Jesus, the Suffering Servant: Part 1 (Isaiah Sermon 61 of 81)
January 25, 2015 | Andrew Davis
Humiliation of Christ, Prophecy, Atonement
Introduction: The Great Metropolis of Scripture
So I don't know that I've been as excited to preach a sermon as I am right now. I am just crackling with energy and joy. I don't know how to say that, I've been feeling that all day. We come to just one of the great, great passages of Scripture in the Bible as we come Isaiah 53, and I'm just so thrilled to be able to do that. I'm praying that God would be able to just unleash this chapter in our hearts line by line as we contemplate it.
On March 15th, 1859, the greatest preacher in England during the 19th century, Charles Spurgeon, preached a sermon entitled Christ Precious to Sinners, and in that he told a story. The story went something like this:
"A young man had been preaching in the presence of a venerable divine, and after he had done he went to the old minister, and said, "What do you think of my sermon?" "A very poor sermon indeed," said he. "A poor sermon?" said the young man, "it took me a long time to study it." "Ay, no doubt of it." "Why, did you not think my explanation of the text a very good one?" "Oh, yes," said the old preacher, "very good indeed." "Well, then, why do you say it is a poor sermon? Didn't you think the metaphors were appropriate and the arguments conclusive?" "Yes, they were very good as far as that goes, but still it was a very poor sermon." "Will you tell me why you think it a poor sermon?" "Because," said he, "there was no Christ in it." "Well," said the young man, "Christ was not in the text; we are not to be preaching Christ always, we must preach what is in the text." So the old man said, "Don't you know young man that from every town, and every village, and every little hamlet in England, wherever it may be, there is a road to London?" "Yes," said the young man. "Ah!" said the old divine "and so form every text in Scripture, there is a road to the metropolis of the Scriptures, that is Christ. And my dear brother, your business in when you get to a text, to say, 'Now what is the road to Christ?' and then preach a sermon, running along the road towards the great metropolis—Christ. And," said he, "I have never yet found a text that had not got a road to Christ in it, and if I ever do find one that has not a road to Christ in it, I will make one; I will go over hedge and ditch but I would get at my Master, for the sermon cannot do any good unless there is a savour of Christ in it."
Well, I can testify, sometimes it actually is hard to find that road to Christ, but not today. Actually, I think there's an eight-lane super highway from Isaiah 53 to the great metropolis of Scripture that is Christ. There's not merely a savor of Christ, there is a Thanksgiving banquet from the kitchen, just the aromas are going to fill our hearts and our minds as we study this incredible chapter, Isaiah 53. 1 Corinthians 15 says that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures. It says there in verse 3 and 4, "For what I received, I passed on to you as of first importance. That Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised from the dead on the third day according to the Scriptures." It is vital for us as Christians to embrace the centrality of prophecy in our faith, when it comes to the life and the death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Our salvation is based on the unshakable rock of fulfilled prophecy. Now this should not surprise us, as we've been going carefully chapter by chapter through the Book of Isaiah. We've seen this again and again, that God proclaims his unique ability to foretell the future. He's the only one that can do it. We've seen this in Isaiah 46, in verse 10. There God says, "I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, 'My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please."
And then again in Isaiah 44, in verse 26, "The Lord carries out the words of his servants and fulfills the predictions of his messengers." No prophecy of Scripture is as important as this one. This was the central point of it all, this was why God raised up Abraham and from Abraham the Jewish nation. This was why God restored the Jewish nation back to the promised land after the exile to Babylon. This was the whole point of the Bible, this is it. Salvation for sinners to the ends of the earth. This is the whole point of it all.
In Isaiah 53, we come to the most brilliantly shining star in the cosmos of the written Word of God, predictive prophecy, the clearest prophecy of the death and resurrection of Jesus, of his substitutionary atonement for our sins.
Christ’s Forty-Day Seminary
Now after Christ had died and rose from the dead on the third day, he had the equivalent of a 40-day seminary with his apostles, and with his disciples concerning Scriptures testimony to him. They talked about other things, but especially that. It began with those two disciples on the road to Emmaus. You remember that whole encounter? And Jesus was, in some way, incognito to people who knew him well, but there's just mysteries around his resurrection and he's walking falls and step along with these two disciples who are downcast, they're depressed, they're discouraged as they're walking with the resurrected Christ. Isn't that us? We're depressed and discouraged when we ought not to be, and they're moaning and groaning and saying, "We had hoped that he was going to be the one who was going to redeem Israel," all those kind of thing. "And now our women have confused us because there's some report of an empty tomb and we can't make sense of any of it."
