Jesus’ resurrection was a demonstration that his message was true, that his death did in fact secure our forgiveness, that we who believe have life in him, and that our final resurrection is certain. In this message on Isaiah 53:1–2, Pastor Matt Mason shows us that Jesus willingly embraced human flesh with all its limitations.
- Jesus willingly embraced our frame with all its limitations.
- Jesus volunteered to pour himself out in ministry to people who would reject him.
- Jesus drank the cup of wrath which we deserved so that we might drink the cup of blessing.
We continue the worship of our God by opening His Word together, if you would turn together to Isaiah 53. Our Advent series continues this morning as we look at Christ’s death and resurrection from this central, crucial text of Scripture. One church historian remarked on this passage, saying, “No other passage from the Old Testament was as important to the church as Isaiah 53.”
Everything about your life—your past, what your life will look like ten million years from now—turns on one weekend in history and Isaiah takes us to that weekend here in our text. So if you will follow along, I’m going to begin reading in verse one of chapter 53:
Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? 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. 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.
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.
This is the gospel in a single verse. Verse six:
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. 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. 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? 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.
Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; 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. 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. 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.
This is God’s inspired, infallible, trustworthy Word. Let’s ask the Lord to open our hearts as we consider it together.
Father, we’ve read this text, many of us, on many occasions and yet, we pray that lights would go off in this passage by the working of your Spirit. Cause our hearts to live and live again and again and again through the power of your Word, brought home to our hearts. Lord, we pray for an encounter with you through your Word. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
In April 2007, Joshua Bell, one of the finest classical musicians in the world, set his violin case near a trash basket at L’Enfant Plaza Station in Washington, D.C. He put a cup out there and threw a couple of coins in there to encourage passers-by to donate something. He was wearing a t-shirt, blue jeans and a baseball cap. And he would play six of the most elegant pieces ever written for the violin. He would play this on a violin that was worth over $500,000.
This was all part of an experiment that was put on by the Washington Post back in 2007. It was called an experiment “in context perception and priorities.” Do people recognize beauty? And if they do, do they take time to stop and appreciate it? In the 45 minutes Bell played, the article relates, 1,097 people passed by. Seven people stopped to hang around at least for a minute. Twenty-seven gave money—most of them on the run—for a total of $32.17. One thousand, seventy hurried by, oblivious to the virtuoso whose talents command $1,000 a minute. There are six moments in the video—there was a hidden camera watching this—that Bell finds particularly painful to relive. The “awkward times,” he calls them. It’s what happens right after each piece ends. Nothing. The music stops. The same people who hadn’t noticed him playing don’t notice he is finished. No applause; no acknowledgement.
In the interviews conducted after the experiment, only one person recognized Bell. She had attended his concert a few days earlier. Stacy Furukawa positioned herself ten feet away from Bell—front row, center. “It was the most astonishing thing I’ve ever seen in Washington. Joshua Bell,” she said, “was standing there playing at rush hour and people were not stopping—and not even looking. And some were flipping quarters at him. Quarters!”
One of the devastating things about the Fall is what it has done to our capacity to perceive truth, to perceive beauty—to see it, to recognize it. You know, here in Isaiah 53 we see fallen humanity’s perception of Messiah and His work—what Messiah was doing when He was here. In reality, God’s great symphony of redemption was in high gear throughout the life of Jesus and it crescendos with tremendous power in His death and resurrection.
But if you ask those who were standing close by—according to Isaiah’s prophecy in chapter 53—all their remarks would be were these: Verse two: Well, He’s not very handsome. I can tell you that. It says, “…no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.” Verse three: He’s not that impressive. “…we esteemed him not,” the text says. Verse four: It doesn’t appear to be favored by God. If you ask me, it looks like God is decidedly against His Messiah. “…we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.”
Now, before we’re done, I trust, pray that we’re going to see God’s view—God’s perspective on the suffering and the triumph of Messiah, what He accomplished. But in order to fully grasp this, we need to go further back into Old Testament history, so we can see some of the images that are going on here.
