If you missed last week’s message, I encourage you to please listen to it or read it online (https://redbarnchurch.com/Archives/glory-despised/). This week is the second message in a series.
We are in the season when we celebrate the anniversary of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. Jesus’ resurrection is not a story about a man who cheats death. His resurrection means so much more than a man who walks out of the grave. It is a profound truth that impacts every person who is has lived, is alive today, or will live in the future.
Three verses in the book of Isaiah, the middle stanza of the last of four Servant Songs in Isaiah help us understand the weighty impact of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
Isaiah’s Fourth Servant Song
The Servant Song is a five-stanza poem about the Messiah. Jesus is mentioned 55 times in 15 verses. Isaiah prophetically writes the poem 700 years before the Messiah is born. All four gospels quote this Servant Song!
In the first stanza (Isaiah 52:13-15), God speaks about the glory of the Messiah. God exalts the Servant because of His obedient sacrifice. The Messiah is glorious because He is willing to be obedient even to death.
The second stanza (Isaiah 53:1-3) reveals that we do not bring glory to the Messiah, but just the opposite. We find Him unattractive, lacking majesty, and one who we look away from in disgust. We despise the Messiah. We are guilty of not seeing the Messiah as glorious.
In the third stanza, we learn of the purpose of the Messiah’s work as God’s servant. The Servant of the Lord’s ministry is that of atonement. He serves God by saving God’s people.
Gospel Theology of the Servant Song
It is important for us to understand theology. Theology is the study of the nature of God. Theology is the combination of the word Theo, which means God and logos which means words. Theology literally means “God words.” There is no greater study than the study of theology. Knowledge of God helps us to worship Him in spirit and truth.
The Servant Song is full of gospel theology. Theology about the good news of salvation. In the third stanza of the Servant Song are four basic truths of the gospel. It is necessary to understand these truths to understand God’s salvation.
First is the truth about God’s glory. There are two main principles of God’s glory (Exodus 34:6-7). God is compassionate, loving, and forgiving. And, God must punish sin. He is holy, and He does not tolerate rebellion. He will not leave the guilty unpunished. God’s glory is His nature. It defines His character. (read or listen to this sermon for a full exposition of God’s glory: https://redbarnchurch.com/Archives/gods-holy-plan/)
The second gospel truth in this passage is the principle of atonement. Atonement is repairing a wrong. Atonement is easily remembered by thinking “at-one-ment.” It is making people at one with one-another. Atonement results in unity and agreement.
Because we are sinners, we are not at one with God. Our relationship needs atonement. Jesus’ salvation is a work of atonement.
In the Mosaic Covenant, there is a “temporary atonement.” The Law of Moses instructs the Levitical priests to make atonement between the Israelites and God. The Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, is the holiest day in the Jewish Calendar.
On Yom Kippur, the Israelites bring two goats to the High Priest. The first is the scapegoat. The priest places his hands on the goat’s head and confesses the sins of the people. The scapegoat is sent into the wilderness carrying all the sins of the people. It signifies the removal of the sins of the people making them sinless. The people are at one with God because their sin is removed. The scapegoat signifies God’s glorious nature of compassion and forgiveness.
But God’s glorious nature must punish the sin, which is why the Mosaic Law requires two goats.
The purpose of the second goat is the propitiation of God’s anger. Propitiation is the act of satisfying a punishment and appeasing wrath. God is rightfully full of wrath because of sin and rebellion. If God does not punish rebellion, He is not glorious. It is His nature as a Holy God to punish the guilty.
The second goat is brought to the High Priest for propitiation. The goat is sacrificed, and the High Priest sprinkles the blood on the Ark of the Covenant. God’s Law says that there is no forgiveness of sin without the shedding of blood (Leviticus 17:11).
The fourth gospel truth is that of sovereign grace.
The sacrifice of goats, sheep, and bulls do not sufficiently satisfy God’s perfect justice. The Bible says that it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins (Hebrews 10:4). They are a temporary propitiation.
If the blood of bulls and goats is not enough, what is enough? God is infinitely perfect, and we need an infinitely perfect sacrifice. The Law is perfect, but we may not complete the Law. The Law is given to demonstrate our inability to satisfy God’s justice. God is perfectly just in our condemnation.
But our problem is that we do not have a perfect sacrifice. We cannot pay the price. We do not have the resources. God must sovereignly give us what we don’t deserve. We must turn to the holy God who we rebel against and beg for a perfect sacrifice. And, we are so sinful, we don’t even know that is what we must do!
There is no court of appeals. God is the Supreme Judge. God must intervene and help us, or we will perish under God’s wrath. We have no other place to turn. In other words, the only person who may save us from God’s wrath is God.
These truths set the stage for the third stanza of the Servant Song.
Today is the first day of Holy Week. The Servant Song in Isaiah is the prophetic proclamation of all that takes place during Holy Week. It is the prophecy of Jesus’ atoning work and His resurrection.
One of the prophecies of Jesus’ ministry is that the people will not understand or recognize the Messiah correctly. We see this truth vividly displayed on Palm Sunday and Good Friday.
