The Suffering Servant (2022)

Easter 2022  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  19:41
0 ratings
Sermon Tone Analysis
View more →
Consider the following scenario: I think there are still some banks with a physical presence here in the Nambucca valley. Just imagine that recently there have been a spate of bank robberies.
Bank Robbery slide
The police have made some arrests and two men have come up for trial at the Coffs Harbour Court House.
The first man is put in the dock… but within an hour it is clear that this man has been arrested on mistaken identity.
He was nowhere near the robberies.
His home is clean, he has a job and it’s totally out of character for him to do something like rob a bank.
The Judge calls him to stand and says to the man, “You sir, have come before this court on suspicion of bank robbery.
But this court finds you innocent of all charges. You are justified. The law of the land has nothing against you. You are free to go.”
Then man walks out of the court a free man.
No police after him, a citizen right with the law.
The next man is put in the dock… and O boy! This is a different story.
People witnessed him entering and in the bank. The police raided his home and found guns and a balaclava… just as described by witnesses. And he has a large amount of cash hidden on his premises that he cannot account for.
And it’s clear he’s just that sort of bloke!
The Judge calls him to stand and says to the man, “You sir, have come before this court on suspicion of bank robbery and it has been proven beyond any reasonable doubt whatsoever, that you sir are indeed a criminal who has forcefully taken other people’s money for yourself.
But this court finds you innocent of all charges. You are justified.
The law has nothing against you. you are free to go.”
What would you want to say to that judge?
How would the media report the incident?
That’s outrageous! Preposterous! Scandalous! Australia is finished. There is no longer law and order. Anyone apparently can do whatever they like and there is no penalty.
And yet we read in the Bible that God justifies the wicked?
Romans 4:5 NIV84
5 However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.
How is that any different to the Judge in our story?
Does God really let bad people off? Does God really treat bad people as though they were good people?
This is scandalous!
Isn’t this God Himself upsetting the moral order of our universe?
Human judges have to punish bad behaviour and reward good behaviour… at least with not punishing it!
Human parents punish bad behaviour in children and reward good behaviour.
Everyone even down the street knows God rewards good people and punishes bad people.
And yet… the Word of God, the gospel says: NO! That’s not right.
Today we will try to come to grips with the scandal that the Holy Lord of the universe lets “the wicked” go free!
We do well to thank God for justifying the wicked… because there is no one righteous, no not one.
But God cannot simply turn a blind eye to our wickedness.
So how can an infinitely just Judge be merciful?
If he’s just he’ll uphold the law.
If he’s merciful he’ll let people off.
Firstly… we must be in no doubt that God certainly hates human wickedness!
The prophet Isaiah spent the first 39 chapters of his book condemning the wickedness of Israel.
But in chapter 40 he begins a new theme.
The time is coming when God will fix everything. Today we come to the pinnacle of his book, chapter 52-3.
A Servant is going to come and make it possible for God to be both just and merciful.
To uphold his holy law… and let the sinful creatures made in his image off from the awful penalty of their wickedness.
Let’s have a look and see what Isaiah says about this Servant… he is an amazing figure!

v13-15 This Servant is hard to fathom: He is Highly Exalted… and yet very appalling....

At the start of this song about his glorious but suffering servant he says...
See… Behold… my servant will act wisely. (Alternative translation “he will prosper”)
In other words he has come on a mission and he will be successful in it.
But O my goodness, his plan will cost him dearly, v14.
Isaiah 52:14 NIV84
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—
People will be appalled at the journey his endeavours will lead him into .
This is very curious.
He will succeed in his mission… yet people will be appalled at him!
Why would they be appalled at his success?
Did he go broke, did he have some “bad luck?”
Was he run over by a Roman chariot and left to rot in the streets?
How could it be this bad for him?
What did he do?
Apparently his awful troubles are connected to his mission, v15.
Isaiah 52:15 NIV84
15 so will he sprinkle many nations, and kings will shut their mouths because of him. For what they were not told, they will see, and what they have not heard, they will understand.
v15. He will sprinkle many nations.
Some denominations make fun of Presbyterians because we think we can sprinkle water on a person for a legitimate baptism. They say, No! Baptism is only done by full immersion.
But try looking up the word sprinkle in the Bible. You will find that it occurs some 84 times in the OT and 7 times in the NT.
In the OT sprinkling is mentioned 50 times in Ex and Lev alone.
It is used in connection with the offering of a sacrifice.
Leviticus 1:5 NIV84
5 He is to slaughter the young bull before the Lord, and then Aaron’s sons the priests shall bring the blood and sprinkle it against the altar on all sides at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting.
A worshipper was to take a perfect lamb, without defects, to a priest who would shed its blood and sprinkle the blood to make the worshipper clean, holy, in right relationship with God.
And in the NT the same idea continues… but with a different sacrifice.
Hebrews 12:24 NIV84
24 to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
Able’s blood called for justice. The blood of Jesus calls for forgiveness and renewal and mercy and relationship restored.
Here is something new.
This servant will suffer a calamity, but through that cleanse many nations!
We learn more about him in the next 3 verses…
v1-3 Ordinary… but despised?
Look at v2.
Who has believed the message? Even the people who grew up with him, even his own mother and brothers didn’t realise he was God in human flesh.
He didn’t have a halo; walk around a metre off the ground.
He needed food and sleep. He loved affection. He bled when he cut his finger. His muscles ached. He really was a person.
But then we return to the theme of tragedy, suffering, despised..
Isaiah 53:3 NIV84
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.
Once again… this is very curious.
What on earth was he doing to be so rejected?
Well he showed us up.
So in the end the crowd cried to do away with him. Crucify Him! Crucify Him!
And so he was arrested, tried in 3 kangaroo courts and nailed to a cross and left to die.
Why? He was good. He told the truth. He could look his enemies in the eye and ask, “Which of you convicts me of any wrong?” and they all walked away.
What’s happening… ? Well you can’t tell by looking.
God had to tell us, v4-6

v4-6 Bearing our sin… bringing us peace?