Christ’s Suffering: The Servant-Lamb
Jesus is described in our text as the Servant-Lamb. Right there in verse 11: “By his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous…” He’s called the Lamb in verse seven. You see that there: “…like a lamb that’s led to slaughter…” And then His death is considered to be that which, in verse ten, makes an offering for sin.
The Old Testament Sacrificial System in Isaiah 53:1–2
So what Isaiah is doing here in our passage is he’s taking us back another 700 or so years. And now we’re not just 750 years before the first Christmas morning. We’re 1400-1500 years before Jesus. Isaiah’s taking us there to the period of the Exodus, where there’s Moses and there’s Aaron, the priest. And God, through these leaders, institutes the sacrificial system in Israel.
The sacrificial system had three main goals. It was a teaching sacrament, if you will, in which God was saying three things: God is holy. He wanted the people to know this and through the sacrificial system, he was proclaiming, “God is holy!” We are sinful. God has made a way for sinful people to be reconciled to Him. Day by day, year by year, as the sacrifices were being continually offered, the people were confronted—were brought face to face in very concrete ways—with the fact that God is holy, we are sinful and we need death. We need blood. We need something to cover—to deal with, to atone for—our sins. To pay for our sins against a Righteous God.
The question that comes up, as you read through books like Leviticus, is, “What were those sacrifices doing? What were they actually accomplishing?” And the New Testament book of Hebrews is largely written to answer just that question. If you go later on and you read Hebrews 10—just the very first four verses—it basically says in a nutshell, “The sacrifices of goats and lambs weren’t cleansing. They weren’t doing anything to cleanse the hearts of the people of Israel.”
And the proof of the fact that it’s not cleansing their hearts is they kept sinning. They kept needing to offer these sacrifices. They went, offered the sacrifices, and they sinned on the way home from offering the sacrifices, which is simply to say that priests had tremendous job security in the Old Testament. All that’s necessary is that the people keep sinning and they have to show up at the office the next day. The temple—the tabernacle—was a bloody, busy place.
But the blood of bulls and goats was not getting the job done. It was not an end in itself and, from the very beginning, even when it was established, it was only supposed to be a temporary arrangement—a teaching device. The Apostle Paul in Galatians calls it a “tutor.” It was a tutorial of the people—to teach them until the time when Messiah would come and He would deal with sins once and for all. But the arrival of Messiah would involve suffering and humiliation.
Isaiah 53:1–2 discusses a limitation of the coming Messiah
And here in Isaiah 53, there are three striking portraits of the suffering and the humility of God the Son. First, Messiah would experience the limitations that come with being born. Jesus willingly embraced our frame with all its limitations. Look at chapter 53, verse two: “For he grew up before him like a young plant and like a root out of dry ground.”
So this young, tender plant imagery speaks of Christ’s birth—His origin. Being fully human meant that He embraced the limitations of our humanity. And the Apostle Paul uses dramatic language to speak of the incarnation. If you ask the Apostle Paul, “What’s the incarnation?” he says, “Well, I’ll tell you it this way: He became nothing” (Philippians 2:5ff.). That’s the incarnation; it was Christ becoming nothing.
Look at portraits of His embracing of the limitations of humanity in the Gospels. Jesus, in John 4, is weary near the well. He’s about to engage with the woman from Samaria, but sometimes we just skip to that story and skip past the fact that God is tired. He has to stop; He can’t take another step. He has to sit down near the well. The One through whom the worlds were made, the One who upholds all things by the Word of His power actively, can’t take another step. He has embraced our humanity with all of its limitations.
And, yeah, this is a challenging thing for us to swallow. This doesn’t naturally fit the way that we would expect things to go down. The Apostle Paul quotes Isaiah 53 in Romans 10:16, and he says, “They have not all obeyed the gospel,” and then he explains why by referencing this passage. Here’s why they haven’t obeyed the gospel: “For Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed? Who can believe this? Who has believed what he has heard from us?’”
Yet, this is really hard to believe. I mean, think about it. So you’re saying that that’s God in there, wiggling in the cattle trough. That’s God. That’s God trying to command His motor skills. He stuck His thumb in His eye, He cried and then He stuck His thumb in His eye again. That’s God? That’s God with a burp cloth? That’s God teetering down the hall? This is hard to believe.
