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Isaiah 52:13-53:12: Why Did Jesus Come? Print E-mail
Sunday, 21 December 2008

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We have been meditating on this passage since we started our series through the book of Isaiah. I have encouraged you to memorize it and some have done just that and I continue to encourage you to keep working on it. I tried to schedule my preaching through the book so that I would be preaching this passage on Christmas Sunday. Even though I could not my schedule just right, I still wanted to preach this passage this morning. Yet, why all the attention to this passage? Why meditate on it and memorize it? Why preach it on Christmas Sunday morning?

Without overstating it, I think this passage is profoundly important for our understanding of why Jesus had to come at all. In just fifteen short verses, Isaiah answers the why question of Christmas. Of course, he does not say all that ever needs to be said about Jesus coming to the earth, otherwise we would not have the rest of the book (or the rest of the Bible). But he does give us a brief, but sweeping, answer to the question of why the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

So, what does he tell us? Isaiah teaches us that Christ was born to suffer. That may not be the answer that you were expecting, but it is the answer nonetheless. Yet, in order to properly understand this answer, we need to work through this passage and look at Isaiah description of the coming Messiahís suffering. Letís consider four ideas from the text.

First, the appearance of His suffering (52:13-53:12).

In keeping with the positive tone that began in chapter 40, Isaiah begins this passage by speaking of the servant being high and lifted up. Look at 52:13-15. He used such language to describe his vision of the Lord in chapter 6. It points here to the greatness of the coming servant. Yet, as quickly as he mentions His greatness, Isaiah describes His appearance as marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind. The suffering of the coming servant will be terrible. So bad, in fact, that His appearance will be unrecognizable as human. This seems like maybe Isaiah is just using hyperbole to describe the sufferings of Christ. Yet, when we read the descriptions of crucifixion in the first century, we realize that his language here is not necessarily hyperbole or exaggeration. Such terrible suffering will sprinkle many nations and will astonish kings. They will hear this message and be astounded at the work of Godís servant.

Going on in chapter 53, we read of the arm of the Lord. Look at 53:1-3. Isaiah uses this phrase to describe the Lordís work among His people. Yet, here he uses it to describe the servant. He will be the arm of the Lord, the salvation of the Lord. Once again, we expect this to be followed by a glorious description of the One who will come. But Isaiah says that He will have no form or majesty that we should look at him and no beauty that we should desire him. He will not be the charismatic, plastic smile, expensive suit, leader that we have come to expect. In fact, probably all of the pictures of Jesus that you have seen are wrong. There was nothing about His physical appearance that would attract us to Him. As men often do with such a figure, Isaiah tells us that we will despise Him and reject Him and hide our faces from Him. Jesus is not coming to win people with His outward appearance. The great contrast in these verses is that Isaiah is still describing the Arm of the Lord, the One who would come to save Godís people. How could He be a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief? Isaiah tells us in the next section.

Second, the cause of His suffering (53:4-6).

Why would the One who came to save us have to suffer? Simple: because we are sinners. Look at 53:4-6. Notice that Isaiah repeatedly states the problem: our griefs, our sorrows, our transgressions, our iniquities. The chastisement that brought us peace was placed upon Him. We are healed through His stripes. We have gone astray and turned to our own way. The only reason why Jesus was a man of sorrows (v. 3) was because He took our sorrows. He was crushed and wounded and chastised for our rebellion. Jesus suffered because of our sin.

Brothers and sisters, if you memorize any of this passage, memorize these verses. Let the weight and glory of what Jesus did for you at Calvary soak in. Americans spend millions of dollars every year to try to feel better about themselves. Christians are criticized for talking about sin and rebellion. Preachers are told that the only way that they can grow their churches is by neglecting to talk about manís problems. But letís be clear on this: Jesus did not come because we were good people in need of just a good example. Jesus came because we are sinners. Jesus came because we have gone astray. Jesus came because we are so arrogant to think that we can go our own way without the Lord. Do this with me. Think of the most embarrassing and ugly sin that you have ever committed. Think of the lies you have told, the lust you have fed, the anger you have unjustly vented. Have you got it in your mind? Now let this settle on you: thatís why Jesus came, thatís why He was born in a manger to Mary and Joseph, why He lived a perfect life, why He suffered and died at Calvary, and why He rose again on the third day.