And Jesus says, "How foolish you are and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken. Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter into his glory? And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he showed them what was written in there about himself." Any chance you think he went to Isaiah 53? I think absolutely.
Or, again, think about Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch where the Holy Spirit told Philip, to run up to a chariot where there's this Ethiopian official, and he is reading a scroll of prophecy, happened to be Isaiah 53 and he can't make sense of it. And the Holy Spirit told him to go and stand and come alongside that Chariot. And the eunuch invited him in and he was reading this passage of Scripture, "He was led like a sheep to the slaughter and as a lamb before it's shearer is silence, so He did not open his mouth, and his humiliation, his judgment was taken away. Who will relate to His generation, for his life was removed from the earth."
The eunuch answered Philip and said, "Please tell me, of whom does the prophet say this? Of himself or of someone else?" Then Philip opened his mouth and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him.
Isaiah 53 is about Jesus and no one else. There's never been any other fulfillment of these words. There was never an immediate fulfillment and then a later fulfillment, it's only ever been about Jesus of Nazareth.
Modern Tendency to Find Other Explanations
Now there's a modern tendency to find other explanations. Some will tell you that Isaiah 53 is about the sufferings of the Jewish nation, how the Jewish nation plays the role of the suffering servant in history, human history. Others ascribe Isaiah 53 to some individual, Isaiah himself or Jeremiah or another of the prophets or even strangers, some mysterious unknown person. No one knows who this individual is, but despite the fact that the text says this person is going to be very famous and the whole world will know about him. It doesn't make any sense.
First of all, can we just set aside, there is no way Isaiah 53 is talking about the Jewish nation. No way. Why would I say that? Well simply put, the chapter presents the suffering servant as clearly innocent, guiltless, blameless. Do you get the sense from Isaiah the prophet that he thinks the nation of Jews was innocent, guiltless and blameless? Not at all, from the very beginning of the book, chapter after chapter he's laying out the sins of his people. Even stranger, look at Isaiah 53:8, Isaiah 53:8 says, "For He," whoever we're talking about, the suffering servant, "Was cut off from the land of the living," he died, "For the transgression of my people, he was punished."
Well, wait a minute, okay, who are Isaiah's people? When he says, "My people," who would you think he's talking about? That verse makes no sense of the suffering servant as Israel. How can Israel die for the sins of Israel except in judgment and punishment, certainly not redemptively. Israel was looking for a redeemer, one who would pay the price, to rescue Israel from sin and Isaiah 53 says who paid the price for Israel's sin, and it is Jesus. So here we come to the Mount Everest of predictive prophecy, what is our strategy going to be for scaling it? First of all, we're not doing it in one sermon. I hope you know that. There's no chance, unless you want to be here for hours, which you don't, neither do I. I'll run out of energy.
But this week, what we're going to do is take a quick overview of the whole chapter. Division of the chapter into five sub-sections of three verses each. We're going to focus on the central doctrine of this chapter, which is the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ, the son of God, for us, for our sins, and that by faith in him, we are forgiven, we are justified. That's the central message, it's the gospel. We're going to go carefully today through, God willing, the first two sub-sections, and we're going to seek to apply those verses to our lives. Then over the next two weeks, God willing, we're going to go through the rest of the sub-sections and seek to apply them.
Now, if I can just say... And I'm not trying to throw anyone under the bus here, but Isaiah 52-53, is the worst chapter subdivision in the entire Bible. Okay, Isaiah 52 verses 13-15 should have been included in Isaiah 53. So I'm giving them the honorary status of Isaiah 53 today, is that okay? Can we just call them Isaiah 53, early version, something like that? Actually, John Calvin called it a dismemberment. I think that's pretty humorous. It's like you picture an arm lying on a sidewalk. So we're just going to roll right through from Isaiah 52 into 53 and treat it all as what it should have been, one chapter, agreed? Okay, we're going to do that.
I. A Four Part Outline of the Chapter(s)
Alright, now five sub-divisions of this section, first, Christ repulsive, but redemptive, then exalted. That's 52:13-15. Second sub-section will title this way, Christ the arm of the Lord, but human and despised," verses one through three. Third subsection, Christ rejected, but our atoning substitute, verses four through six. Fourth subsection, Christ innocent, but willing to be slaughtered, verses seven through nine. And then the final subsection, Christ crushed so we could be justified, verses 10 through 12.
So those are just some titles we could give to those. The central doctrine of Isaiah 53 is the substitutionary atonement. The idea that someone could die in our place, that sinners like us might be justified by faith in him. That's the central doctrine, really, of the whole Bible. So, let's go briefly over the... All these sub-sections.
