The text is Isaiah 52-53.
The cross of Jesus stands at the center of time and history. All of creation is ordered and given meaning by the cross of Jesus.
It is looked forward to from the moment Adam and Eve are called
to by God in the cool of the garden.
He calls them out of hiding
and slaughters an animal and clothes them.
The blood spills out on the ground
in an ugly smear of redemptive death and from then on,
the work of the cross is prefigured
and pointed to
and announced in stories,
in people’s lives,
in the mouths of prophets.
And here we are, 2000 years later,
looking back to it as that great dark life giving moment
that made it possible for us to sit here.
The vision given to Isaiah,
falling like a dark shadow across the landscape of scripture,
is God speaking down the corridor of time.
He himself looked at the cross as he spoke to Isaiah.
Behold, my servant shall act wisely;
Look at my servant, says God, who acts,
whose very being is wisdom and rationality,
in whom all things hold together and make sense.
This action on the cross,
this deep wisdom of the ages,
is so contrary to our blind self-centered dim intellectualism.
As we come close to the cross,
all things come into the rational light of his saving countenance.
As we go away from it
our reason falls under the cloud of rebellion and sin.
he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted.
Jesus was nailed to the cross
and then it was hauled up and planted into the rock of Golgotha,
and all who passed by had to look up,
had to crane their necks to look up at him.
This moment of total suffering,
total emptiness and pain was also the moment were God’s exultant glory,
his greatest triumph over human sin and rebellion was displayed,
was manifested, was shown forth.
Just as the people of Israel in the wilderness,
as they were dying as a result of their rebellion and sin,
if they wanted to live
they had to look up to the snake on the pole to be saved.
cursed on the pole,
was the catalyst by which mankind fell away from God.
cursed, on a pole,
is the catalyst by which mankind is saved.
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—
His body so broken,
his face so marred from beating and abuse,
his back whipped and bleeding,
and then the sting of a thick robe thrown over the wounds,
and then pulled off and his own rough garment put on,
like those horribly marred corpses you see on the evening news
and you think,
‘was that even a person’.
The crowd is desensitized and hard,
not caring that the form of a man has been twisted and broken
into the form of death.
15 so shall he sprinkle many nations;
His blood just flows down over his broken flesh from his plethora of wounds. And everyone in the crowd—
come from every nation, from far and wide to feast the Passover,
the moment when God passed over and did not strike,
did not kill the firstborn of Israel—
here the firstborn of creation passes through the crowd of nations,
his blood spilling out over the whole earth.
kings shall shut their mouths because of him;
Pilate’s mouth is stopped.
the question floating out into the universe
as a great defiant blindness
to see what is in front of him,
“What is truth?”
Truth stands silent and Pilate is left rejecting the person,
delivering him over to death.
No human authority or principality or throne or power or dominion
has control over the Truth,
standing there bleeding and broken.
for that which has not been told them they see,
and that which they have not heard they understand.
On the cross,
the glory of God was fully revealed for all of creation
to see and hear and understand.
It was so powerful,
so complete an act
that merely hearing of it,
retold generation after generation,
in place after place,
is enough to save.
Kings hear of it and are converted.
the hungry hear and are satisfied.
We hear, understand, and believe.
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;
Jesus, the True Vine,
growing up out of the dead, dry stump of Jesse,
doing what Israel was called to do,
growing up out of the death and rebellion of Israel
and taking it for himself,
carrying that very rebellion in his own flesh.
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
We look to beauty in every place.
We elevate and laud the beautiful and fine,
the golden cup whose outside is shiny and bright
but whose inside is stained with corruption and sickness.
Jesus didn’t come promising bright shiny happiness
but rather Truth and Holiness and Righteousness.
His plain face belied his glory,
the glory of heaven.
And so we did not desire him.
As long as he gave free bread and free healing, we listened.
But his blood spattered naked broken body could not hold our gaze or interest.
3 He was despised and rejected by men;
We rejected and despised him.
We held him in deep contempt and loathing.
The mocking during his trial,
the mocking that endures on the tips of our tongues
as we toss his name around as a curse against our circumstances.
The disdain with which we regard his commands,
with which we neglect his Word
spoken over thousands of years
and recorded, carefully, lovingly.
We don’t have time for it.
We don’t like what it says.
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
God went out with Adam and Eve as he drove them from the Garden,
weeping over the lost beauty of their lives,
enduring from thence on life where things break,
where the body grows sick and dies,
where beautiful trees and plants are ruined and cut down,
where we endure heartbreak and sometimes ruin.
Jesus is acquainted with grief.
He knows it.
He wrapped himself in it,
weeping over his people,
enduring their rejection and disdain.
