in a proper home. The Servant of God, Jesus Christ, was born in a feeding trough for animals, in a stable.
I didn’t grow up in a large metropolis. I grew up in farm country, where there is grass, and mountains, and trees, and the smell of skunk in the air, and rivers you can swim in, and barns with feeding troughs. They truly are messy, smelly places. This is where the Lord Jesus Christ was born.
He was raised in Nazareth, of Galilee, a place of such ill-repute that one of his followers initially dismissed him on the grounds of Nazareth being his hometown. Now, where one of my college buddies grew up, their version of Nazareth was anything in West Virginia. West Virginians are fine folk, but he and his friends grew up with a gorgeous mountain range keeping West Virginians away from their land, and people in his town liked it that way. So they had a whole string of childish jokes about how stupid people are who come from West Virginia. Nazareth was that kind of place. It provided others with joke material.
He worked the same trade as his adoptive father, Joseph, as a carpenter.
He was simply a normal-seeming Israelite, not one you’d stop on the road and say, “Hey, is he the prophesied Savior of God’s people? Is that the King? Is he the Messiah?”
Jesus is fully man.
And Jesus, the Servant, is fully God. Distinct, yet one with God. In fact, the 2nd Person of the Trinity has always been fully God. As God, he is God. In the incarnation, it was his humanity that was added, as Paul states in Philippians 2, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.”
But taking on humanity, the Servant is in no way diminished in Deity. Look with me at Isaiah 52:13.
“[My Servant] shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high.” The English Standard Version here reads, “[My Servant] shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted.”
Isaiah loves to speak of God with this threefold praise.
Listen to what he writes in chapter 57:15: “For thus saith the high and lofty One—or rather, ‘For thus says the One who is high and lifted up’ (ESV)—that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.”
Earlier in Isaiah 6:1 he writes similarly, “In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple.”
Who in Isaiah’s world but God himself is high and lifted up? No one! And yet it is the Servant of God that Isaiah directly states shall be high and lifted up.
The Servant of God is one with God.
We see this clearly again just a couple verses later. Isaiah 53:1 “Who hath believed our report [about the Servant]? And to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?” Again, speaking of the Servant.
The Arm of the Lord is none other than the Lord himself in power.
We read in Isaiah 51:9-10 “Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the LORD; awake, as in the ancient days, in the generations of old. Art thou not it that hath cut Rahab, and wounded the dragon? Art thou not it which hath dried the sea, the waters of the great deep; that hath made the depths of the sea a way for the ransomed to pass over?”
Listen to what Motyer, “In Deuteronomy the acts of the arm were seen while the arm remained invisible, but now it is not a matter of tracing events to an invisible cause but a matter of seeing a person, the Servant, and recognizing that he is the Lord present in power. In 51:9 the arm was called to awake; 52:6 pledged the Lord’s own presence; 52:8 foresaw the Lord visibly coming to Zion; 52:10 noted that the arm had been bared in saving action. Now at last the arm has come, not simply a person behind and through whom the Lord’s power is at work, nor just one signally upheld by the Lord’s power, but ‘the Arm’ himself, the Lord come to save.”
Jesus, the Servant, is fully God. Fully God. Fully Man. Jesus the Servant.
3. Jesus, the Servant, lived on this earth without sin.
You and I cannot go a day, in fact, I doubt we can go a moment, without sinning. For God’s demand upon us is to love him with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. All of you in every moment is to be dedicated in devotion to him. And we just don’t do that, do we?
Jesus, on the other hand, did do that. Every moment of his earthly life he lived in righteousness, for the glory of God, His Father.
We read in 52:13, “Behold, my servant shall deal prudently.” He shall act wisely.
If you recall from Solomon’s writings in Proverbs, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.”
Jesus walked in the fear of the Lord, in reverence and love for the Father, careful to obey all his commandments.
We see in 53:9 that Jesus, the Servant, “had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.”
Jesus, the Servant, is as verse 11 says, The Righteous One. He is the one who is 100% dedicated to love and live for the glory of God.
There is no one like this Servant, Jesus. He is without sin.
4. Jesus, the Servant, died.
verse 14, “As many were astonished at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men.”
Jesus the Sinless Servant, the God-Man, was taken to a Roman cross, as demanded by the Jews and decided by the Gentile Pontius Pilate. There, he was so tortured and disfigured that he appeared to the crowds as subhuman.
Verse 9 reads, “And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death.”
Jesus died and was buried, as Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15. He was buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, the rich man of whom Isaiah writes.