At the time of Jesus, Palm Sunday is not called Palm Sunday. In the first century, it is the day after the Sabbath when everyone starts preparing for the Passover Meal. It’s like our Monday before Thanksgiving.
Passover is a great feast of celebration held during the Jewish month of Nisan; it typically occurs in April on our calendar. It is the feast celebrating God’s salvation and deliverance of His people from bondage in Egypt. Imagine all of us getting saved on the same day. The Law of Moses commands the celebration of the Passover.
In Jesus’ time, the Jews travel to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. Jerusalem’s population swells from 25,000 to as much as 150,000. Not everyone can get lodging in Jerusalem. Jesus and His disciples stay in Bethany and travel two miles into Jerusalem for the festivities.
On the first Palm Sunday, what makes the day so special is Jesus. Everyone is wondering if Jesus is coming to Jerusalem. He is very famous for His miracles and teaching. His latest miracle is to raise Lazarus from the dead. There are throngs of people following Him. As Jesus enters Jerusalem, people are waving palm branches and putting their coats on the road. It is their version of rolling out the red carpet. They welcome Jesus on the road from Bethany to Jerusalem, and they cry out:
“Hosanna to the Son of David;
Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord;
Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:9)
Jesus is also famous because some think Him to be the Messiah who will deliver them from Roman occupation. Moses delivers the Jews from Egypt. Cyrus delivers from Babylon. Judah Maccabees delivers them from Greek domination. Jesus from the Romans.
The Jews might as well be crying out, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord; who saves us from the Roman occupation.”
Fast forward four days to the following Thursday. We know that a confrontation occurs. A cohort of Roman soldiers, up to 600 men, approach Jesus. These men are especially trained to put down insurgencies. Jesus is surrounded by many of His followers. This is why they had to pay Judas. He is used to get through the crowd to Jesus because He is trusted by the bodyguards.
Once they realize there is a betrayal, Peter draws His sword and takes the first action. The revolution starts. Or, so they think.
But, it is not a revolution. Jesus tells Peter to put away His sword. He heals the soldier and allows Himself to get arrested by the Romans. Jesus is no Moses, Cyrus, or Maccabees. The dreams of deliverance from the Romans are shattered in a few minutes.
News of Jesus’ arrest spreads throughout Jerusalem. It is very likely that news of His lack of resistance to the Romans also spreads. The famous hero is no hero at all. Jesus is a coward who allows Himself to be arrested by the Roman soldiers. People might go so far as to think He is a traitor because He heals the soldier’s ear. Overnight, the hero becomes the villain, and the songs of hosanna become calls to crucify.
Jesus does not meet their expectations. They want deliverance, but they don’t know what it means to have true deliverance; they don’t see Jesus as they should. When their cries change from hosanna to crucify, they fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy.
He is …
like one from whom men hide their face
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. (Isaiah 53:3)
Peter, the leader of Jesus’ followers, is among those who turns his face away. Peter says three times, “I don’t know Him.” Peter, and the rest of the people in Jerusalem fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah on the night Jesus is betrayed and on the next day during His crucifixion.
If Jesus, the Messiah, is not going to deliver the Jews from Roman occupation, what will He do? The Messiah is the Arm of the Lord. The Arm of the Lord always acts powerfully on behalf of God’s people. What is the powerful work of the Servant of the Lord?
The third stanza answers our question about the Messiah’s work.
Jesus bears our grief and sorrows
Surely our griefs He Himself bore,
And our sorrows He carried;
Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten of God, and afflicted. (Isaiah 53:4)
Surely there is a certainty and Isaiah is trying to tell us the truth. Surely, we are wrong.
We are wrong because we look at Jesus and see Him as being a man of grief and sorrows. The truth is that we are a people of grief and sorrows. It is not His grief and sorrows that we see when we look at Him, but they are ours.
And while Jesus is carrying our grief and sorrows, we look at Him as though He deserves such grief. As Jesus is serving us with love, we look on Him as being stricken because He is getting deserved judgment from God.
People look at Jesus on the cross and view it as karma. Jesus is reaping what He has sown. God is striking Him because He is getting what He deserves. They mock Him because He is, to them, obviously not a man in God’s favor.
Isaiah reveals that He does not deserve being smitten by God nor does He deserve to have sorrow or grief. We are dead wrong in our assessment. Jesus is not a man of sorrows because He deserves to be sad. Jesus chooses to take our grief and sorrow. He carries it for us. We live vicariously through other people’s success. Jesus lives vicariously in our failure. Jesus demonstrates God’s nature of abounding in loving kindness and compassion.
Jesus is punished for Our Well-being
Isaiah continues with His prophesy of the Messiah’s work as God’s Servant.
In verse four, Isaiah says we see Him stricken by God. Isaiah says, but, what you see is not true. Jesus is not pierced for His transgressions, but He is put to death for ours.
But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
And by His scourging, we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5)
The depth of the Messiah’s ministry far exceeds our understanding. Not only does the Messiah bear our grief and sorrow, but our punishment falls upon Him. God is not smiting the Messiah because He deserves affliction. It is our affliction He bears.