First, Christ repulsive but redemptive then exiled, chapter 52:13-15. So Christ is presented as one who will be successful then raised up, lifted up, highly exalted, verse 13. Yet we're also told he's going to be appalling to look at, he's going to be so disfigured so badly that he will be barely recognizable as a human being.
Verse 14, but this disfigurement of the servant and the Lord is the way by which he's actually going to sprinkle many nations. We're going to talk about that. The word sprinkle we're going to discuss, but it means cleansing them from sin, making them pure in God's sight. This is the very one who's going to be proclaimed even to kings and they're going to shut their mouths because of him, because they're suddenly going to hear about him, they're going to hear this message, and they're going to believe in him, first subsection.
Second subsection, Christ the arm of the Lord but human and despised, verses one through three. So the next two subsections trace out simply the biography of Jesus Christ, just trace out the events of his life. It begins with an assertion though, that the message must be believed, that the suffering servant must be revealed by God or you will never see him. I could preach a thousand sermons on Isaiah 53 and if God does not reveal Jesus to you, you'll never see him as glorious. You will not see him properly.
He is revealed here as the arm of the Lord, the mighty power of God for the salvation of sinners. He will work for the deliverance, and redemption and salvation of his people. But then he is portrayed as human, he grew up before the Lord out of dry ground, he's a root growing up in dry ground. So not only is he human, he is unimpressive, he is weak, he's unattractive, he has nothing in his appearance that would make people follow him, still less worship him as God. He is despised and rejected, despised means thought little of, and rejected effectively by the will of people, they will say, "No," to him. People will be horrified by his appearance, he'll be held in low esteem.
Verses four through six, Christ rejected but he is our atoning substitute, this is the theological center of the Bible, this idea of substitutionary atonement. Christ takes up our pain, he dies for our sins. He was pierced for our transgressions, he's crushed for our iniquities. The punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds, we are healed. Jesus thus gives health to diseased people, dying people. He gives health to them and life, and he gives peace to wicked rebels who are in rebellion against God, the King. And he does all of this at the cost of his own life. Verse six, "All we like sheep have gone astray," each of us has turned to his own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Fourth sub-section, Christ is innocent, but willing to be slaughtered. Verses seven through nine, Isaiah unfolds a shocking truth and that is the ultimate... The limitation and ultimate end of the animal sacrificial system. The essence of sin was willfulness. We willingly rebelled, we were not forced to sin, we chose to sin. An animal cannot atone for that willful sin, because it has no choice but to die. But Christ by his willingness to die in our place is able to atone for our sins. So this suffering man was exactly like a sheep led to the slaughter, in that he died. The killers led and Jesus meekly followed. But unlike the sheep that were led to the slaughter, Jesus knew exactly where he was going. It says in John's gospel, "Jesus knowing all things that were about to happen to him went forth."
He's very well aware of what's happening, and he's willingly laying down his life. He's completely innocent, there's no violence in his actions, there's no wickedness in his speech, he was a perfect man, sinless, but dead in our place. The prophetic details here are significant. You have words like pierced, he dies by piercing. Not everyone has... Actually most people don't die by piercing, but Jesus did, he died by piercing. And it says he was buried in a rich man's tomb. That's not true of everyone. As a matter of fact, it's true of very few people in the world. Most people die as poor people because most people are poor.
But Jesus was pierced, and buried in a rich man's tomb. Christ finally in the fifth sub-section was crushed so we could be justified, verses 10 through 12. It was God's will to crush Him and cause Him to suffer. All of this was done according to an amazing, and eternal plan crafted by Almighty God from before the foundation of the world. It was God's pleasure to do this. God delighted, in a mysterious way delighted to crush His son and cause Him to suffer? Not because he loved his son suffering. No, not at all. But for the joy that was set before both of them, he endured that.
He was delighted in that suffering in terms of what it would produce. And His finished work, verse 11 says it all, Christ's resurrection completes our salvation and by his finished work many are justified, declared not guilty of their sins in God's sight. How amazing is all of this? That it was written seven centuries before Jesus was born. We're going to talk more next week about the miraculous aspect of this, so I'll just set that idea aside. We are the sheep constantly going astray are we not? We are the sheep.
We are the wicked rebels, we are the ones made sick by our sin, and we are the ones at war with God. And before all nations, God lays bare His holy arm in the form amazingly of his frail, unimpressive-looking son, whom we as a race despised and rejected. This one carried our infinitely heavy load. He died under the infinitely fierce wrath of God, He was buried uniquely in a rich man's tomb, this same one rose from the dead, and now enjoys looking at his spiritual offspring for all eternity, from every nation on Earth. That's Isaiah 53.