Luke 23:50-53 “And, behold, there was a man named Joseph, a counseller; and he was a good man, and a just: he was of Arimathaea, a city of the Jews: who also himself waited for the kingdom of God. 52 This man went unto Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. 53 And he took it down, and wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a sepulchre that was hewn in stone, wherein never man before was laid.”
Though some may claim that Jesus only appeared to die, which is simply a stupid, silly lie, God’s Word is clear. Jesus, the God-Man, the Sinless Servant, died on the cross, a bloody, brutal death, one that flooded his deepest core with anguish.
Now, WHY DID JESUS DIE? WHY WAS HE SO CRUSHED?
Jesus is the God-Man! He is the Righteous One! Why did he die? He had no sin! There should be no need for him to die and face the curse of sin.
Many who witnessed the Servant’s death answered this question wrongly. What was their answer? Look at verse 4 with me. “Yet we did esteem him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted.” They recognized rightly that all who hang on a tree are cursed of God. But they wrongly looked upon the Servant’s death and concluded that he must have been getting his just deserts. “Look at how terribly he dies! Clearly he had it coming to him!”
5. Jesus died as the substitute to save the people of God from the wrath of God.
God’s people are wretchedly sinful and in need of atonement. They need reparation to be made for their sin.
Verse 6 reads, “All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned every one to his own way”
Isaiah is helpful here. Our sin is folly, like stupid sheep walking into our death—by going our way instead of God’s way.
Recently I saw a video of a sheep walk away from its shepherd. The sheep walks straight into a hole, and just disappears down it. It’s one of the most pathetic things you could watch. The shepherd knowingly walks over, gets down on his belly, a very humble position for a man to take for an out-of-line sheep, reaches down into the hole, grabs the sheep by its hind legs, and pulls him all the way up to solid ground. Rescued from its self-imposed disaster, the sheep joins the others on their way.
In a pale way, one that misses the magnitude of our foolish wandering and the devastating consequences, this video illustrates verse 6. All we like sheep have gone astray. We have turned every one to his own way.
Our sin leaves us in covenantal separation from God and under divine condemnation.
The sin of God’s people leaves them in need of salvation.
Jesus died as the substitute to provide that salvation.
Specifically, Jesus died as the penal substitute. This means that Jesus took the punishment deserved by God’s people, the eternal torment of God, on himself when he hung for three hours on the cross. And he did this as their substitute, hanging on the cross under God’s wrath in their stead, in their place.
Note the penal substitutionary language of Isaiah 53.
v. 4 “borne our griefs”
“carried our sorrows”
v. 5 “wounded for our transgressions”
“bruised for our iniquities”
v. 8 “cut off…stricken for the transgression of my people”
v. 12 “bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”
6. Jesus died under the willing and active hand of God the Father.
Verse 10 reads, “It pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief.”
No sin has ever or ever will be committed that is more heinous, more hideous, more despairing than the murder of Jesus of Nazareth, the Servant of God. Our stomachs turn, do they not, when we see in the news that a child has been kidnapped, tortured, and killed. It sickens us, enrages us. Why is that? Is it not because there is a kind of innocence in that child, a kind of purity, that we find precious, worth protecting, and horrific when it is crushed like a flower by a boot?
Jesus the God-Man, the sinless one, the perfectly righteous one, is the most magnificent, the most pure. His kidnapping, torture, and murder on the cross should bring us to our knees, to see one so truly pure so cruelly defiled.
And this heinous crime by man was done according to the absolute sovereignty of God that we considered in Isaiah 46. Though men sinned in killing the Son of God, God was not out of control. His Sovereign will is always accomplished, even in the crushing of his most cherished.
Acts 2:23 “Jesus, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain.”
In his Pentecost sermon, Peter, in agreement with Isaiah, charges the crowds before him with the guilt of Christ’s crucifixion, and recognizes that Jesus died according to the sovereign plan of God.
It was the pleasure of God to crush his Son.
According to verse 6, “the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
God the Father exhausted his holy wrath for his people on his Son—our substitute.
7. Jesus was the willing substitute for God’s people.
The carnal man will charge this idea of penal substitutionary atonement as cosmic child abuse (this heresy is taught by Jim Somerville, pastor at First Baptist Church in Richmond). But in so doing he simply exposes his blindness to the truth. For Jesus did not go to the cross against his will, but willingly.
Look at verse 7, “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, Yet he opened not his mouth: He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, And as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, So he openeth not his mouth.”
He went not as a dumb sheep, but as one confident in his mission, knowing God’s plan of redeeming his people set before time, sure of his success ahead. He went to the cross in strength of conviction, for the joy set before him.
I would be remiss if I failed to share with you this quote from John Stott on the matter of Christ’s substitutionary death.
