Friday, April 22, 2011

Isaiah 52:13-53:12 - “Pointing to the Day’s Events”

Good Friday (Year A - Lutheran Service Book Readings)
Friday, April 22, 2011

Tonight’s sermon is based on the Old Testament reading from Isaiah. You may want to have your bulletin open to the reading as we meditate on these words from the prophet, words that point to Jesus, words that point to today’s events, the events of Good Friday.

13 See, my servant will act wisely;
he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted.

But not right away. Jesus wasn’t lifted up and highly exalted right away. I mean, there were some like the disciples who exalted Him, who worshipped Him, who believed in Him, but really, Jesus was rejected, rejected as One who is not worth our time.

Sound familiar? It’s still happening, still happening that people are rejecting Jesus, rejecting Jesus even though now He really has been raised and lifted up and highly exalted, even though He’s been raised from the dead and deserves all the praise of heaven and earth, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

For now, though, it’s Good Friday when we remember the time that Jesus wasn’t highly exalted. On this day, Good Friday, He wasn’t raised up in praise; He was lifted up on the cross.

[But] 14 Just as there were many who were appalled at him—
his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man
and his form marred beyond human likeness—
15 [even] so will he sprinkle many nations,
and kings will shut their mouths because of him.

Even though many were appalled by Jesus, even though many rejected Him, even though He was rejected and beaten, beaten and flogged to be left for dead like the rejected carcass of an animal, even though He was crucified in a most terrible killing, still He will be the One who will sprinkle the nations, sprinkle them in a purification rite, sprinkle them and make them clean. Even though Jesus was disfigured and stretched out on the cross, still He is the One who brings forgiveness of sins and purity and holiness to us by the washing of water in baptism and the sprinkling of His blood in the Lord’s Supper. The kings will shut their mouths when they realize who Jesus truly is, what He has done on the cross. The once-despised and rejected carcass has become the One who makes the people spiritually clean in the view of Almighty God.

[But] 1 Who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
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.
3 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 esteemed him not.

Does anyone believe our message, does anyone believe the message of God, does anyone believe that Jesus is more than meets the eye, more than He seems, more than a rejected carcass on the cross? When we see how He grew up, when we remember how He came from the most humble birth, lived among a humble family, wasn’t from the ruling class, wasn’t from the power class, didn’t seem to be an important leader, wasn’t a vital part of running Israel, when we consider that many despised and rejected Him, well, then does anyone believe the message of God, the message of the Old Testament prophets, the message that Jesus is the One, the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Suffering, Sinless Servant set apart to save His people? Does anyone believe this? Because really, it mainly seems like we despise Him and we esteem Him not.

[But] 4 Surely he took up our infirmities
and carried our sorrows,
yet we considered him stricken by God,
smitten by him, and afflicted.
5 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 wounds we are healed.
6 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.

And that’s the thing: Jesus is the One. People may not have believed it then, and people may not believe it now, but surely, Jesus is the One. Surely, Jesus is the Messiah. Surely, Jesus is the One who took our sins upon Himself, took our sins with Him onto the cross, took the punishment in our place.

In our sinfulness, in our resistance, in our unfaithfulness, we might consider Jesus to be stricken and smitten and afflicted by God for His own misdeeds, but when we really look at it, when we really consider what’s going on, when we really sit and back and realize that He didn’t do anything wrong, that He committed no crime, well, then we have to realize that He was pierced and crushed and wounded for our sins. We are the sheep that have gone astray, we are the ones who have wandered away from God’s ways, we are the ones who should’ve been pierced and crushed and wounded, but God put all of that on Jesus, God put all of that on Jesus so that we could be saved from death. Looking at the cross today, looking at the cross on Good Friday, well, it’s all about Jesus stepping into our place, suffering in our place, dying in our place.

7 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.
8 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 transgression of my people he was stricken.
9 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.

Jesus didn’t try to talk His way out of the situation. Jesus didn’t call out with vicious attacks on His executioners. Jesus didn’t spend His last breaths calling out for vengeance or retaliation or rebellion. Jesus went to His death with words of peace and forgiveness and love, with words of pain—yes—but He didn’t tell us to inflict violence on the ones who did this to Him. Jesus went to His death, following the will of the Father, following it to the very grave, being assigned a place with the wicked, the sinners, all of us who face death because of our sinfulness, Jesus laid down His life for us all the way to the grave even though no one ever proved that He had done anything wrong or said anything wrong, even though no one had ever proved that He was a sinner.

10 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.
11 After the suffering of his soul,
he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
and he will bear their iniquities.

This was the Father’s will, the Father’s plan, to have Jesus suffer in our place, to be a sacrifice for our sins, to take the punishment we deserved, to take that punishment and survive. Survive and see the Lord’s offspring, His children, His people—us, we are His offspring, the ones who have been born again, the ones who have been given new life, the ones who have been brought into His family again through what Christ has done. The Father’s plan was to have Jesus suffer and die and then rise again and bring us to new life so that the Father would see His people as His children, see His creation as His holy ones, see us as the ones who will live with Him forever.

So today we see His suffering, today we mark the suffering of Jesus, today, Good Friday, we honor His death on the cross, but today we recall the words recorded here in Isaiah, the words that promise that Jesus will see the light of life, will see the light again, will be raised from the dead. Tonight we mark the fading of the light, the extinguishing of the light, the smothering of the light, the dousing of the flame, the way in which death was allowed to put out that bright light. But God recalls His promises and leads His people forth in joy with shouts of thanksgiving. God recalls His promises and will bring Jesus out of the grave, will bring Him back to the light, will not let His Holy One see decay, will not abandon Him to the grave.

12 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 the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.

Which brings us back to the beginning: he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted. Jesus has done this great thing on the cross, therefore the Father will give Him a portion among the great, He will ascend to the right hand of the Father, He will have all authority in heaven and on earth, He will be forever praised in heaven and on earth.

And why? Why will Jesus be exalted, be praised forever, why does He ascend to the right hand of the Father, the place of power and authority, why? Because He poured out His life unto death, was numbered with the sinners, and he bore the sin of all the people. Jesus is exalted today and forever, because He took our punishment on the cross. That’s His glory and honor; that’s why we call Him the Savior. That’s why we rejoice in His death; that’s why we call today “Good.” We celebrate and honor Jesus today, because His death marks the end of our death, His punishment on the cross means that we will not suffer eternal punishment. That’s His glory and honor; that’s why we call Him the Savior. That’s why He will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted.