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From Suffering to Salvation

April 9, 2023 Preacher: Kevin Godin Series: Various Messages

Topic: Gospel Scripture: Isaiah 52:13– 53:12

Sermon Text:

 

In the early days believers would greet each other by saying, “he is risen” and the response would be “he is risen indeed”. Let’s try that. He is risen! _________

 

It is recorded in Luke 24:5-6 that when the women went to the tomb of Jesus on Easter morning and found it empty, angels appeared to them and said, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but has risen.” We are gathered this Easter morning to celebrate that Jesus Christ, the messiah, is alive. He was crucified, he died and was buried, but is risen from the dead. That Jesus is alive is the cornerstone of the Christian faith.

 

The fact that Jesus is risen gives hope because it shows us that God has kept his promise. Sin, death, and the devil have been overcome. Jesus has satisfied the justice of God, His payment for sin has been accepted, and He offers eternal life through faith. That is the message of Easter. In fact, that is what we celebrate every Sunday and should every day because it is the best news ever. 

 

The story of Jesus is the greatest story ever told. Usually, when we read or see a story on TV we do so as someone outside of the story. We are disconnected observers. We follow the story but are not in it. But the story of Jesus is not like that. The story of what God has done to provide rescue from coming judgment includes and is relevant for every person who has ever lived. We are part of the story.

 

The main point of my message this morning is  God provides salvation for those who trust Jesus as their lord and savior. 

 

What I hope you will recognize today is that you are part of the story. God is offering you salvation through what Jesus accomplished. How we ultimately fit into the story depends upon what we do with that offer.

 

But Easter is not the beginning of the story. To understand Easter morning, we need to back up. In the beginning God created human beings in His own image, and designed us to have perfect fellowship with Him. All the beauty and wonder of this world were created for us to enjoy and explore in joyous fellowship with God.

 

But the Devil persuaded our first parents, Adam and Eve, to doubt God’s word and to reject His authority. He told them they could have joy and wisdom apart from God and they believed the lie rather than God’s word. When that happened, the world was plunged into darkness. People were cut off from the source of all true joy and wisdom through pride and selfishness. Rebellion became embedded in our nature, it became part of what we are, and every one of us has repeated this foolish pattern in our own lives. What this is really is treason against God, and the Bible calls it sin. The penalty is death and eternal separation from the loving God we rejected.

 

But when Adam and Eve fell, God made a promise. He promised to provide a savior who would restore that lost fellowship with God. God promised a savior, but the prophecy also said that the one that would crush the head of the enemy would himself be bruised. He would be victorious but would bear forever the scars of our deliverance. Thousands of years passed as God protected the line from which this savior would come and then about 800 years before Jesus was born, through the prophet Isaiah, God revealed more clearly how the promise would be fulfilled.

 

In Isaiah 52, verse 13, Isaiah explains God’s plan for the promised savior. 

13  Behold, my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted.  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— 15 so shall he sprinkle many nations. Kings shall shut their mouths because of him,  for that which has not been told them they see, and that which they have not heard they understand.  

This is shocking. Salvation would come through suffering. Isaiah says the beating and torture he endured left him so disfigured that he no longer appeared to be human. The prince of glory was reduced to a vulgar, broken, bleeding mass of flesh that left those who looked upon Him horrified and astonished.

But just as the ground must be broken up to bear fruit, the Savior would be broken to bring life. Hidden from the world, the wisdom and glory of God are displayed here for those who have eyes to see. This condemned and broken man would sprinkle many nations. This means He is an atoning sacrifice and His blood will be offered for men and women from all over the world. To atone means to bring together two alienated parties. His death brings man back to God. He will be exalted and God’s name will be exalted because of what He has done. He was crucified as a criminal, but kings would shut their mouths because of Him. Anguish would result in joy.

Isaiah continues,

 

53 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; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.