Friends, don’t airbrush Jesus’ humanity. He really embraced this humiliating frame. He wasn’t parting the waters of the bathtub. He wasn’t floating down from the second bunk. He took the little ladder just like you did growing up because He embraced our full humanity. He was a normal baby, a normal child. If we overlook His full humanity, we miss the staggering picture of the humility of God. We fail to hear the strains and the beauty of the symphony of redemption that’s playing in this text and throughout the New Testament.
Rejection: His Life
But there’s more to this humiliation of Messiah. It wasn’t simply an embracing of limitation. He would be rejected. Jesus volunteered to pour Himself out in ministry to people who would reject Him. He volunteered for this! Look at what was prophesied hundreds of years before He came. In verse three: “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.”
You may remember from last week when we looked at Jesus’ first sermon. He shows up, it’s Luke 4, He goes into the synagogue, selects Isaiah 61, rolls out the scroll, reads the text, preaches His very first sermon and we find out what’s the response to Jesus’ first sermon in His ministry. He ends His sermon in verse 27, and, in verse 28, it says the people were filled with wrath. And in verse 29, it says they looked for a nearby hill to throw Him off the cliff. Welcome to the ministry, Jesus. This is Jesus’ beginning moment. He’s rejected from the start! Right out of the gate, after His first sermon, it’s rejection.
These are the men who spent most of the time reading the Bible. They’re reading texts about Christ’s arrival and no one hates Jesus more than them! No one hates Him more passionately than these men—these leaders—these, really, pastors in Israel. They say that His miracles are worked by the power of demons and they say that He’s working together with Beelzebub.
Now, come a little closer to home. He spends the night praying and then He goes and hand-selects twelve men. And He’s going to live life. He’s going to pour His heart and soul into these men. Late nights, singing hymns out under the stars in the garden outside of Jerusalem. He’s going to work miracles.
Some of them are going to walk on water with Him. They’re going to see loaves and fishes multiply right before their eyes. He’s going to leave the crowds to spend special, extended hours with them, talking about the Scriptures, talking about life, talking about the glories of the Kingdom of God. He’s going to weep with them. He’s going to laugh with them and pray with them and minister with them. Deep relationship.
And then, when the heat is on in the final hours of your life, and He looks around and none of them are there. Now, He sees one of them. There’s Peter over there, but right now he’s denying that he even knows Jesus. Not only that, His own family had their doubts.
There’s a text in Mark 3 that’s easily overlooked. Mark 3:21: “And when his family [Jesus’ family] overheard it, they went out to seize him for they were saying, ‘He is out of his mind.’” And when you read just a few verses later and you hear the knock on the door and those family members are out there trying to seize Jesus and say, “You’ve gone crazy,” guess who’s there? Not just his half brothers. Mom. Mary. “Mom? You think I’m crazy? You think I’ve lost my mind?”
You see the humiliation, the rejection and, when it’s all said and done, if you’re Jesus and you’ve been ministering in this way—incarnate—the banner over your ministry is, “He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.” The banner over your ministry is, to put it the way Jesus did very concisely, “The world hated me.” It’s a post-game review of Jesus’ ministry from Himself. The banner over your psychological and emotional life is “Jesus, Man of sorrows, acquainted with grief.” This is staggering humility.
You ever tempted to think that God doesn’t know anything about your life? Now, He’s off on some cushy throne a billion miles away from here? He doesn’t really get rejection. He doesn’t really get loneliness, isolation, discouragement, long nights, bags under His eyes. But Jesus knows what a sleepless night feels like. Jesus, the Son of God, had bags under His eyes. He was exhausted. He poured Himself out. He knows what it’s like to be betrayed. He knows what it’s like to walk up and find His friends were talking about Him behind His back. He’s experienced this.