II. Christ Repulsive, But Redemptive, then Exalted (52:13-15)
Alright, now let's look in details at the first two sub-sections. That's just an overview, we'll probably do it again next week. So Isaiah 52, as I've said is the beginning of 53, we'll start at verse 13 with the words, "Behold," most translations retain the word behold. And I love the word behold, "Behold my servant." So it's like Jesus just unveiled, like a curtain moving back, "Behold, my servant." This is the fourth of the servant songs in Isaiah. This is the fourth and last one. We've seen this idea, my servant before, this is the fourth. Isaiah 42:1-4 was the first one. It presented the servant and the Lord as one with a mission to the nations.
You remember that was the "Bruised reed he will not break, a smoldering wick he'll not snuff out"? He's the gentle King, who's going to go advance from victory to victory through gentleness, he's going to build a kingdom through gentleness. The first servant song Isaiah 42. The second was Isaiah 49, where it is told to Jesus by the father, "It's too small a thing for you to be my servant, to save the people of Israel. I'll make you a light for the Gentiles that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth." Isaiah 49 that was the second of the servant songs.
The third... By the way, in that second one, he's presented as someone who's going to have difficulties in advancing but he's going to overcome. It's going to be somewhat discouraging but he's going to overcome that.
Now Isaiah 50 versus four through nine, the third of the servant songs presents in great detail some of the sufferings this servant will have to go through. And there he speaks for himself, he speaks in the first person, and he speaks of his willingness to be abused for the will of the Lord, he didn't hide his face from mocking and spitting, he didn't stop people from shredding his back. Yet, in that text, no reason is given for this abuse.
Now, when we get to the fourth servant song now we get the reason, it's substitutionary atonement. He's dying for our sins, he's dying that we might be justified. And so all of it comes together. This is the fourth of the servant song. So Jesus is the servant of the Lord, he's a servant of God, he came down not to do his own will, but to do the will of him who sent him. He was the servant of God.
And we're told here right away in verse 13, "Behold, my Servant will prosper greatly; he shall rise, and be exalted, and be lifted up exceedingly." Just like Isaiah 42, this predicts the success of the servant. He's going to succeed, he's going to do very well. The Hebrew word translated prosper greatly here is often used of David or other heroes, whose success is in some way linked to their wisdom. So sometimes you get, "My servant will act wisely." You get sometimes that translation. It's prosperity through wisdom, success through wisdom, dealing prudently.
Because of his wisdom, he's going to be exalted to exceeding heights. Isaiah uses three verbs to talk about how highly exalted Jesus will be, he will raised and lifted up and highly exalted. It's just not enough. Any one word is just isn't enough for how exalted he's going to be. The text will describe and we're about to get into it, the great humiliation of Jesus. As a matter of fact, that's going to be most of the journey the rest of the way. How degraded, how appalling was his appearance. But he will not stay humiliated. In the end, he's going to be exalted and raised and lifted up. I can't help but think of Philippians 2:9-11: "Therefore, God exalted him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow, in heaven and earth and under the earth and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God, the father."
I get that even in this, "My servant… will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted." No one is more highly exalted than Jesus Christ, and no one deserves it more. Because there was no one who was more humbled and humiliated, and degraded than Jesus. Jesus is at the right hand of Almighty God, right now with a 100 million angels worshipping him. With Seraphim, the burning ones covering their own faces, because he dwells in unapproachable light. That's how highly exalted Jesus is.
The Stunning Degradation of the Servant of the Lord
So, from this initial assertion of Jesus final victory and exaltation, the next many verses unlock, unfold, the lowliness, and degradation and humiliation of Jesus, and begins in verse 14. "Just as there were many who were astonished at you, his appearance was so marred beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind."
So it's interesting he puts in the second person there, not every translation picks it up, but he addresses the servant. Like Isaiah can't stay out of it, he wants to talk to him or maybe God the Father. And here we have the watching world looking on in horror. Many who are astonished at Jesus, astonished at his appearance, it's disgusting, it's degrading. As a matter of fact, his appearance will be so completely degraded that it will get to the point where he's barely recognizable even as a human being.
The onlookers will not wonder, "Is this the servant?" They'll wonder, "Is this human? Is it even human?" Well, I think this is clearly fulfilled at the very end of Jesus' life when the flogging had shredded his back. The 39 lashes, and the beatings that he took around the face had puffed it up with horrible bruises and lacerations. What did his face look like? They smashed, they put that crown of thorns on him, and they smashed his head, the thorns into His scalp, and they beat him about the face and it must have been puffy and bruised and blood all over. It was repulsive.