Pierced is a word in the Old Testament to describe being put to death. Crushed literally means pulverized. He is put to death and pulverized in our place. The piercing and crushing are punishment we deserve.
The Messiah is chastened for our well-being. Chastening is discipline and punishment of a child by a parent. We are in rebellion and deserve chastening. Our rebellion disrupts our relationship. Our relationship with God is injured by sin. We need atonement, and God must satisfy His just wrath.
Jesus is the scapegoat that takes our sins and is sent away. He provides atonement.
And, Jesus satisfies God’s just wrath by taking our punishment. He is the sacrifice whose blood is sprinkled on the Ark of the Covenant’s Mercy Seat in heaven.
The scourging (John 19:1) Jesus receives is to cure our sickness. We often hear this verse talking about physical sickness. But, if we look at chapter one of Isaiah (Isaiah 1:5-6), we learn that our sickness is not physical, but spiritual. We are sick with rebellion. It is because of rebellion that our heart is faint. Our rebellion makes us sick from the sole of our foot to the top of our head. Jesus ministry is to bring healing.
Jesus removes our sins and satisfies God’s wrath by taking our punishment. When Jesus takes our sin, we are made righteous. Jesus brings us into a state of righteousness so that we may enjoy God without guilt and shame. God’s glorious love and His glorious justice come together at the cross.
Jesus does far more than take the punishment we deserve. Jesus gives us well-being (shalom). We are made completely whole.
Our Iniquity falls on Jesus
All of us like sheep have gone astray,
Each of us has turned to his own way;
But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all
To fall on Him. (Isaiah 53:6)
It is important for us to notice the inclusiveness of everyone. “All of us,” is at the beginning, and “us all” is at the end. There are no exceptions. Every person is gone astray. Every person is a rebel going their own way. Every person needs salvation.
It is quite possible God creates sheep so we know what we are like in His eyes. Sheep are single-minded and oblivious of their surroundings. They make easy prey because they are unable to defend themselves. Sheep don’t learn from their mistakes but will fall into the same hole in the ground every day. They are notoriously stubborn. They easily stray and will follow one another with no reason.
The most important attribute about sheep is that they are dependent on a shepherd, but they don’t know they need a shepherd.
God sees our need for a perfect sacrifice. He knows we are unable to provide a sacrifice to satisfy His wrath. We are wandering around, going our own way. We make the same mistakes repeatedly. We stubbornly think we can save ourselves (we still hear people say, I am not a good enough Christian). We follow false teachers. We go astray.
Thankfully, God is not a tyrant who sees rebellion and kills us on the spot. He loves us even though we are rebellious sinners. God is longsuffering. He doesn’t send His punishment and walk away satisfied. God is good. His love is a love of restoration. He is compassionate and abounding in lovingkindness.
God so loves us that He gives us His beloved Son to take our punishment for our well-being and healing. His plan from the beginning of Creation is to send a Savior to provide atonement. The firs sermon preached to the first Christians by Peter on the Day of Pentecost proclaims that Jesus is delivered over to be sacrificed by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God (Acts 2:23).
Jesus ministry is to make us one with God through His blood sacrifice and taking the punishment on our behalf. It is really that simple.
But, people complicate His work. In the world today, many people are just like the crowd on Palm Sunday. They turn to Jesus to help them with the problems in this world. For the first-century Jews, the problem is the Roman occupation. As soon as they learn Jesus is not going to help them with that problem, they walk away and despise Jesus.
Jesus is greatly misunderstood. In our culture, most people don’t understand that the ministry of Jesus is to make atonement for our sin. It’s because we have a testimony problem.
A friend loses their job and a Christian will say, come to church and let’s get you back on your feet. A couple has marriage problems, so a Christian tells them to get Christian counseling to save their marriage. A coworkers child is sick and in the hospital so we tell them we will have our church pray for their child to get well. (All these things can happen because of Jesus.)
Christians are too busy talking about the Palm Sunday Jesus. We tell people Jesus will get rid of the Roman occupation in their life. The problem is when the friend loses another job, the marriage still continues to have problems, or the child doesn’t get well, the same people who turn to Jesus, will turn from Jesus because He doesn’t fix the problem.
The reason Jesus came is not to miraculously feed people bread and fish. He did not come so the blind, deaf, and lame might be healed. Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead, but being dead is not Lazarus biggest problem!
Jesus came to offer a blood atonement. He lives so that He will die. He came to take our sins on the cross so our relationship with God. We need to tell people about the Good Friday Jesus, not the Palm Sunday Jesus.
He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
The well-being Jesus offers is to have peace with God. The healing Jesus offers is healing from our rebellion. The Palm Sunday people are disappointed.
But, those who see Jesus carrying their grief, sorrow, and sin, are not disappointed. Jesus makes us righteous. He makes us right before God.
For the Scripture says, “whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.” (Romans 10:11) quoting Isaiah 28:16
If you look to Jesus to take your punishment for your sin and to make your relationship right before God, you will not be disappointed.
If we turn to Jesus because we are sinners and believe Jesus dies to take our punishment, we will not be disappointed.