Wednesday, April 03, 2013
“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6).
Scripture Reading: Isaiah 52:14–53:12
What are the one hundred most important historical events? More than a half century ago, Grosset and Dunlap, in order to publicize a new history book, asked a group of twenty-eight journalists, educators, and historians to list what they considered to be the one hundred most crucial events in history. In first place was Columbus’s discovery of America. Gutenberg’s development of movable type rated second. Some eleven events tied for third place. These events tied for fourth place: “Ether makes surgery painless; the discovery of X-ray; the invention of the airplane by the Wright brothers; the U.S. Constitution taking effect; Jesus Christ is crucified”. Of course, in this day and age—with computers and so much digital media—we wouldn’t be surprised to see Jesus’ crucifixion much farther down on the list. The passage before us indicates that had Isaiah been asked to make such a list, the Savior would have been at the very top. But such a rating requires spiritual awareness, and we live in a world that has little time for such thought. We are far too busy.
In his picture Despised and Rejected, Sigismund Goetze graphically illustrates people’s indifference to Christ. The center of the picture is consumed with the suffering Christ surrounded by people of all kinds. In spite of his tremendous sufferings, Christ seems to be unnoticed by those about him. The workman has his glass of beer in hand, and the political agitator has his motley crowd. The scientist is aware only of his test tubes. The newsboy is busy selling his paper with the latest scandals. The social set are obsessed with their vain frivolities, and the military leaders have no interest in a suffering Prince. Even the religious leaders, instead of giving attention to the suffering Christ, consume themselves with disputes about the text of Scripture. Only a nurse, accustomed to seeing pain and anguish, turns an eye toward the suffering Savior. In the midst of busy people, Christ is “despised and rejected of men.”
The problem still remains the same: “We have turned every one to his own way.” Oblivious to God’s world, people have tried to build their own worlds. Isaiah lifts his voice to those who are too busy and calls them to see what they have overlooked. He reminds us of all that God has done while people were busy with themselves.
1) The Savior came (Isa. 52:14; 53:2).
Inspired of God, Isaiah speaks of the coming of Christ: “His appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being and his form marred beyond human likeness. .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” (52:14; 53:2 NIV). The ancient rabbis saw in this Scripture the promise of the Messiah. The Targum of Jonathan and the Talmud of Babylon interpret Isaiah as speaking of the coming Messiah. Only since the Jewish rejection of Christ have Jewish authors refused to see the Messiah in this passage.
At first reading, Isaiah’s description of Christ differs greatly with that of the artist Warner Sallman. It is said that Sallman, struggling in an effort to paint the head of Christ, was inspired either in dream or vision and in a moment saw the head of Christ, which he then painted. Since that time, it has become world famous. Isaiah is making no effort to interpret the physical features of Christ. Rather, he pictures the inner anguish and suffering that people disdain to see.
With great accuracy, Isaiah predicts the blindness of people. We see in his words a tone of discouragement: “Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” (Isa. 53:1 NIV). The “message” of which Isaiah speaks is explained in his following statement in terms of the “arm of the Lord.” Isaiah is reporting the Lord’s arm at work in human affairs. He is saying that God’s hand is being revealed to those who will see. Yet he is discouraged because so very few desire to see. It seems that people have always preferred to shun the truth.
2) The Savior suffered and died (Isa. 53:3–5, 8–9).
Listen to Isaiah’s condensed biography: “He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. .Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed” (vv. 3–5 NIV). Isaiah uses words that indicate that it is the men of high places who reject this Christ, and the hatred they feel for him is akin to Esau’s attitude in despising his own birthright, of seeing no lasting value in it.
When Christians question their plight and their griefs, they do well to remember that their Savior was well acquainted with grief. He suffered even the ordinary deprivations of life: “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head” (Matt. 8:20 NIV). Yet he was not concerned with the luxuries of life that consume most of our planning. Rather, he was concerned with his sole purpose for having come into the world: “I have a baptism to undergo, and what constraint I am under until it is completed!” (Luke 12:50 NIV).
While people were busy with the wheels of business and the revelries of pleasure, “by oppression and judgment he was taken away. Yet who of his generation protested? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was punished. 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” (vv. 8–9 NIV). There is no way to explain the preciseness of Isaiah’s prophecy apart from the inspiration of God. Jesus was taken from Pilate’s judgment and forced to bear his cross to the place of execution. No one stood up for him.
The meaning and purpose of Jesus’ death are simply stated: “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed” (v. 5 NIV). His chastisement was the price by which our peace was secured. The healing of our bodies and our sin-torn lives is made possible because of Jesus’ stripes.
Dickens, in his Tale of Two Cities, tells the story of a young nobleman, Charles Darnay, imprisoned during the violence of the French Revolution. Condemned to the guillotine, he faced certain death. However, a man named Carton, because he admired Darnay’s wife, visited the cell, drugged Darnay, exchanged clothing with him, and went to the guillotine in his place. This is an illustration of the purpose of Christ’s death. He paid our death penalty, which we deserve because we have sinned. And when he did it, there were no trumpets, no fanfare, no newspaper headlines to glorify his action. The only attention drawn to his death was that which came from above as the sun was darkened and the earth made to tremble. People had more important things to think about. They were busy.
3) The Savior triumphed (Isa. 53:10–11).
Isaiah sees beyond the death of the Messiah to behold his victory: “He will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand. .By his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities” (vv. 10–11 NIV). Though the crucifixion would seem to have snuffed out any lineage, Isaiah sees the Savior looking after his offspring. Through his death he made possible our adoption as children of God. Isaiah sees that, although death is certain for the Savior, beyond death he shall prolong his days. Although the cross was the greatest tragedy in the human story, it was also the greatest triumph, for it gave way to the resurrection.
Isaiah pictures the triumph of the Savior in terms of a conquering general leading back his procession of the spoils of victory and the captives of his conquest: “He will divide the spoils with the strong” (53:12 NIV). Christ defeated sin, death, and Satan. The forces that destroy people became his captives. He calls all people now to share in his victory. How tragic that people are too busy to hear.
4) The Savior offered healing (Isa. 53:12).
People are at once aware of physical malady because it affects them outwardly. Sin is a hideous, incurable disease that may often go unnoticed because it affects a person inwardly. It distorts one’s reason and perverts one’s values. Yet people are guilty for having this disease because it is a willful one. Aware of salvation, people choose to ignore it. Told about the Savior, people tend to shrug off their need of him. Living in unbelief, people find themselves in all sorts of perversions and anxieties. Yet because Christ died for our sins, he can offer us healing for our souls. What we fail to realize is that Christ’s offer of healing remains today, but it is for today only. We may not have tomorrow. Because we are busy today, we are tempted to put off all thought of our spiritual sickness until tomorrow, taking a chance that tomorrow will come.
Now in Conclusion
Years ago, David Lockard, a missionary in Southern Rhodesia, wrote of the death of a little girl name Gela. Though she had been converted, her father was an unbeliever. Not knowing how the father would take the death of his daughter, Lockard waited until after the funeral and then spoke tenderly to him about God. Gela’s father, with tears in his dark eyes, said, “My little girl used to run errands for me; she was always bringing me things. But today she brought me the greatest gift of all—God!”
Don’t be too busy for this!