Sermon on Isaiah 53:4-7 (A Lamb Goes Uncomplaining Forth)
Text: Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
There are several instances in Jesus’ life where his reason for coming to the world was told to others. We think of the angel telling the shepherds on the night that Jesus was born: “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” (Luke 2:11) Simeon took the baby Jesus in his arms and said of him: “My eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations.” (Luke 2:30-31) Years later, when John the Baptist saw Jesus coming down the road, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29) With these words, John told the people that Jesus had come to take away the sins of the world. In doing so, John used a word picture to describe the work of Jesus, namely, that he was the Lamb of God, pointing to all those Old Testament sacrifices that were made. This evening, as we begin/continue our look at the theme “A Lamb goes uncomplaining forth,” we are going to turn our attention to the fact that he was THE SACRIFICIAL LAMB. We will look at 1. The Reason The Sacrifice Was Necessary, 2. The Sacrifice Offered, and 3. The Blessings Of The Sacrifice.
One reason why people will always object to the message of the Bible is that it begins by telling them the truth about what they are by nature. They, we, are sinners. No one likes to hear that. We like to think that, all in all, we’re pretty good people. However, as we study the words of our text that describe our natural condition, we can’t help but see our true nature. We find the word “transgression.” (Verse 5) Transgression means to step over the line. It’s the word “trespasses” which we use in the Lord’s Prayer. God has placed certain things off limits, and we cross over the line. The word also has the idea of rebellion. In spite of knowing exactly what God’s will is, we have revolted against it. God’s law says one thing, but we refuse to do it and do the exact opposite. The word “transgression” also carries the idea of breaking an agreement with someone. God designed Adam and Eve to live under him. The agreement was that they not eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. They broke their agreement with God and suffered the consequences. God has set up the agreement that we keep his law. In exchange, we will have his blessings, including eternal life. We broke and break that agreement and deserve nothing but his punishment.
Another word that describes the need for this sacrifice is “iniquities.” (Verse 5) This has the idea of something being not level or equal. God puts the level of his law on our lives and finds that it is not straight, not level. Another way to look at this word is dealing crookedly with someone. You put on your best face. You say that you will honor the agreement, but you go ahead and do what you want to, instead. As a result, there is guilt.
Then, we find this condemning statement, “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way.” (Verse 6) First of all, we note the words, “We all.” There are no exceptions. This includes everyone, including you and me. Secondly, we note that we have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way. God’s way was perfectly plain, but we decided to go our own way. We followed our sinful pursuits, running after this or that, which we thought would bring us pleasure. What are some of those paths? For some, it might be the thought of building ourselves up by sharing what we know about others, especially if they aren’t portrayed in the best light. We might follow the path of taking something that didn’t belong to us, reasoning that we deserved it more than they did. The fact is that there are many paths that we, like sheep, have blindly followed. All those paths have one thing in common. They lead to an eternity of punishment, an eternity of being separated from our God’s love. There was nothing that we could do to change this.
As a result, in love, God did something about it. Remember the penalty for sin? Paul writes in Romans 6:23, “The wages of sin is death.” Rather than punishing you and I, who deserved it, God sent a Substitute in our place. That’s really the heart of our sermon text. Isaiah looks prophetically to the one who would come to be our Substitute, Jesus Christ. As you look though the text, you see that concept again and again: him for us. Let’s take a few moments and look at what he, our Substitute did for us. We read in verse 4, “Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted.” To the outside observer, it looked as though God was punishing Jesus for the things that he had done. However, when you pull back the curtain, we see that he took up our pain and bore our suffering. It wasn’t because of his sins, for he had none. It was because of the sins that we have committed.
To help us see the extent of Jesus’ loving sacrifice, we read, “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” (Verse 5) One can hardly read those words without thinking about the events of Jesus’ life on late Maundy Thursday and on Good Friday. “Pierced” reminds us of the wounds that the crown of thorns made on Jesus’ head and the nails that pierced his hands and feet. “Crushed” reminds us of the crushing weight of the cross as Jesus carried it to Calvary. “Punishment” makes us think of the ways that the Jewish leaders and Romans soldiers mistreated Jesus. “Wounds” draws our eyes to Jesus’ back that bore the effects of the Roman scourge.
However, as you look at the picture of Jesus’ suffering, don’t just focus on the physical pain that Jesus endured. Remember what was happening behind the scenes. We read in verse 6, “The LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” While on the cross, Jesus was bearing the sins of all people of all time. God was punishing him for all the sins that anyone has ever committed, going all the way back to Adam and Eve. Isaiah notes that “He was led like a lamb to the slaughter.” For Isaiah’s readers, they would have thought of the lambs that were offered on the altar. Everyone of those lambs were to be perfect, without blemish or defect of any kind. This was a picture of what the promised Messiah would come to do. He, the sinless Son of God, would be led to the altar of the cross, to be put to death for the sins of the world. We, also, note that this was done voluntarily. “As a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.” (Verse 7) Jesus willingly went to the cross. He wasn’t forced to do it. He chose to do this, to be that sacrificial lamb, because he wanted to. He chose to do this because he loved you.
We see the blessings that are ours because of this sacrificial act. “The punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” (Verse 5) Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, we have been healed. We were suffering from the fatal disease of sin. There was no cure that we could come up with. However, because of the Lamb of God’s sacrifice, we have been healed. Instead of death, we now have life. We can enjoy life on this earth as a forgiven child of God and we have eternal life to look forward to. We, also, have peace. Because Jesus has taken away our sins, we are no longer in rebellion against God. We are no longer his enemies, but, though faith in Jesus, his dearly loved children. We are at peace with him. Because we have this peace with God, we enjoy other types of peace, as well. We enjoy the peace of mind in knowing that our God will provide everything we need for this life. We don’t have to worry because we know that God will take care of us. We have the peace of mind in knowing that God will hear every one of our prayers. He’s never too busy to listen to them and we know that he will always answer them in the way that is best for us. We have the peace of mind in knowing that, whatever may happen in our lives, whether to our eyes it’s good or bad, God is always right there beside us, guiding and directing our lives. He never leaves us on our own to fend for ourselves as best we can. Because we are at peace with God, we find our motivation to live in peace with those around us. We don’t look for reasons to one up them. Rather, we look for ways that we can live in peace with those around us and search for ways that we can serve them. Finally, we look forward to that eternal peace when we get to heaven. There all the cares, troubles, hardships, and sadness will be gone. We will live in perfect peace for all eternity. These are the blessings that have become ours because of the sacrifice of our Savior.
On Maundy Thursday evening, Jesus said to his disciples, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13) That’s really what the whole idea is behind our study of Jesus’ suffering and death. It is love. Jesus didn’t just say that he loved the world, that he loved you and me. He put his love into action. He willingly laid down his life, bore the punishment that you and I deserved because of our sins. He did it all for you. Take some time and read over the words of our text and marvel. Everything Jesus did, he did for you so that you might be his. My dear friends, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” Amen.
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