Are you sometimes alone with no one to comfort and assist?
There is no place more lonely than the cross,
where Jesus hung alone,
alienated from us,
abandoned by his Father.
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;
All the grief of sin and brokenness and destruction of his ruined creation,
Jesus picked up and carried with him.
As he struggled to carry the cross through the narrow streets,
out of the city of Jerusalem,
up to the hill,
stumbling and falling beneath its weight,
his very flesh carries the centuries of our weeping and brokenness.
Are you grief stricken?
Do you grieve?
Look up to the cross.
yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.
This is the will of God.
This is the plan of the Almighty.
He provided a way.
This is the way—that he himself bore the affliction of sin.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities;
Paul writes, “For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
He was pierced and crushed for us while we were his enemies.
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
This is the center of the gospel.
When most of us consider the whole course of our lives,
we don’t think we deserve to die.
We don’t think the full spectrum of our sin equals any chastisement,
nor any suffering.
But it does.
And by putting it on him, on Jesus,
we are given peace with God in place of war and enmity.
Paul uses the word ‘reconciliation’.
We reconcile, we can have a relationship again.
We can talk back and forth and understand each other and know each other.
and with his wounds we are healed.
Whereas each sin,
each turning away from God causes a deeper and deeper sickness,
a more complete corruption of the heart, mind and soul,
the suffering of Jesus
causes the deep and total healing of that sickness and corruption.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
Like poor, foolish, blind sheep
we scatter and run,
every single one of us.
We are all disobedient.
and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
‘Therefore’, writes Paul,
in response to what we did,
which was to go away and ruin everything,
God’s response was to put all that on Jesus,
“therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all me, son one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.”
God laid our disobedience on Jesus
and his righteousness on us who believe in him.
So now we get a very precise picture of the whole passion.
Detailed, accurate, it lays out the actions of Jesus from his betrayal up to his death.
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.
Never once did he defend himself or speak for his own justification.
8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away; …
There was nothing true in his trial, no fair judgment was given.
9 And they made his grave with the wicked
He was crucified with thieves on either side.
and with a rich man in his death,
laid in the tomb of Joseph of Aramathea, rich, a member of the Sanhedrin.
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;
And then see how the vision shifts.
Its like the camera pans up off the cross into the sky
and you see a tableau of time after the cross.
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.
The will of God to crush the Son,
to allow him to die bearing the incredible weight of sin and suffering
and brokenness and corruption,
that will prospered in the hand of the Son.
That will was fully realized,
The Father willed and the Son brought forth and embodied that will.
He prospered it.
11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
As he is there, on the cross, he can see that his work is worthy and real,
that it is effective.
The agony of rejection,
the agony of pain,
the agony of the Father looking away from the Son,
the agony of death itself is worth it for what it accomplishes.
Our Lord, from the cross,
sees the great effect of this work across time and is satisfied.
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.
The work of our Lord on the cross was to make you to be accounted as righteous. It was to give you the chance to come back into the presence of God,
to live there and rest in the presence of your God.
Not one sparrow falls to the ground without the knowledge of God.
Are you not more valuable than many sparrows?
Your Father knows you and has provided a way for you.
That way is the way of the cross.
It is the way of Life.
Says the Lord, because of this great work that he has done
I will divide him a portion with the many,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
He has the conqueror’s share.
In the great war against death and sin, as the winner he gets the spoil,
he is given the portion of victory.
And what is the spoil in this great Last Battle?
The portion is glory and honor and wisdom and power
forever and forever more.
To sit on the throne,
as the Lamb that was Slain receiving forever the praises of his people.
One day we will stand before him in person to worship him,
to praise him for his work, for his sacrifice, for his love for us.
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.
Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father right now ‘making intercession’ for us. He brings us before the Father and justifies us and says ‘they are mine,
my blood has covered them,
listen to their prayers’
but even before now,
before the Ascension,
as he was hanging on the cross dying,
‘Father’ he cried out, ‘forgive them.’
When I consider the work of Jesus on the cross I personally am undone. The response that is required of me—that I merely accept it, that I put my whole self into the hands of Jesus and trust him to save me, to cover me with his blood, to let his righteousness be for my sin—it seems absurdly and devastatingly small. But that is the transaction, his whole self, for your whole self. The majesty and immensity of his suffering sacrifice belies the smallness of the gift of ourselves to him. The two are not equal. And yet, in his wisdom, in his providence, in his grace that’s what he died for—for you, for you to be able to give your whole self to him. For his blood to bind you up and heal you. For his love to cover the multitude and depth of your sins. Give yourself to him, today, for today he gave himself for you.