Archive for the ‘Isaiah 53:4-6’ Category

Meditations of Grace!

Saturday, March 30th, 2013

Good Friday (Year C), March 29, 2013
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

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“Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.  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.   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.” (Isaiah 53:4-6)

When have you turned away from God?  The answer unfortunately is, every time you sin!  Now are you aware that when you turn away from God, when you sin, you are really turning away from life  itself? But how can you turn back to God after you’ve turned away? How can you return to the very God you have so terribly disobeyed?  You seem to be in a bit of a conundrum; between a rock and a  hard place.  I mean if you’ve sinned against him you need his forgiveness, right?  But isn’t it your sin’ which perhaps is your pride, that keeps you from asking for His forgiveness. So how can God  forgive such blatant sin? How can God forgive sinners like us? How can we truly know that when we have done such great wrongs against Him, that we can just run back to the very God we sinned  against.   How can you be sure that when you call out to Him, you will find a loving Father who forgives?

Here is one important truth: You can’t know this or believe it by your own reason or strength. God Himself must reveal it to you and teach you about it. And so He does that very thing. Tonight,  through the prophet Isaiah, God teaches us his gospel, the good news about His forgiving love with absolute certainty, as He shows us the life and struggle of His suffering Servant whose very real  suffering alone brings us forgiveness, peace, and health.

Every spiritual blessing God has to give to sinners like us, He gives because of the suffering of His Servant. The suffering of the Servant of the Lord, which has accomplished something great and  wonderful. It has opened for us the door to Paradise. It has taken away our sin, reconciled us to God, and given us eternal life. We call what he did the vicarious atonement.

It is vicarious because the  Servant suffered for us, on our behalf as our substitute. He took our place. He did what he did for us, as our representative. He acted vicariously.  It is atonement because His suffering brought us back into a right relationship, into fellowship with God.  Through the Servants vicarious suffering, He brought us true peace with God, and He fulfilled all of our obligations of holiness, by paying everything we owed with His own suffering.  This vicarious atonement is at the center of our faith as Christians.  If you take it away, we are no better off than any of the false religions and cults.  You see, the vicarious atonement  reveals God’s love for us.

Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. They were our griefs and our sorrows. Some are caused by others through no fault of our own, but surely many have been caused by our own sinful living.  Regardless of how or why they come to us, He carried every one of them. He not only sympathized with us because we suffer, He in fact took up every one of those sufferings! He bore them in his own body. When he healed the sick, He took on every painful malady and experienced it in His own suffering. The disease he cured he bore. The griefs he removed he suffered. So, we can say that all of the benefits that He gives to His church, He paid for with His own suffering.

Yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. Pay close attention to these words, “Stricken, smitten by God and afflicted.”  Do you understand that it was God the Father who placed these things upon His Servant Son? It wasn’t a miscarriage of justice plotted against Jesus by corrupt religious leaders and sneaky politicians. No, God did it Himself. While it’s true that God used those sinful, evil men to carry out his will ultimately, it was God who did the deed! When we see Jesus alone, suffering the abuse of men we must always remember that he was stricken, smitten, and afflicted by God himself because of us. God punished all sins of all sinners of all times and placed them squarely upon His Son Jesus Christ as punishment for our sins!

God punished his Servant. This is the most amazing kind of love. All other forms of love pale in comparison. Who would imagine that the Father would ever strike, smite, and afflict His own dear Son whom he loved from eternity to save sinners like us! What a mystery this is, and so beyond our sinful minds’ ability to grasp!  It is a kind of love that no human at any time could ever have thought of or demonstrated.  St. John described this agape love like this: “This is love, not that we have loved God but that he (first) loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation (or payment) for our sins.