Kids here, you ever been made fun of? Do you know that when God came to this earth, amazingly, He was made fun of? You can almost hear the people in Isaiah 53 saying, “Yeah, we’ve heard the rumors that the King is here in Palestine but where’s the glory? Where’s the majesty? Where’s the political leader? Where’s the revolutionary strategist? Just to make sure we’re clear on the job description: We’re looking for someone who can lead a nation. We’re looking for somebody who can lead an army, not make a wheelbarrow. We are talking about the carpenter’s son, right? The one from Nazareth? Yeah, I don’t see it.”
That’s the response of fallen humanity when they look at the life of Jesus Christ. They’re not the only ones who miss it. We miss it. We have our own perception problems, our own blindness issues. And I think part of the reason why we miss the glory of Jesus Christ as Messiah in what He did when He came, honestly, is we’re drunk on the self-help section of the bookstore. We think, “Okay, God, send me an article and a YouTube clip and I’ll be fine. Give me a few tips on how to make my prayer life more consistent.”
This is the sort of thing we think about God: “You know, here’s what I need. Fundamentally, this could be a game changer. I just need a decent mentor. I don’t need the death of the God-Man to make me right.” One author said, “Our self-assessment is as accurate as a carnival mirror.” Friends, we don’t need a program for moral improvement. That’s been done. God gave perfect wisdom—perfect instructions—for upright living 3,500 years ago at Mount Sinai and the law didn’t change a single heart in Israel. The law didn’t stop a single sin in Israel. The law won’t change us. Exhortations won’t change us. Look, your greatest need in 2014 isn’t a spiritual life coach or a better accountability system. Don’t flatter yourself. You need rescue. We need a Deliverer.
My non-Christians friends who are here this morning, what a delight that you would come and share this morning with us. I want to ask you a question: How are you going to respond to this Messiah? And I would plead with you, “Don’t reject Him!” And there are a thousand ways to reject Him. There’s brazen atheistic rejection that makes a lot of noise while it rejects. It shakes its fist at God. And then there are all kinds of other cultural ways of rejecting God. Flip a quarter in His direction. Attend church every now and then. Do something good for someone. Help somebody cross the street. Go to a soup kitchen. Say a prayer from time to time.
Friends, let’s not patronize Jesus Christ. Don’t patronize Him. Acknowledge that we all need this. Acknowledge that you need a full-service Savior. You need forgiveness, satisfaction, joy in Him. You need Him to change you. You need Him to keep you, to adopt you, hold onto you forever. You need a full-service Savior, and so do I.
Jesus embraced all our limitations. He volunteered for this rejection. But neither of those was sufficient to rescue us from our bondage—rescue us from our guilt for sins committed against a Holy God. Therefore, this next one—this next aspect of Christ’s suffering—brings us right to the heart of the gospel and the good news of Christian faith. It is substitution.
Years ago, I heard a pastor named Mike Bullmore and he was talking about his life when he was a little boy. He was in a Sunday school class and the teacher said, “Mike, I’m going to give you the gospel and I want you to hold onto it for the rest of your life.” She said, “Open your hand,” and she folded this promise from 1 Corinthians 15:3 verbatim into this boy’s hand. She said, “Christ died for our sins.” And she said, “You grip that gospel for the rest of your life and you never, ever let it go.”
Substitution: His Death
Why Christmas? Why was He despised and rejected? Why did they hide their faces? Why did they not esteem Him? Why bruises and affliction? Christ died for our sins. It’s why He came. It’s why He was here. You hear the substitution language in this. Let’s look at verse five: Substitution language is all over this passage—“for us” language. He was, verse five, “…wounded for our transgressions…” Not “We were wounded for our transgressions.” Not “He was wounded for His transgressions.”
But “He was wounded for our transgressions.” “…He was crushed for our iniquities…” Verse five goes on to say, “Punishment was given to Jesus. Peace was given to us. Stripes given to Jesus. Healing given to us.” Verse six: “Our iniquities were laid on Him.” That’s substitution. That’s exchange of places. Verse eight: “He was stricken for the transgression of my people.” Verse 11: “He shall bear their iniquities.” Verse 12: “He bore the sin of many.” This is the changing of places, the great exchange, substitution.