 

Jesus is God in the flesh, but the world did not recognize Him. He did not appeal to the things the world finds glorious. He was not attractive. He wasn’t wealthy, or entertaining, or a celebrity, he was a carpenter from a small town. He had no political power or ambition, he was a preacher. He was like a root out of dry ground. He cannot be explained by His circumstances. He was not a product of His time or place. He was utterly unique and unexpected. That is why Isaiah asks, who is going to believe this?

 

That remains the question, the ground is still dry, and He is still unexpected. Many take no notice of Jesus or they think of Him as simply a good teacher or a wise man. There is still nothing to attract the world to Him unless the Spirit of God opens our eyes. The sinful heart will not find the crucified man more satisfying than the pleasures of this world. For now, His is a hidden glory only revealed through faith. Isaiah says, 

3  He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; 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; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.

Who is this man? A convicted criminal. A despised man. A man cursed by God. Not one to run toward, but to run from. A man of sorrow and grief. The natural thing is to turn our heads away. The cross is offensive and brutal. It is not a pleasant thing to think about whips, and thorns and nails punching through human flesh. We want to look away. But it is not for sorrow and grief he has caused that he is acquainted with it, but ours. The wrath upon him is the wrath that was reserved for me and for you.

Isaiah is writing to those who trusted in God’s promise to provide salvation. He is writing for those who will believe and he says the hideous sight of God’s wrath poured out on Jesus is a picture of Him bearing the punishment for our sin. For the sin of every person who will ever accept Him by faith as their savior. He was abused and afflicted because in love, He chose to pay the price we owed. Isaiah says,

5  But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. 

He was pierced for OUR transgressions. He was crushed for OUR iniquities. By “our” Isaiah means those who believe the message, those who trust in Jesus as the fulfillment of God’s promise. Jesus takes the suffering we earned, and gives us the peace he earned. He died in our place.

He was the only one in all of history that could. Our substitute had to be human to serve as our representative. The penalty of the law had to be satisfied by one of us. But only one with eternal life could pay that price and endure that wrath. The physical anguish of the cross is only a small part of what is happening there. Jesus, who is truly God and truly human, is the only one who could accomplish this. 

Friends, all of us have sinned and deserve God’s righteous punishment. If we choose to reject the offer of Jesus as our substitute, then we will stand before God and be judged based on our own works. The cross shows the foolishness of that approach. If God was willing to punish His own perfect Son when our sins were transferred to Him, how much more will He require justice from sinners who appeal to their own record? 

Thankfully, there is no need to stand before God and be judged based upon our performance. This is where we enter the story. God offers salvation by grace through faith to all who believe. We can choose to stand on our own works, or the perfect works of Jesus.

For those who trust in Jesus rather than themselves, Isaiah assures us God has accomplished everything necessary for our salvation. He was pierced for OUR transgressions; he was crushed for OUR iniquities. What could we possibly add to the perfect sacrifice of the Son of God, which God Himself provided for us?

The message of the gospel is that we cannot, and we must not, look to our own goodness to justify us before God. That is impossible, and it is not necessary. As He hung upon the cross, just before He died Jesus declared, “it is finished.” It was a shout of victory. The price has been paid in full. Isaiah says, upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. 

God said this, believe it and rest in His grace. Through faith in Jesus, we receive the benefits of a payment already made. Salvation does not come because we are good enough, but because Jesus is.  We do not rejoice at the Lord’s coming because of our obedience, but because of His. Verse 6 says, 

6  All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 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.

Sheep are not the brightest animals. They are easily distracted, easily startled, and they often don’t pay attention to what is going on around them. Scattered sheep are therefore in danger. They have wandered from safety. Isaiah says we are all like sheep that have been scattered. We have ignored the shepherd and are wandering and in danger.

 

He is talking about our sinfulness but God has placed that sin, which Isaiah calls iniquity, upon Jesus. He was oppressed and afflicted. He was innocent but he did not defend Himself. 