In v 4-6 Isaiah we finally get to understand what is happening!
If as I leave church this morning I back into your car… can I say sorry and fix it? No. I can say sorry… but it won’t fix it.
A transgression, a trespass has occurred. A debt has been created.
Someone has to pay. I might pay. You might pay. The insurance company might pay. A passerby might pay… but if it’s going to be fixed… SOMEONE HAS TO PAY!
What do we say in the Lord’s prayer?
Forgive us our… sins… as we forgive those who… sin… against us
Or is it trespasses… or is it debts?
Every trespass runs up a debt, doesn’t it. Every time we sully someone’s reputation there is a debt.
God calls his people to use possessions and love people.
Every time we love our possessions and use another person there is a debt to pay.
There’s a debt against the person… ask someone who’s been taken advantage of. There’s a debt against God… and there’s their own guilt.
If every thought, word and deed contrary to God’s holy law… from the day I became responsible for my own actions until the day I die… is kept in God’s perfect memory record… it’s a very LONG LIST!
And someone has to pay. The damage and the costs and the consequences don’t simply disappear. God cannot, will not turn a blind eye. If it’s going to be put right someone will have to pay!
Isaiah 53:4 NIV84
4 Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.
The Servant comes along and picks up my whole account and takes it to the cross to pay in full.
As we approach another Good Friday this coming week we will pause again to look at the Servant, on the cross, taking up our infirmities… but stricken by God.
Matthew 27:45–46 NIV84
45 From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. 46 About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”—which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Why had God forsaken Jesus? Because that’s the price of human sin!
Look at v5.
Isaiah 53:5 NIV84
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.
Martin Luther once wrote to a friend: "Learn to know Christ and him crucified. Learn to sing to him, and say, 'Lord Jesus, you are my righteousness, I am your sin. You have taken upon yourself what is mine and given me what is yours. You became what you were not, so that I might become what I was not.'"
Why? That’s the centre of the gospel.
What was not Jesus?
Jesus was not a sinner; Jesus was not in debt to God.
But Luther was… and so were we.
What was not Luther… and us?
Free from debt to the Father as the awful price of our sin.
Isaiah 53:6 NIV84
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.
So on that first Good Friday Jesus was under the wrath and curse of God.
Not that he had done anything wrong.
Look at v9b. He had done no violence, now was any deceit in his mouth.
Every single thing on earth that Jesus did, pleased God.
God loved the way he treated his parents... and the prostitutes, and tax collectors, and Mary and Martha. And the way Jesus thought about and spoke to Pharisees and proud arrogant young ruler… God said, that’s good. That’s exactly what I would say and do. EVERY TIME!
Jesus had no guilt, no transgression, no debt to pay… for himself.
But he bore our sin and paid the price, the innocent for the guilty on the cross on Good Friday.
His blood was shed… as we will think about next Sunday at the Lord’s Supper.
But there is a sense that his blood doesn’t just soak into the ground.
It’s a vitally effective agent for people who learn how to appropriate it for themselves!
What things are we ashamed of? The way we’ve treated people, people we thought we loved.
Are we like… or are some of us the woman who was still in her teens and pregnant because she so desperately wanted to be loved. The tongue doesn’t mention… but the shame clings.
Turn and look in faith at the blood of Jesus… let it flow and wash cleaner than the driven snow… and let the shame flow back to Jesus on the cross. She is freed from her burden. Let it become a memory
Are we like… or are some of us the man who is held in bondage to lust. He would love to give it up. He’s ashamed and guilt ridden. The blood of Jesus flows out from the cross… and his shame and guilt flows back to the cross where Jesus endures the punishment of God for his transgression.
Some psychologists reckon if they could cure people’s guilt they would almost empty their psych wards.
Well here’s the cure. Provided by Christ. Shame, guilt, punishment… dealt with. Gone. Forever.

v10-12 Crushed... but victorious?

And of course Isaiah couldn’t help but add in v10b, 11a, 12a.
We’ll look at this next Sunday. He was crushed and he will see his offspring and they will prosper in his hand. He will see the light of life and be satisfied.
So why is the whole moral order of the universe not upended… rendered null and void when God forgives the wicked?
Because no one, anywhere, in any age ever gets away with anything less than God’s perfect will.
Every trespass against God’s law raises a debt that MUST be paid.
But the gospel says, Somebody else has willingly paid your debt in full, if you believe.
When a human being accepts that he or she has an enormous debt that we can never pay owing to the Holy God of the universe…
The sheer joy and wonder of the gospel of God is that even though we’ve all broken God’s holy law… and fully deserve to pay....
God in his mercy became man… lived a holy life… and voluntarily went to Calvary to pay our debt owed to God because of our sin.
Related Media
See more
Related Sermons
See more