(Delivered at the Good Friday Service, March 21, 2008 at Bethany Bible Church. Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version; copyright 1982, Thomas Nelson, Inc.)
Tonight, we commemorate the greatest act of sacrificial love that has ever been performed.
The Bible tells us,
God didn't want His people to be in the dark about this. He wanted them to understand—as accurately as possible—what this great act of sacrificial love was, and what it was meant to accomplish. He wants them to see it as He sees it. And so, He provided an explanation of it, seven-hundred years before it occurred, through His prophet Isaiah.
Please join me this evening as we read together from this great portion of the Old Testament. In doing so, may our hearts will be taken up by the love that God has shown us on the cross of His beloved Son; and our hearts prepared to personally receive, and thank Him for, this great sacrifice of love.
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First, let's read together from Isaiah 53:1-3; and consider what it tells us about . . .
“God’s Sinless Son.”
Look at how Jesus is described in this passage. It's said that He grew up in this world, before God the Father, as “a tender plant”, and as “a root out of dry ground”.
That's not how the men of this world thought of Him. From their point of view, there was no “form” or “comeliness” about Him that would have made Him stand out. There was no remarkable “beauty” to Him that men should desire Him. In fact, it was quite the opposite. He was “despised and rejected by men”. They hid their faces from Him. You would have thought that the Son of God, walking around on earth in human flesh, would have been received warmly and esteemed highly. But instead, He was “A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief”. Those to whom He came wouldn't even believe the report about Him.
But God let's us know that, in a dry 'desert' world of lostness and sin, His Son came and grew up before God as a “tender plant” and as “a root out of dry ground”. There was no imperfection in Him. The testimony of the Bible is that He “knew no sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21). His own testimony was that He always did those things which please the Father (John 8:29). And the Father's testimony concerning Him was, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17).
When Jesus walked upon this earth, He didn't appear in the sight of men to be what they would have expected. And yet, He came into this world as God's Son—born of a virgin; born without a single taint of sin. And because He had no sin, He was able to bear our sins on our behalf.
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Jesus came into this world of sin with no sin of His own. And it was so that He could bear your sins and mine on Himself and die in our place. So next, I ask you to read with me from Isaiah 53:4-6; and let's consider together Jesus as . . .
This speaks of the cross of Jesus. It tells us that He bore griefs; that He carried sorrows; that He was bruised, and smitten and afflicted. It speaks of the stripes He bore as a result of being beaten and scourged.
But do you also notice that you and I are also mentioned throughout this passage?—so much so, in fact that it's about us as much as it is about Him? It tells us that He didn't suffer these things for Himself. Rather, it tells us that it was our griefs He bore; and our sorrows He carried. He tells us that He was wounded for our “transgressions”—that is, for our violations of God's righteous law. It tells us that He was bruised for our “iniquities”—that is, for our offenses against God's standards of holiness.
Our sins could never be taken away by ourselves. No amount of “personal sorrow” or “good deeds” on our part could have taken them away. The Bible tells us that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23); and the only way we could pay for our sins is by dying for them. And so, left to ourselves, we could never be in a state of peace with a holy God.
And yet, it was Jesus who took the punishment of our sins on Himself. We wandered away; and the Father had laid the guilt of the sin all of us on His sinless Son. He paid the “death penalty” in our place; so it could be said that the “chastisement [or “punishment”] for our peace was upon Him”, and that it was “by His stripes we are healed”.
Let's acknowledge this sacrifice by singing “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”.
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Our sins required the “death penalty”; and God graciously provided His own beloved, sinless Son to pay that debt for us on the cross. So, let's go on to read verses 7-9; and next consider . . .
“The Law’s Satisfaction”
The first thing I ask you to notice is that Jesus is compared here with “a lamb”. Back in the Old Testament, God provided in His law that a lamb was to be sacrificed as an offering for sin. And that's why John the Baptist introduced Jesus to the world in the way that He did—calling Him “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
And second, I ask you to notice Jesus' wonderful submission to the law of God in willingly serving as our substitute. We're told that He was oppressed and afflicted; “Yet He opened not His mouth”. When He was cross-examined before those who brought accusation against Him, He didn't say a word. He offered no defense of His own righteousness, nor said anything that could have spared Himself from judgment. Instead, He was “as a sheep before its shearers”—silent. He willingly submitted to the laws requirement of death for our sin.
And third, I ask you to notice that, in all this, the requirement of the law was completely fulfilled. He was taken from prison and from judgment; and the result was His condemnation to death on a cross. When it asks, “Who would declare His generation?”, it was because “He was cut off from the land of the living”. In absolute fulfillment of the laws requirement, a life was given for sin—His life in exchange for ours. As the Bible says, “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13).
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This brings us to our last reading. And the first thing that it says in it may come as a shock. We have read of the suffering of Jesus on the cross on our behalf; and now we find these words: “Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He [that is, the Father] has put Him [His beloved Son] to grief” (Isaiah 53:10). It's enough of a marvel that the Father's sinless Son would take our punishment upon Himself. But why would it actually “please” the Father to bring that punishment on Him?
It's because, by doing so, He has taken away the sin that stood in the way of our entering into full fellowship with Him. The Father loved us so much that it pleased Him to give His only begotten Son on our behalf. And what's more, His Son also loved us so much that He willingly did what He was sent by the Father to do.
This leads us to our final reading. In verses 10-12, we find that those who trust His sacrifice on the cross are . . .
“His Redeemed People”
Earlier in this passage, we saw that the world mocked Him by saying, “Who will declare His generation?” But because He paid the price for our redemption according to the law, and because the Father gladly accepted His sacrifice on our behalf, we're told, and because He rose from the dead as a testimony that the price has been fully paid, “He shall see His seed”.
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Now; before we conclude our look at this passage, please notice one more thing. I believe that it's what makes this passage “personal” to you and me.
Verse 11 says that it is by “His knowledge” that the Father's “righteous Servant” Jesus “shall justify many”. This can be translated to read that it is “through the knowledge of Him”. When you and I acknowledge the truths that we're told about Jesus so that they sink deeply in to our hearts—that is, that we are sinners who are separated from a holy God because of our sin, and that our sins have brought upon ourselves the righteous sentence of death; but that God, in mercy, graciously sent His sinless Son Jesus to bear our sins upon Himself on the cross in accordance with the demands of His law; and that God the Father is completely satisfied with Jesus' sacrifice for us; and when you and I respond by receiving Jesus' sacrifice of love and trusting in it alone for our salvation—then we are “justified”. God declares us righteous in His sight; and we are saved. “By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities.”
“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ,” it says in Acts 16:31; “and you will be saved”. As you come to the Lord's table this evening; come remembering God's sinless Son. Believe on Him personally as your sin-bearer. Acknowledge that His sacrifice has satisfied the demands of God's law; and that because of what He did, we may now stand before God as His redeemed people.
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