“We strongly reject every explanation of the death of Christ which does not have at its center the principle of satisfaction through substitution, indeed divine self satisfaction through divine substitution.
The cross was not:
-a commercial bargain with the devil, let alone one which tricked and trapped him
-nor an exact equivalent, a quid pro quo to satisfy a code of honor or technical point of law
-nor a compulsory submission by God to some moral authority above him from which he could not otherwise escape
-nor a punishment of a meek Christ by a harsh and punitive Father
-nor a procurement of salvation by a loving Christ from a mean and reluctant Father
-nor an action of the Father which bypassed Christ as Mediator
Instead, the righteous, loving Father humbled himself to become in and through his only Son flesh, sin and a curse for us, in order to redeem us without compromising his own character…The biblical gospel of atonement—the reparation for sin—is of God satisfying himself by substituting himself for us.”
That is savingly good news my friends. Praise be to God!
8. Jesus, through death, emerged victorious.
Jesus did not stay dead, but is today alive, having risen from the grave to glorious resurrection life.
Verses 10-11 read, “He shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, And the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. 11 He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied.”
Dead men see not, nor do they have days to prolong. But Christ rose to see the spoils of his shocking victory through death and to reign for eternal days.
a. Through death, Jesus secures salvation for all God’s people, from every nation on the planet.
“By his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many.” God’s unrighteous people have Christ’s righteousness imputed to them, granted to them as a gift, because Christ died in their place. This is a declarative change of status, in which God looks at a guilty sinner and says, “Right before me!” Granted Christ’s righteousness, all for whom he died have their guilt removed, completely done away with. Jesus was the Levitical guilt offering in his death. His soul made an offering for guilt, as verse 10 says. In his death, he sprinkled many nations, such that a people from all peoples are the beneficiaries of his victory, not just the Jews. This people, once at war with God, now are at peace with him. “The chastisement of our peace was upon him.” This people, ravaged by the curse of sin, now have a heavenly inheritance ahead of them that includes complete wholeness and restoration, the cessation of pain and suffering and brokenness, a life of reigning with the Savior. “And with his stripes we are healed.”
b. And through death Christ ventured to ascend back to his heavenly throne, where he sits supreme today. The strong are his as spoils. The kings of the earth are silenced before this Supreme Emperor. All authority in heaven and on earth is his. He rules and reigns and governs with the scepter of divine power.
So, to the questions I asked at the beginning: WHO IS JESUS? WHAT HAS HE DONE?
My friends, this is Jesus. He is the Suffering Servant of Isaiah, the Righteous God-Man who died as the substitutionary sacrifice, the lamb slaughtered in the place of God’s people, for their sin. He is alive. And he reigns as King.
And how will you respond? What will you do about it? That seems to be a very pertinent question, does it not?
This King who died and rose again must be responded to. Will you respond rightly?
Again, as I said at the beginning, how you respond will define you forever.
First, let me speak to the significance of our passage for the unbeliever.
If you are not a Christian, you are an enemy of God. Yes, you are your own Maker’s enemy. And you need atonement. God will execute justice upon your rebellion. There is only one substitute for sinners, like you. Will you look upon him today in faith and be saved? He has taken the punishment and curse of all who would repent and believe, standing in their place, taking their hell upon the cross. If you do not repent and believe in Jesus and his substitutionary work then there is no other substitute. You will bear your iniquity when you stand before God in judgement.
Today, the gospel of Jesus Christ has been proclaimed to you by a sinful man. But has it also been revealed to you by God? We know from 53:1 that none can believe unless it is to them revealed by God. Beg him to grant you this revelation. Beg him that he would give you the eyes to see Christ as the Lamb who was slain in the place of sinners. And call upon him for salvation!
Christian, I have four charges with which to leave you.
1. Have confidence in the power of your Savior. He died for you. He rose and has a place for you with him in heaven. And he even now intercedes for you as you journey on your way. He will not lose a sheep for whom he died.
2. Hate your sin, and help each other put sin to death. It is for your sin that your King died. So do not treat it like a friend. It is an enemy, bent on your destruction. A joy of church membership is having brothers and sisters with whom you can focus on killing that which wants to kill you. Don’t treat sin as benign. Don’t act like it isn’t a big deal. Kill it. Flee from it. Have nothing to do with it.
3. Do not be impressed with, or put your hope in, the kings and authorities of this world, for we are subjects of the Supreme King, the one who makes all others pale in comparison, and silences them.
4. Work to see local churches established wherever they presently are not. Christ’s work on the cross was for all nations without distinction. And those for whom Christ died will be born again, will be raised as his disciples, and will join us with him in glory. Our efforts in missions to establish Christ honoring churches throughout this sin stained world are not in the slightest in vain.