But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. So, does God punish or forgive?  Well, He does both at the same time. The Servant was wounded, pierced, punished, and  He was crucified. For what?  For your sins. God forgives you by punishing Jesus. “The chastisement for our peace was upon him.” He was punished instead of us. God makes peace with us by punishing His Son Jesus instead of us. That is love. “And by His stripes (by His sufferings) we are healed ( we are forgiven).” Jesus was whipped. That’s what brought us forgiveness; our healing from the disease of sin. He takes our place and by taking our place he gives us what is His and takes what is ours. Isaiah goes on:

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. Grace might be free, but it’s certainly not cheap. How dare we imagine that forgiveness of sins comes from nowhere!  Someone has to pay; don’t you see that?  Where does it come from?  I will tell you from where… it comes from love and it comes from suffering. That kind of forgiveness must be earned.

It’s not that God isn’t a gracious God, because He is. It’s not that God can’t forgive, because He does.  But we must always remember that God in His Word has clearly declared that sin must be punished.  So, you can now see that if we have any hope of forgiveness and life, it must come from a God who can never lie or deceive or make false threats or false promises. It must come from a God who both forgives and punishes. We can never have one without the other, as if we could choose between the God who forgives and the God who stands in judgment against sin. They come from the same God; they are the same God.

So how can God be both gracious and just at the same time? How can God forgive sins and punish sins at the same time? Well the prophet Isaiah explains: “And the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” God doesn’t forgive without paying the price for forgiveness. The reason we can know for sure that God forgives our sins is because He laid every one of them upon His Son Jesus.

Tonight, I hope you understand now that through Jesus vicarious atonement, He is both teaching about Himself and showing us how He deals with our sin.  Isn’t it comforting and reassuring to know that we can always run to God and find him as a loving, forgiving, and gracious Father who will never turn us away?  I pray that you will always remember this teaching tonight about Christ’s vicarious atonement, and let it help you remember two important truths about your faith: First, for Christ’s sake all of your sins are forgiven.  Second, apart from faith in Christ you will never have true forgiveness of sins.

For Christ’s sake all our sins are forgiven. How do we know? He was wounded for our transgressions. That’s how we know. He was bruised for our iniquities. That’s how we know. The LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. That’s how we know. We know our sins are forgiven because we know Jesus. Our sins aren’t forgiven because we believe they are forgiven. Our sins are forgiven because Jesus Christ, true God and true man, suffered and died for them. Our faith didn’t put him on the cross to suffer and die. Our faith doesn’t take away our sins.  Jesus and Jesus alone take away our sins, and he does it by suffering for them. For Christ’s sake all our sins have been forgiven.

What we must understand, is that apart from faith in Christ we don’t have the forgiveness of sins. The fact that God forgives all sins for Christ’s sake doesn’t mean that everyone has the forgiveness of sins. God forgives. He forgives all those for whom Jesus suffered and died. That means he forgives the whole world. There is no one for whom Jesus did not die. Therefore, there is no one God did not forgive when Jesus suffered and died on the cross.  But God forgiving someone does not always mean that that someone receives the forgiveness of sins. We can’t put Jesus on the cross to take our sins away. Forgiveness is God’s gift. But forgiveness is never received outside of faith in Jesus Christ. Only those who trust in Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins receive from God the forgiveness of their sins. Apart from Christ our sins are not forgiven. Only through faith in him do we know that we have received the forgiveness of sins.

This is why we believe, teach, and confess Jesus as the suffering Servant.  It is why no other message must ever be preached from this pulpit, and this is why we should never tire of hearing this gospel message. It is the source of our faith, and it alone is what brings us joy. It is our strength when we face doubts and temptations, and it is why we confess our sins to God and claim his suffering Servant as our very own. When we know Christ and him crucified we know that God sees us at our very worst and forgives us all our sins, sets us at peace with himself, and rescues us from death and hell. Like foolish sheep we wandered away, but by God’s grace we poor sheep have been returned to the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls. Amen

[1] Based upon a devotion by Pastor Rolf David Preus (Rolf) on Monday, March 25, 2013