Barely recognizable as human at that point. And he had nails that were pulverizing his hands, and his feet, and on the cross, he's making this disgusting convulsive effort to breathe, as he pushes up on the nails in His feet, so he can just gulp for breath and then sinks back down, and pushes back up and gulps for breath and sinks back down. It's like you can't even look at it. It's hard to describe it. Total physical degradation, like one from whom men hide their faces, nobody wants to see that.
In verse 15, we have the reason for this degradation and that is atonement. We're going to get it again and again. Isaiah is going to be so clear about all this. In verse 15, it says, "Even so" through that degradation, through the crushing of the servant, "Even so that is how he will sprinkle many nations." So there's a linking between verse 14 and 15. The crushing leads to the sprinkling, that's the way he will sprinkle the nations.
Now, what does this word, "Sprinkle," mean? How do we understand it? Again these specific words can't be explained away. Sprinkled, pierced, rich man's tomb. These things just don't go away, they don't line up with the nation of Israel at all. So how does he sprinkle many nations? Well, this is an atoning word, very important in the animal sacrificial system, very important in the Levitical priesthood. All things were cleansed by the shedding of blood, it says in the Book of Hebrews, and so you've got this blood being sprinkled all over the tabernacle, and sprinkled on every... Sprinkled on Aaron when he's in his in priestly vestments. It's sprinkled everywhere, it's just used to cleanse from sin. The implication is everything we touched is defiled with sin, and the only way to be cleanses by the atoning blood of the sacrifice, that's the clear image of the animal sacrificial system.
So in the book of Leviticus chapter 14 it talks about lepers, for example, how are they cleansed and made ceremonially clean? How does that happen? It says, "This shall be the law of the leprous person for the day of his cleansing. He shall be brought to the priest... and the priest shall sacrifice a bird and he shall sprinkle the blood seven times on the one to be cleansed of the leprous disease and he shall be pronounced clean." Same Hebrew word, sprinkled. We are spiritually lepers in the sight of God, repulsive, disgusting, defiled.
But the good news of the Gospel is that we can... We are made clean by the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus. By this sprinkling we are made cleansed, by this sprinkling we are atoned for. And who does it say that he's going to sprinkle here? Many nations. This one event in Jewish history, this one Jewish man is not the savior for the Jews, alone, but for the Gentiles too to the ends of the earth, many nations. So, we have in Revelation 5:9, so beautifully that image from Heaven and they're praising the lamb who is slain. It says, "You were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God, from every tribe and language and people and nation."
So just putting it together, we could say the same thing. You were slain, and with your blood, you sprinkled men for God from every tribe, language, people, and nation. Next, it talks about the worship of kings. Kings are going to hear about this, they're going to hear about Jesus from missionaries and they will shut their mouth in astonishment about him. Look at verse 15, "Kings will shut their mouths because of him for what they were not told, they will see, and what they have not heard, they will understand."
Jesus is the glorious king of kings, even better, he's the savior of kings, Amen. He saves kings from their sins. Now, not many are wise, not many are influential, not many of noble birth, not many kings get saved, but some do. That's why in 1 Timothy 2, we should pray for kings and those in authority, because they actually might get saved. They actually might be saved. So I think about stories from missions history here I could just go on and on about the number of times messengers of the gospel, have come to a community and the first person they get dragged in front of is the king. And they have to make an account, they have to give a presentation to the king, and sometimes God gives grace to their king and they get saved, and with him the whole village, the whole community, it happens again and again. Look up the story of Columba with King Bridei of the Picts, great story. Columba, the king wouldn't let him in. He's forced to stay outside the city gates. So he sits there and prays for days and it's getting embarrassing. So finally, Bridei invites Columba in and he preaches the Gospel comes to faith in Christ. Awesome story. The Picts in Scotland. Again and again, kings are going to hear this thing, and they're going to see and understand through proclamation.
III. Christ the “Arm of the Lord,” But Human and Despised (53:1-3)
That brings us immediately to the next section verses one through three. Christ is the arm of the Lord, but he is human and despised. First of all, right away in verse one, we have this assertion that this message is hard to be believed but it must be believed. It's hard to believe this, it's hard to accept all this.
Look at verse one, "Lord, who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?" Again, we've got the clear idea here of a message, a report, words being delivered by messengers even to the ends of the earth. So, some report's going to go out. And we know from Romans 10:17, it says that faith comes by hearing the report of Christ. That's one translation. So faith comes when you hear this message proclaimed if God gives you the grace of faith. Then justification comes when faith has come. When you hear this message proclaimed and then God gives you repentance and faith, God sees the very repentance of faith, he just gave you and then He justifies you, forgives you, declares you not guilty of all your sins. That's how sinners are saved.
