Greetings Narrow Gate,
I pray that you all are well and avoiding the virus. So far, we have been blessed here at Opportunity House, only one of our guests has tested positive. Get your vaccination shots. The good news vaccine wise: 10% of North Carolina has been vaccinated. That's pretty good. Cabarrus County has done an excellent job so far in organizing this effort. It's easy to complain about government, but this is a time we should brag on our local peeps.
Today I want to talk about a different kind of good news, the Good News of Jesus Christ. We are going to look at Isaiah 53, what is known as the "suffering servant prophecy". What always strikes me in speaking about this Good News is the juxtaposition of how what is good news for you and me is such pain and suffering for Jesus.
I would like for us to filter this today through three questions:
1) Why do we need Jesus? Why Jesus?
2) What happened on the cross that is revealed to us through the scripture?
3) What does our scripture tell us about who Jesus is? Who is Jesus?
We could spend a month or so here in Isaiah 53, so I will be brief and to the point as much as it is possible for me to be so. Remember, Isaiah lived approximately 700 years before Jesus, so this is definitely considered prophecy, probably the greatest of all prophecies in the Bible. This is the Good News of Jesus Christ. Isaiah here is speaking the word of God in the Spirit, Isaiah 53:1-2.
"Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? 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."
Previous leaders such as David, who was handsome, and Saul, who had imposing height, were impressive in their appearance. People were drawn to follow them. The wording here "a root out of dry ground" suggests the opposite. For those of you with green thumbs, you know that a dry root has little chance of survival, no real life at all. Jesus' birth was in a manger, coming as a common man in order to identify with our weakness. Hebrews 4:15,
"For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet was without sin."
Through much of his ministry he was thought of by friends and those who knew him as only the "carpenter's son", this in a derogatory way.
The Jews were looking for a Messiah that would unite The Jewish people, radiate God's glory, wield God's power and conquer the Romans. Jesus did not look like the leader to do this. This is because this was not what Jesus came to do. It wasn't his mission. Isaiah 53:3-4,
"He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him and afflicted."
Jesus was from Galilee, an area of Israel often mocked and disrespected. He came from Nazareth, a town with the same downtrodden reputation, from a poor family, the son of a carpenter.
He was despised and hated by the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and almost all who were in the Jewish upper class. He was "the stone the builders rejected" (1 Peter 2:7, Psalm 118:22 and Matt 21:42). Rejection came from many of those followers who had rallied to Jesus in the high water mark of his ministry. But almost all of these had drifted away by the time it came for him to die. People are still rejecting him to this day.
Jesus was called a man of sorrows. That's an odd title for the Messiah, our Redeemer, our Deliverer, the King of kings. But that's just what he was, suffering as he did. He left heaven and became a man, like us. That may be the worst sorrow of all. But then he suffered as we all suffer, and then he suffered the separation from and the wrath of God, as our chosen sin bearer. Jesus suffered much for us, but the whole time he kept his eyes on his mission for you and me. Isaiah 53:5-8,
"But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wound we are healed. We all 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. 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 her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgressions of my people he was stricken."
The prophecy here of his piercing was literally fulfilled by Jesus. His hands and feet were pierced with huge nails, his side with a Roman spear. His head was pierced with a crown of thorns. He was crushed under the weight of all of our iniquities, not just a few, but all. He is taking the punishment for every wrong ever committed. Yet he was blameless, sinless and innocent.
If I had to choose a phrase from the Bible, a single phrase to describe the message of all 66 books in the Bible, it would be this from verse 5: the punishment that brought us peace. His punishment brought our peace. This punishment bridged the gap between a holy God and a sinful and rebellious people. Instead of our sins separating us from God, we are now with God. No longer our we against God, but for God. In one terrible, beautiful act of dying, Jesus died for us sinners. We are now reconciled to God. We are at peace with God. Yet still there are those who reject Jesus. Isaiah 53:9-11,
"He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the Lord's will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand. After the suffering of his soul, he will see the result of his suffering and be satisfied; by knowledge of him my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with transgressors. Fore he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors."
I find this chapter 53 of Isaiah a compelling argument for belief in Christ. It does succinctly and beautifully tell the Good News of Jesus Christ, 700 years before Christ.
This Good News of Jesus is a finished work. It has been accomplished. He does not need to die again, He is in heaven, right now, with His Father.
But this does not mean that we don't have a part to play. First, we must believe. Believe that what Isaiah said is indeed true, but also, believe in Jesus, as the Son of Man, God's Son. Those who do believe become children of God. They are sons and daughters of the King, adopted in the Roman sense, into the very lineage of Christ. In fact, its more incredible than that, you and I are brothers and sisters with Jesus. Jesus is our brother and our King. We are siblings with King Jesus. As a result, we are destined to inherit our just portion of the kingdom and eternal life in heaven with both the Father and Jesus.
It doesn't stop for us there. We must share this Good News. Just as the Holy Spirit has drawn each of us to Jesus, we must play our part. The Trinity, the Father, the Son and the Holy are one in love. When we accept Jesus as our Savior, we join them in this love, that unites us all together. We, in turn at the Spirit's leading, go forth to invite others to join together in this same Christian love, joining their communion.
It's time to share the love, the Good News of Jesus Christ.
1) Why do we need Jesus? He was the only one with out sin, able to be provided as our sacrifice.
2) What happened on the cross? The cross was the punishment that brought us peace.
3) Who is Jesus? He's our brother and our King.
Do no harm, do good, and stay in love with God.
and Harmony UMC