You may say to me: ĎWilliam, come on, thatís hard, thatís gloomy, thatís not what we want to hear on Christmas Sunday.í I agree that it is not always what I want to hear, but it is what I need and what you need. One of the greatest gifts the Lord can give us this Christmas is humility. Save your money. Donít believe the lie that itís all about you. Let the truth that we have all gone astray sink in. Then, and only then, will the good news be good news. Then, and only then, will you stand amazed in the presence of Jesus. Then, and only then, will you willingly give everything you got to follow Him faithfully. Luther, as only Luther could, said it this way: ďWe all walk around with His nails in our pocket.Ē He died for our sins. May that truth humble and astound you this Christmas as you think of the coming of Christ.

Third, the willingness of His suffering (53:7-9).

Some have called such teaching on Jesusí death divine child abuse. Yet, Jesus suffered in our place willingly. Look at 53:7-9. All He had to do was say Ďstop.í He could have called a myriad of angels to His side. He had the power to call the whole thing off. But He died willingly in obedience to the Father. Isaiah makes it clear that He went to His death without complaining or arguing. And He really did die. Isaiah says that He was cut off out of the land of the living. Not only that but He was buried with the wicked and with a rich man, surely pointing us to the burial of Jesus. All of this, His suffering, His death, His burial, He faced willingly. He deserved none of it, for he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth, yet He accepted it all on our behalf. But this is not the end as Isaiah will tell us.

Fourth, the plan and outcome of His suffering (53:10-12).

Isaiah makes an astonishing statement in verse 10. Look at that with me. People often ask the question: who killed Jesus? How does Isaiah answer here? Yet, it was the will of the Lord to crush him. This whole plan is the Fatherís, for he has put him to grief. Now, do not misunderstand: it was our sin that held Him there and those who participated in His crucifixion will be held accountable for their actions. Yet, even so, the early Church knew that they were doing whatever your (Godís) hand and your plan had predestined to take place. It was the Fatherís will that the Son be crushed. His plan before the foundations of the world was to send Christ to redeem us by crushing Him at Calvary.

And what did Jesus accomplish by carrying out the Fatherís will? Look at verses 11-12. He shall make many to be accounted righteous. What a clear statement about what was going on at the cross. Jesus was suffering for our sins and our transgressions according to the Fatherís will that He might secure the righteousness of all of those who will repent and believe in Him. What is the portion that He will receive? Who are His offspring? His Bride, the Church. As Paul tells us in Ephesians 5, Jesus did all of this for His Bride, to make Her clean, to prepare Her for the coming Wedding Supper. What an amazing thought? This almost unbelievable plan was done to secure our redemption to the praise of His glorious grace. His great glory secures our great good. What a plan indeed.

So then, let me go back to my original question: why did Jesus come? He came to suffer and die for our sin that the Father might righteously redeem a people for Himself. All of that statement floors me. It drives me to my knees in humility. It floods my soul with inexpressible joy. I cannot sing it loud enough or preach it passionate enough. When I pause and really try to take it in, it overwhelms me. Yet, if I am honest I donít always live that way. You want to know why? Because I forget. I get distracted by the stuff of earth. Maybe you do too. Maybe you are looking to fan the flame of your affection and devotion to Christ. Let me encourage you: meditate on Isaiahís words here. Memorize them. Not because I asked you to or because you want to stand and recite them to others. No, memorize them for the sake of your own souls. So that the next time you donít feel like praising Jesus or obeying Jesus Isaiahís description of His suffering will bring you back to the truth. Let this passage lead you to adore that baby that was born in the manger. For He was born to suffer, born to be marred, born to be crushed, born to be wounded and rejected and despised to redeem you from your sins.

If you are here this morning and you are not a follower of Christ, then I plead with you to turn from your sin and rebellion and trust in that Child that was born so long ago. Stop pretending that you do not need a Savior. Stop thinking that you will get around to it later. Stop going your own way. Follow Christ. Follow the One who came to die for your sins. Let the greatest gift you receive this Christmas be the gift of forgiveness and mercy and reconciliation with the Lord. Join with us and all those who have gone before us in adoring Christ our Lord. To Him be all the glory. Amen.

 ~ William Marshall ~

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