And notice it says, "Who has believed our message?" There's a plural there. Now, there are different ways to understand that plural. Let's start with a simple one. He's thinking about the nation of Israel. And so, the our would be God plus Isaiah. So it's almost like the prophet is saying back, "God who's going to believe this? Our message, the message you've entrusted to me, it's our message, who has believed our message?" And then after that the church is collective proclaim messages. This is our report, our message. Now this message is going to be very difficult to accept.
Very difficult to believe. Only as Christ is revealed, by God the Father, through the Spirit will anyone believe this message, look again in verse 1, "Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?" Unveiled, unveiled. We all have this veil in front of us and someone comes and preaches if God doesn't sovereignly pull the veil back from the eyes of your heart, you will never ever believe this. God must work on you or you won't believe this. So there's a joint effort, a cooperation here between the prophet representing human messengers, so missionaries, pastors, friends, co-workers, evangelists, our message and God revealing the arm of the Lord.
It's a complete cooperation, the message must be proclaimed by human messengers, plus revealed by the Spirit of God or you will not get saved. This is justification by faith alone, apart from works. Now, Christ is the arm of the Lord. This is the shocker. Christ is clearly human and we'll get into that more and more as we unfold the chapter, but he is called here the arm of the Lord. He is sent by God to save us in our wretchedness and sinfulness and disease and suffering in warfare and rebellion and death. He is the power of God for saving sinners like us, he's the arm of the Lord, the omnipotence of the Lord. He is it.
Now, we already had a mention of the arm of the Lord in Isaiah 52:10. Look back maybe just a couple of verses, and it says, Isaiah 52:10, "The Lord will lay bare his holy arm in the sight of all the nations and all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God." Well, the arm of the Lord is Jesus. He is God's power for salvation for sinners like us. And how delightful is that? But what we got was not some awesome display of omnipotence. You got Jesus, you got the one on... He's the lamb of God, what's a lamb like? You've got the Holy Spirit descending like a dove, and landing on him. This is a picture of a lamb with a dove on it. I'm thinking, gentleness.
I'm thinking someone who sinners feel attracted to and they're willing to come and be with and talk to and they feel confident telling their sins to him because they know that he's a friend for sinners. Children, I get the picture of children just climbing all over him and sitting in his lap, and he's putting his hands on them and praying for them, and they just love being with him. You can't fool kids, kids get scared easily, and they weren't scared of Jesus. And so how was he, this human being, the arm of the Lord, for the power of God in the world? But he was, gentle with sinners, but claiming to be God in the flesh, and this was the very stumbling block of Christ. The arm of the Lord had to be revealed or no one would see it.
He'll be human, definitely human, and that's something Jesus' enemies could not accept that he could be human and God. At one point, his enemies were picking up stones to kill him. And Jesus said, "I've shown you many good works from the Father, for which of these are you stoning me?" "We are not stoning you for any work, but for blasphemy because you a mere man, claim to be God." That's a stumbling block. How could a human be God? As a matter of fact, this is exactly what they nailed him on.
And his trial before the Jews... Before the high priest, they weren't getting anywhere with their false witnesses, they didn't have enough time to throw it together and do it well, and they did it very badly in the middle of the night. And the stories weren't corroborating, it was bad. So finally the high priest breaking every rule of Jewish jurisprudence directly addressed the accused and says, "Tell us under oath by the living God are you the Son of God." And Jesus answered, "I am." And the high priest shouted, "Blasphemy," and he tore his robs. That's what convicted him, that's what... It was for blasphemy that he was killed because He claimed to be God. Now without the arm of the Lord being revealed, you'll never see Jesus as God.
Only by the Father's will, through the Spirit does this happen, like it happened to Simon Peter, at Caesarea Philippi, he said, "What about you…who do you say that I am?" Peter said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." And then Jesus said, "Blessed are you, Simon, son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood but by my Father in Heaven." If the father doesn't reveal all this to you, you'll never see it, never. But you'll have to hear it like you're hearing it now and you've heard it now. I've said it probably seven times, I said The Gospel already probably seven times. I might say it seven more. You've heard though. Question is, has the arm on the Lord been revealed to you? That's the question. It says in 1 Corinthians 12:3, "No one can say Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit," that's the only way it's going to happen.
Now, we have in verse 2, the unimpressive origin and appearance of Christ. Verse 2, "He grew up before Him like a tender shoot and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him."
