Saturday, April 3, 2021

The Gospel of Isaiah. . .

Sermon for Good Friday Evening, preached on April 2, 2021.

     Most of what we recall of Isaiah is tied to Christmas.  Unto us a child is born and unto us a Son is given and the government shall be upon His shoulders. . .  Or the Virgin shall conceive and bear a Son and shall call His name Immanuel. . . But Isaiah was not simply the voice of one proclaiming the coming of the Son of God, he is the voice of the prophet who tells us exactly why He has come.  John records the details of what took place on that Friday forever known as Good but Isaiah gives us the whole picture centuries before it ever happened.  We always see things better in the rear view mirror than we do looking into the future so God’s people of old might be forgiven if they had read Isaiah’s words and not realized that they pointed to Jesus.  But we have the benefit of hindsight.  

    Even more than this, we have the benefit of those who have revealed this to us, like Philip did to the Ethiopian eunuch who had the manuscript of Isaiah but did not understand it:  “He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth but in his humiliation he was deprived of justice for his life was taken from the earth.”  Parents and teachers, pastors and catechists have led us so that in these words we see Good Friday promised long before our Savior was incarnate into the womb of the Virgin or mounted the cross.  They have been our Philip so that blind we might see and deaf we might hear.

    Jesus was not a looker, says Isaiah.  Whatever His appearance, it was so marred and disfigured by the ugliness of our sins that even the Father would turn away from His only-begotten Son on the cross.  He was born to be despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows acquainted with the grief of a world caught in the trap of sin, the glory of man stolen away, and all that was left was death.   His disciple fled and none of us would look upon Him unless someone had told us what His suffering meant.  Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.  In Christ are all our regrets, all our failed intentions, and all our secret sins.  He has come for them.  Though He was born to bear our sins upon the tree of the cross, we did not put Him there.  He went there willingly for our salvation – such an incredible love that only the Spirit can teach us to believe it.

    All we like sheep have gone astray.  Everyone of us is shamed by the mountain of our sins and by the inherited sin of our parents from Eden.  The terrible legacy of all that we have thought, said, and done, the good we have failed to do, and the evil we have done over and over again.  The Lord took what was ours and laid it on Him.  On His righteous shoulders were laid the unrighteousness of us all.  That we might be accounted righteous – not only forgiven of our sins but declared righteous, just, and holy in Christ.
    He was oppressed by our sin.  It took His breath away.  The great weight of our sin He suffered not because we demanded but because He offered.  He was afflicted by all the afflictions of men.  He was made like us in every way except sin so that He might know the depth of our need, the pain of our wounds, and the hurt of our sorrows.  Though we complain about every little thing we do not like, He did not open His mouth.  How could He?  He stepped up to the Father and willingly in His flesh bore our sins that what had been lost to the Father, He might restore and we would be God’s family again.

    He was a lamb led to the slaughter.  THE lamb.  Isaac could escape the sacrifice because a ram was caught in the thicket but no one was coming to rescue Jesus.  And He did not cry out to be rescued.  He was in control of the time when He would be offered for the sins of the world but He willingly became our offering.  He IS the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  Like a sheep who knows that he lives for the wool that is harvested from him, so Jesus does not cry out against those who crucified Him.  No, He could not.  For this He was born and for this He came into the world.

    No court found justice and no judgment was righteous against Him.  He suffered the abuse of trials in which verdicts were rendered before evidence entered.  He was cut off from the land of the living without one son or daughter as the fruit of His loins but with the descendants as many as stars in the sky or sand on the shore of those who love Him and believe in His Word.  The Son of God has many brothers and sisters not from an ancestry tree but as the fruits of the tree of the cross.  His family swells from the saints who went before, those who bow before Him tonight, and those yet to come.  

    He made His grave with the wicked.  A borrowed tomb became the place where they laid His cold, dead body but it was not His home and He refused to be captive to the destiny of death.  He would rise again but not to take vengeance upon the injustice of His life and death.  No, instead so that the fruits of His life and death might be proclaimed to every end of the earth, that many may be called to faith and live.  No life was more unjustly taken and yet no death has borne more fruit than His.  You are I are testaments to the power of His atoning work.

    Though part of us wants to find someone to blame for everything, it was the will of the Lord to crush our Lord with the weight of our sins and to press Him with that load until the breath of His body was gone and He hung limp and lifeless from the wood.  Yet He saw and knew what none did.  He saw and knew that many would come and look upon the cross and rejoice in the salvation manifested there.  He knew that His life would be planted like a seed into the ground of death and bring forth many plants, the planting of the Lord, from which much good fruit would be borne.

    The unrighteous are counted righteous by our Lord suffering.  He bore in His body the iniquity of us all and now no sins are left to accuse us and no burden left for us to bear in order that we might earn our salvation.  He has gifted us with the priceless gift of His suffering and bestowed upon us freely the riches of the treasure of His blood.  We are so well endowed with grace that we cannot but share it with others.  The spoils of His victory are not simply ours to own but ours to give to those, who like that eunuch of old, do not know.

    Even as He died He prayed.  “Father forgive them.”  And when the ground will cough Him up to life on the third day, He will continue the prayer begun in His death, for you, for me, and for all who look upon that cross.  He will not be left to death but will rise again to petition the Father with the power of His blood until all the elect have been called from darkness into His marvelous light.  

    This is Isaiah’s Gospel.  It was written like a script for what John would record and its words pierced history with the promise of the Father.  We come tonight as a people who were blind but see, were deaf but hear, were dead in trespasses and sin but now we live in Christ.  Love wrote this story.  Not love that drips of sentiment and feeling but love strong enough to do for us what we could not do for ourselves.  He was high and lifted up on the cross and all who look to Him are saved for His mercy’s sake.  And when the day comes when time itself shall end, He shall reign over a people whom He has exalted with His death and raised to share His life.  God grant it for Jesus’ sake.   Amen.

No comments: