We are coming up on Good Friday this week when the Church gives special attention to the sufferings of Christ. Actually we remember his death every time we partake of Holy Communion. The Scriptures tell us that as we break the bread and drink the cup, we remember Christ’s broken body and shed blood — we remember Christ’s death until he comes again. Furthermore, our message is Christ and him crucified. We preach Christ crucified, risen, and coming again.
Today we want to think of the sufferings of our Lord Jesus Christ. We find an astonishing description of his suffering in Isaiah 52 and 53. I say “astonishing” because this description of Christ’s sufferings was given by the prophet Isaiah 700 years before the birth of our Lord.
Behold, my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted. 14 As many were astonished at you—his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind– 15 so shall he sprinkle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which has not been told them they see, and that which they have not heard they understand.
Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? 2 For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. 3 He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. 8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? 9 And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. 10 Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. 11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors. (Isaiah 52:13-12 ESV).
The Jewish religion, Judaism, has always been at odds with Christianity over the interpretation of Isaiah 53 and many other passages that point to Jesus Christ. But we read in Luke 24, that after his resurrection, Christ himself went through the Scriptures with his apostles and showed them how the Hebrew Scriptures pointed to him.
Several passages in the New Testament confirm that Isaiah was speaking of the suffering of Christ. For example, in Acts 8, we read that Philip met up an Ethiopian eunuch, the Minister of Finances for Ethiopia; he was reading Isaiah 53.
Acts 8:32-35 ESV Now the passage of the Scripture that he was reading was this: “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter and like a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opens not his mouth. 33 In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.” 34 And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus.
So the Ethiopian was reading Isaiah 53, but did not know who Isaiah was talking about. Philip told him that Isaiah was talking about Jesus.
John tells us that the unbelief of the Jews was a fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah 53:1,
John 12:37-38 ESV Though he [Jesus] had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, 38 so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”
Peter also quotes Isaiah 53, telling us that Christ left us an example that we should follow in his steps.
But why did he suffer?
We were created in the image of God. We are creatures who seek to understand. We naturally look for meaning. And so we ask ourselves, “Why?” Why did Christ suffer?
When we speak of the sufferings of Christ, we stand before mystery; we stand on holy ground:
1 Timothy 3:16 ESV Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.
“He was manifested in the flesh.” This is the incarnation. The Word became flesh, the Son of God became the Son of Man. God took upon himself humanity. Isaiah describes Christ on earth growing up before the Father as a young plant, tender, vulnerable. He is threatened as an infant by a hostile King Herod. As an adult, he is subject to all the weaknesses of humanity: he is weary, he sleeps, he thirsts, he bleeds, he dies.
“He had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him” (53:2). Jesus was not what the Jews were hoping for in the Messiah. They wanted someone who would overthrow the Romans, someone who would guarantee them prominence, prestige, and power. They wanted to make him king; they wanted him to wear a crown; he came to bear a cross. So as Isaiah prophesied,
Isaiah 53:3a ESV He was despised and rejected by men;
Matthew 27:39-44 ESV And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads 40 and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” 41 So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, 42 “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” 44 And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way.
Isaiah describes him as
“a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not” (Isaiah 53:3 ESV).
Isaiah writes of Christ’s appearance on the cross.
Isaiah 52:14 ESV As many were astonished at you—his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind—
As we consider suffering, we often attempt to establish cause. Why is this person suffering? Why is another sick? Is it a failure to look after their health?
Job had been the richest man of the East, but lost everything including his health. His three friends — miserable comforters — were certain that there was sin in his life that had brought on the judgment of God. But they were wrong.
In John 9, Jesus comes up on a man who was born blind. The disciples seek to establish blame. “Who sinned?” they ask, “this man or his parents that he would be born blind?”
Looking at Christ on the cross, what are we to think? Isaiah says,
“…yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted” (Isaiah 53:4c-d ESV).
Stricken, smitten, afflicted — by God! We are tempted to ask, “What did he do to deserve this treatment? What did he do to deserve such a horrible death?”
Why did He suffer? Isaiah gives us the answer.
1. CHRIST SUFFERED BECAUSE OF OUR SINS (4-6)!
“Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:4-5 ESV).
Why did he suffer? For what sins did the Crucified One suffer? He bore our griefs. He carried our sorrows. It was not for himself or his sins that he suffered. Our griefs, our sorrows — what we merited, what we deserved, he took upon himself.
- He was pierced for our
- He was crushed for our
- The chastisement upon him brought us peace with God.
- His wounds bring about our healing.
“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6 ESV).
We are wandering sheep. We have followed our ways rather than God’s ways. We do our own thing. We do it our way. We follow our own inclinations.
1 Peter 2:24 ESV He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.
Application: See him there, on the cross? Do you realize that Christ suffered because of your sins? My sins and yours, nailed him to the cross. Christ suffered because of our sins.
Why did He suffer? He suffered because of our sins. But secondly,
2. CHRIST SUFFERED BECAUSE HE ACCEPTED TO SUFFER (7-9).
Isaiah 53:7 ESV He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.
He was a voluntary victim. He is the great high priest who presented himself.
Matthew 26:53 ESV Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?
At any moment he could have put a stop to it all. As they spit in his face, and struck him, and ripped the beard from his face, and lacerated his back with a whip, and drove the crown of thorns into this brow, and nailed him to the cross — at any moment he could have called it off. But he was a voluntary victim. He gave himself for us.
Philippians 2:5-7 ESV Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.
Romans 5:6-8 ESV For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die– 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Heb 9:11-14 ESV “But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) 12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.”
Christ gave himself for us.
Galatians 1:4 who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,
Mat 20:28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Joh 10:11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
Tit 2:14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.
He accepted to suffer and give himself for us, and he did it because he loved us.
Eph 5:2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
Galatians 2:20 ESV I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Joh 15:13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.
Rom 8:37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
Eph 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,
Rev 1:5 and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood
Application: Christ accepted to suffer in your place, in your stead, because he loved you.
3. CHRIST SUFFERED BECAUSE IT WAS THE WILL OF THE LORD TO CRUSH HIM WITH SUFFERING (10).
We may be tempted to think that the cross was a tragic accident. That something went terribly wrong. John tells us that Christ came to his own people, but even his own people did not receive him. But this was no accident. This was the plan of God.
“Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand” (Isaiah 53:10 ESV).
On the Day of Pentecost, Peter preached,
Acts 2:23 ESV this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.
Two chapters later, the believers prayed,
Acts 4:27-28 ESV for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.
We are all implicated in the death of Christ, Jews and Gentiles alike. But it was the Father’s plan and a demonstration of His love as well as the love of the Son.
1 John 4:9-10 ESV In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
John 3:16 ESV For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
Propitiation is the satisfaction of justice. God could not simply overlook our sins and still be righteous. If it is proved in a court of law that a man is guilty of murder, we expect the judge to pass sentence on the murderer rather than let him off. And if the judge simply excuses the crime, we would say that the judge is corrupt.
God cannot simply let us off the hook. He is righteous and just. The penalty must be paid, but our sins and iniquities are too great. We cannot pay for our own deliverance. God Himself paid the penalty. The Word became flesh. The Son of God became the Son of Man that he might stand in our place, and pay the penalty for our sins. The death of Christ on the cross was no accident. It was the plan of God. The Father gave His Son. The Son gave himself.
Application: Christ suffered because that was the only way that God could save us.
4. CHRIST SUFFERED TO JUSTIFY MANY (11-12).
“Many… many… many”
Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors. (Isaiah 53:11-12 ESV).
Christ died not for a few, but for all. John tells us that Christ is the propitiation not only for our sins, but also for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:1-2). Christ died for your sins. Christ died that you might be justified.
Psalm 2:8 ESV Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.
Revelation 5:9-10 ESV And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, 10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”
Application: Are you one of the many who have been justified?
II. Christ suffered
- Because of our sins
- Because he accepted to suffer: it was voluntary.
- Because it was the will of the lord to crush him with suffering
- To justify many.
© J. Gary Ellison, April 4, 2012
See Him there upon the cross
As He dies in shame?
We are the ones who nailed Him there,
We are the ones to blame.
It was for crimes He had not done,
Our sins that caused His pain.
He knew no sin, the Righteous One,
For sinners He was slain.
O Lamb of God on sacred tree
Twas there You died for me
To take away my sin and shame
That righteous I might be.
That Holy One did bear our sin
No other one could do.
He is the Lamb, the spotless One,
Who died for me and you.
Holy, innocent, undefiled,
On Him our sins were laid,
To cleanse us from our awful deeds
The penalty He paid.
O Righteous One, I hear you now,
“It’s finished! It is done!”—
The work on Calvary’s bloody cross—
The victory’s been won!
They laid Him in a borrowed grave
He would not use it long.
God raised Him up that He might save,
This is Redemption’s song.
He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, (John 1:11-12 ESV).
You can receive Christ right where you are by confessing you sin to him and asking him to be your Lord and Savior.