So this brings us to the humanity of Christ. He sprang up out of the stump of the tree of Jesse, Isaiah 11. The Jewish nation was an enslaved people. They're dominated by Rome. No Davidic king had reined since the exile to Babylon. So it's just a sterile Jewish history, a sterile Jewish life at that point. No power, no strength, they're dominated enslaved people. The Davidic lineage is like an honorary title that meant nothing. Joseph was called "The Son of David," by the angel. It doesn't mean much he was a carpenter. It didn't get him much to be a son of David. So there's nothing there. He grew up like a tender shoot out of dry ground, nothing going on.
He was conceived supernaturally with a human mother Mary, but he had no human Father. God was his father, but he was born in the ordinary way, a very normal ordinary appearance into the world. Now, it was an unusual circumstance he's there in a barn I guess, a cave maybe where some animals were.
But other than some unusual things like the angel appearing and the star and all that, it just was a normal birth. He was fully human, he was born in the normal way. And if you'd been there it'd be like, "Yeah, this is God?" I'm sure Mary even wondered that. I mean, she knew what had happened in her body but just the wonder of it. It was just hard to accept because you just look like a normal baby. And then he grew up as babies do. And he was a toddler, Jesus, the toddler. It's hard to think of it but there he was. And it says in Luke 2:52, "And He grew in wisdom, and stature and favor with God and men." It means He just progressed in the normal way with one big difference. I know, you veteran parents, you know, the one big difference He never sinned. He never sinned. How would you like to be Jesus' younger brother? "Why can't you be like your older brother? He's never caused us any trouble except that one time when he was 12 and he was behind in his father's house, but other than that that wasn't really his fault, that was us." So no sin.
But despite Gnostic Gospels and the weirdness there, he didn't do any miracles. His first miracle was the changing of the water into wine, wedding at Cana in Galilee. So you don't have... You just have a normal human growth and that's hard to accept that he was God. They struggled with this, "Isn't this the carpenter's son? Isn't his mother's name Mary? Aren't his brothers, James, Joseph, Simon and Judas?" They took offense at him. He had a human body, a true human body, all of its weakness. There was nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. Now, on the mountain of transfiguration he pulled back the veil just briefly, so Peter, James, and John could see the heavenly glory flowing through Jesus, radiant glory, but then he shut it down again.
Just in everyday life, he just looked like a normal human being. And I would say even within this humanity, there was nothing extraordinary about him. Like remember Saul, King Saul, he was a head taller than any of his other fellows. It was like, "Oh this guy he's going to be the king." There was nothing about that with Jesus, very average looking I think, like anybody else, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. If you lived back then, and you'd seen him even if you saw the miracles, even if you saw Lazarus raised from the dead, you wouldn't believe in him except that God revealed him to you, it's the only way. Scripture is clear about this.
None of his miracles, or words, or deeds, or any of it would have converted you unless the Father had revealed Christ to your heart. Jesus was designed to be ordinary-looking. He was not especially handsome or tall or powerfully built, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. Verse three, "He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces, he was despised and we held him in low-esteem." So far from being attracted to Jesus by looking at him, his own people, despised and rejected him.
The Servant Despised and Rejected
Now, the word despise does not mean so much hated here, he was hated, but it meant they thought little of him, they underestimated Jesus. They put him lower than he really was. But beyond that they rejected him, they listened to his words, they saw his works, and they rejected him, "Not this man, but Barabbas," they said. They rejected him. He's also called here, a man of sorrows, an amazing title for the Son of God, the Lord of glory. Do you realize that Jesus is redeeming us to bring us into the presence of a perfectly 100% all the time Happy God? Isn't that awesome? We're going to a perfectly happy place. Psalm 16 says, "In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore." That's who God is, he's a pleasure being all the time. And yet his son is called the man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.
So he left all of that perfect joy behind to become a man of sorrows and well, well acquainted with pain. And by his perfect compassion, he felt acutely the miseries of the people he came to save. His heart's moved with compassion again, and again. He sucked miseries, out of life, the way a hiker sucks rattlesnake poison out of the bite in the leg of a friend who's dying. He sucked it out. People would come up and he would draw their misery and their sorrow and suffering and pain and grief and disease into himself, so that they could be healed and at peace and forgiven and restored. So he was a man of sorrows, and well-acquainted with suffering. His education in suffering, He learned obedience through what He suffered, his education in suffering reached its pinnacle at the cross, that's where he learned ultimate suffering there. He would die a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering like one from whom men hide their faces.