 

Bible teacher R.C. Sproul was once asked “Why do bad things happen to good people?” He responded, “That only happened once, and He volunteered.”

 

Jesus was the only truly good person who ever lived. He was God and could have called legions of angels to deliver Him, but chose instead to enter into our suffering. His love led Him to absorb the righteous justice of God and the unrighteous oppression of the world so that our joy would be complete in Him. He suffered so we could rejoice. He died so we could live. 

8  By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? 9  And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.

The Pharisees and priests slandered Him out of jealousy, Pilate, knowing He was innocent ignores justice to keep the peace. The people were shouting for His blood, and the soldiers were eager to carry out the sentence. But ultimately, it was not the power of Rome, Jerusalem, or even the crowds screaming for blood that led to His death, it was the will of the Father. In Acts 2:23, the apostle Peter says, Jesus was delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God to be crucified by the hands of lawless men.

In verse 10 Isaiah says,

10  … it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; 

If we are to understand Easter, we first need to get our head around this. The Hebrew indicates the Lord had a willing pleasure or satisfaction in crushing the Son. Somehow it pleased God to pour out His crushing wrath upon Jesus. It was God’s plan to put Him to grief. How does this make sense? Is God some kind of monster? Is this some form of cosmic child abuse? 

Not at all. Just as a skillful surgeon must often impart deep wounds to bring healing, so too the wounds God administers bring life. I pray this morning the Lord would give you eyes to see and hearts to not only understand, but to love this truth. The death and resurrection of Jesus is the greatest act of love the universe has ever known. Should we doubt the character of God and His love, we need look no further than what He has done to offer salvation to sinners who do not deserve it. 

First, that God was pleased to crush Him should humble us because it demonstrates just how serious sin is that it should require the blood of God’s Son. It reminds us that even our best works are inadequate because even Jesus, whose works were perfect, was judged when our sin was upon Him. We are incapable of contributing anything to our salvation except the sin that makes it necessary. 

Second, it should remind us that God is holy. He will judge sin. It sometimes appears as though the wicked are prospering but they are not. The Bible tells us that unrepentant sinners are storing up wrath for themselves at the day of judgment. They mistake the patience of God for indifference. 

Imagine you had a friend who has committed a crime and owes a significant fine but continues to ignore notices to appear in court. When you ask them about it they reply that although they continue to get warnings, nothing ever happens so they aren’t worried about it. Isn’t the foolishness in that obvious? Well, God says every sin will be punished. 

That is why the Christian gospel is the only message that allows for a God who is perfectly merciful and perfectly holy. There is no justice in Buddhism and Hinduism because self-awareness is annihilated in reincarnation. It is useless and cruel for a person to be unaware of why they are being punished. The God of Islam is not holy since he can simply decide to overlook sin and accept sinners into his presence. If works marred with imperfection and sin will satisfy Allah, then he is not holy. His law does not flow from his absolute purity and is therefore enforced only by his arbitrary power.

The true God, however, is holy and pure. His justice and His goodness are inseparable. As is His love. Jesus was not a victim. He came to die, He came to pay the price needed for God to be both just and forgiving. The Father does not impose his justice or love on the Son. They share in them along with the Spirit. The Father plans, the Son accomplishes, and the Spirit applies God’s work in salvation.

Believer, God does not love you because Jesus died for you. Jesus died for you because God loves you. It pleased the Father to crush and it pleased the Son to be crushed so that you and I could be accepted and adopted in all righteousness.

This morning, however, we come not to celebrate the humiliation of Jesus, but the exaltation that comes from it. It is the fact that after three days Jesus stood up and walked out of the tomb that gives us assurance that all of this suffering accomplished what it was designed to accomplish. The price was paid, sin was overcome, the devil was disarmed, and death was defeated. The plan was successful, God’s justice was satisfied and God’s love was displayed in a single tremendous act.

The prophet predicted not only the suffering of the Messiah, but the glories to follow. Look at the rest of verse 10,

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.