So what application can we take of these first two sub-sections? Well, begin with this, "Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?" Have you believed this message? Have you believed that this Jesus of Nazareth really is God? He really is glorious, up at the right hand of God? Have you believed that you are a sinner, that you are broken and crushed by your sin, that you need a savior, and Jesus is the only one there is? There is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved. Can I just plead with you, call on the name of the Lord to be saved. Don't leave here unconverted. Don't leave here lost. Plead with God to reveal Christ to you.
I've been praying for this, I've been praying for this moment that you would hear and believe, hear with faith. I have to believe there are people here listening to me, that are still on the outside looking in, they're lost, you're lost. And if you don't believe this report you will be condemned eternally, to hell. Jesus came to drink hell in for you so you wouldn't have to suffer it, trust in Jesus, please.
Secondly, marvel at the miracle of Scripture. I'm going to talk more about this at the beginning of next week's sermon, but just marvel at this book, this book is a miracle. These words were 700 years, written 700 years before Jesus was born, marvel at it.
Thirdly, exalt Christ higher than you do. I'm talking to Christians now. He's still too low in your estimation, you still think too little of Jesus. In that sense, you still despise him, you don't esteem him properly, even as a Christian. And so I don't think there's anything wrong, everything right with you going to God and say, "Pour out your spirit on me so I'd have a greater estimation of Jesus than I ever did before. I just want to see the greatness of Christ. I want to be able to worship him better than I ever have in my life. I want to labor on my worship, my life of worship, I don't worship him, like I should, I honestly don't. And I want to."
Fourthly, meditate on Christ's immeasurable suffering for you in this chapter, meditate on it, think about his suffering. Think about what he went through for you. Never... If you're a Christian, or a child of God never, ever feel unloved again by God, ever, he has loved you with a perfect love by pouring out his wrath on his Son. He loves you. It's immeasurable. God demonstrates his own love for us in this while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Meditate on the sufferings of Christ. Now, I'm not saying as a medieval mystic would meditate on the five wounds of Jesus, and they did weird things with... I'm not saying all that, but just go over the words of Isaiah 53, and think about what he did for you, think about his piercing, think about the blood he shed for you, cling to it.
Meditate on that as a measurement of Christ's love for you. If you're going through suffering right now, whatever it may be, I don't know, there are all different types of suffering, but if you're going through suffering right now, and you're tempted to think God doesn't love you, see in the wounds of the cross, the way to stop that kind of thinking. Joseph Hart in his hymn, "Come ye sinners, poor and needy," put it in these words, "View him prostrate in the garden. On the ground your maker lies, on the bloody tree behold him. Sinner, will this not suffice? Isn't that enough for you?" Behold, him on the bloody tree by faith and ask... Hear Joseph Hart's question, "Sinner, will this not suffice? Is this enough?"
Is it enough for you? Is it enough for your guilty conscience? Is it enough for your extreme trial and your misery, your diagnosis? Is it enough for your future? Enough for your financial troubles? Is it enough to satisfy you? God loves you, the Christ loves you with a love that cannot be measured. Keep in mind that the Apostle John saw Jesus in heaven looking like a lamb that was slain. Jesus maintained the emblems of his suffering, and he will have for all eternity. Let a healthy meditation on the sufferings of Christ in Isaiah 53 calm you and assure you of God's love for you.
Fifth, Lord, who has believed our message? Feed your faith with this book. I'm speaking to Christians, feed on this. Be in the word every single day, don't miss a day. Feed your faith by... It doesn't just have to be Isaiah 53 but feed your faith with the word of God. If you are not seeing Christ in the eyes of your heart, like you should is because you're not in the Word. So get in the Word, feed on it. Six, do not judge the progress of Christ's Kingdom by mere appearance. It doesn't look like as glorious as it will be. Just like Jesus, you can't judge him by mere appearance, you can't judge the church by mere appearance either. The church is going to be awesome, it's going to be radiant and glorious. Right now, it looks down trodden, oppressed, small, insignificant, doesn't seem like much is happening, but don't be deceived just as Jesus cannot be seen by mere appearance, so also the work of Christ cannot.
And so therefore, pastors, elders, church leaders need to trust the clear proclamation of Christ crucified and resurrected to do the work of the ministry. We don't need gimmicks, we don't need... We don't need to measure by externals and all that. Let's trust that the proclamation of this message will build the church and don't judge by mere appearance. Seventh, feel the ministry of Christ as a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering and imitate him. We just want to be safe and secure and protected.
Jesus left security and protection and honor to become a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering. We're like, "Well, I'm glad he did it for me," but are you willing to do it for others? Are you willing to get out of your comfort zone and go become more familiar with suffering, than you've ever become before? So that you can suck the poison of sin and suffering out of people's lives by a clear ministry of the Word of God. Close with me in prayer.