Jesus has offspring by faith in that through Him many are made sons and daughters of God. The one who died shall be prolonged in days and the will of God will prosper in his hand. Jesus is alive! He is risen, ___________!

 

I sometimes encounter people who are concerned about the state of the church these days. It sometimes appears weak and in retreat from godless influences. Do not judge by appearances, but rather trust God’s word. With every changed heart God’s kingdom advances and it never retreats. Every day more are added to the chorus of heaven. How many who looked upon the battered body of our Lord upon the cross saw in it the victory and glory it was? God has promised those who come to Christ will not be disappointed and the empty tomb is proof.

 

Perhaps you are struggling with the consistency of your own walk. Again, do not be deceived by appearances, trust in God’s word. As the 19th century preacher Robert Murray McCheyne said, “For every look at yourself, take 10 looks at Christ”

 

Why try to carry a burden Jesus has taken from you? Why are you trying to do in your power what Has already been done by the power of God? If you believe and repent, God says you are forgiven and free from condemnation. Are you so proud that you think you are beyond his power to save? So bold to think Christ left something undone for you to finish? 

 

No, He was tempted in every way we are and yet remained faithful. Hebrews 7:25 says,

 

25 … he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.  

 

All those who put their faith in Jesus are forgiven and accepted. Trust God’s word and rest in His finished work. That is grace. That is the power of the empty tomb.

 

Isaiah points us to how we can enter into this assurance, 

11  Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.

Forgiveness and righteousness were accomplished through the anguish of Jesus and it is through that truth that many are to be accounted righteous. It is by understanding and believing in the truth of what Jesus did that we receive these blessings. 

 

Salvation is not based on how we feel, believers are just as forgiven when they feel far from God as when they feel close to God. Salvation is not based on what we do. It is the work of Jesus that saves us and nothing that we have done. Believers are just as forgiven when we are doing good works as when we are not. Salvation comes from putting our trust in His promise.

 

Remember our main point? God provides salvation for those who trust Jesus as their lord and savior. 

 

Does that mean that we do not pursue peace and joy in our closeness with God? Of course not. Does that mean that we do not do good work? Of course not. It means, however, that all we are and all we have comes to us by grace. The worst sinner who trusts in Christ is as loved, as accepted, and as saved as the most well-respected churchman. It is true that the grace that saves us will transform us, but the fruit of the Spirit is the result, not the basis of our acceptance by God.

 

It doesn’t matter who you are or what you have done, forgiveness and a new life is offered to anyone who puts their faith in Jesus to save them. It is really that simple. Pride and self-sufficiency make us enemies of God but if the only testimony we have before God is that we are with Jesus, it will be enough. He is more than enough.

 

He has won the victory. He has finished the work. Verse 12 says

12  Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, 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.  

It pleases our Lord to display His glory in weakness and brokenness. If you are not yet a follower of Jesus, trusting in Him alone as your righteousness before God I urge you to consider carefully the things you have heard today. Isaiah writes these words 800 years before Jesus is born. God’s word can be trusted and the Bible says that He will not reject any who come to Him in faith. The empty tomb is proof of that.

If you are a believer, I pray you will be encouraged this morning to focus less on yourself and more on Jesus. The same gospel that you first believed will bring you safely home. He has promised to complete the good work He has begun in you. He has promised to be your strength when you are weak. How can you not trust that the one who loved you enough to give His own Son so you could come to Him would keep His promises. He always does, the empty tomb is proof of that. 

It is proof because the Bible says the same power that was at work in raising Jesus from the dead is the power at work in those who are being saved. His resurrection is proof that God will keep his promise to raise all those who put their faith in Jesus. That is the glory of Easter. I pray its promise will sustain you until we are in the presence of the Lord.

I would like to finish this morning with the words of the apostle Peter as he reflects on these same truths in 1 Peter 1:3–9,

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 

 

6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 

 

8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.  

 

Amen

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