Why did we need a substitute? Because we sinned against God countless times. And when we sin, we’re sinning against a God, friends, who has only been kind to us. And we are sinning against a God of infinite worth and infinite value, and, therefore, our sin has an infinite gravity—an infinite consequence. And we can’t pay infinite debts. It’s not possible.
Enter Jesus Christ. God found a way in His purposes to send His own Son. Do you ever wonder why He had to be fully man and fully God? He had to fully man because we’re the ones who offended a Holy God, therefore, the payment, if you will, has to come from our side of things. God can’t just pay Himself off. Jesus has to come in the form of a man. This is why He teetered down the hall, so He could pay for your sins.
He was fully man and, yet, He had to be fully God because finite man can’t pay an infinite debt. Only Jesus, being an infinite God, could drown an infinite debt in six hours outside on a hill, just outside of Jerusalem. Only the God-Man could do this, such that when He cried, “It is finished!” He didn’t mean, “It’s almost finished.” He meant, “It’s finished; paid in full; reconciliation obtained; eternal joy purchased; justice satisfied. It’s done.” This is what He accomplished on the cross.
You know, two strange, natural occurrences bookended the life of Jesus on each side. His life began with light in the middle of the night in Bethlehem, and His life ended with darkness in the middle of the day outside of Jerusalem. The question we’re considering is, “What was happening in that darkness?”
There was a Bishop of Sardis named Melito who wrote just about a hundred years—just a little over a hundred years—after Christ’s crucifixion, he wrote these words, “He who hung the earth is hanging. He who fixed the heavens has been fixed. He who fastened the universe has been fastened to a tree. Oh, unprecedented murder! Unprecedented crime! The Sovereign has been made unrecognizable by His naked body and is not even allowed a garment to keep Him from view. That is why the lights of heaven turned away and the day was darkened.”
We’re asking the question, “What was happening in that darkness?” And if we put that question to a number of different people in biblical history—biblical figures—the answers would go this way: John the Baptist, what happened as Christ hung on the cross? John 1:29, he would say this, “Jesus, God’s Lamb, was taking away the sin of the world.” Mark, what was happening outside of Jerusalem? Mark 10:45, he said, “He was the Son of Man, who was giving His life as a ransom for many.” Peter.
First Peter 3:18, here’s what was happening when Jesus hung on the cross: “He Himself was bearing our sins in His body on the tree, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring us to God.” Paul would say through tears of joy, “Here’s what was going on. God was making Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus was redeeming us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us. Isaiah, tell us what’s happening in the darkness, as Christ hangs on the cross. And Isaiah says to us, “He was being pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities.” Here’s what was going on in the darkness: “the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
The Old Testament prophets said many things about the Messiah who would come—many of His traits and characteristics. “He’s going to come and He’s going to be this. He’s going to be the Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Prince of Peace, the Shoot of Jesse”—so many titles, some of which we’ve spent time studying these past two weeks.
But then we come to the moment in real history that none of those prophets ever got to see. And John the Baptist, in contrast to all those prophets who had gone before him, he doesn’t just say, “One day Messiah will come.” He has the unique privilege of pointing and saying, “There He is!” What title is he going to introduce Jesus of Nazareth to the world with? He looks up from the River Jordan, Jesus is coming his way, and he doesn’t say, “Behold, the Lion of Judah, the Son of David, the Seed of the Woman, the Chief Shepherd, the Rod of Jesse.” He points and says, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).
And Jesus lived in a constant consciousness of this particular role. He was obsessed with what He called His “hour.” Remember how frequently in the Gospels He’s talking about His hour? “My hour has not yet come.” Well, what’s that hour all about? If we asked Isaiah for what that hour is all about, he uses very dramatic language. Here’s the hour: It’s an hour of oppression, affliction, crushing, putting to grief, being cut off from all mercy. In a word, that hour was hell on earth.
Don’t think it was the nails that made Jesus tremble in the Garden of Gethsemane. He wasn’t afraid of the spear that was going to poke through His side. Friends, that was kindergarten suffering by comparison to the cup that He was looking at, the cup that was filled with holy, furious wrath against sins. And He stared into the cup of God’s wrath. And being God Himself, touching His infinite nature, since He was omniscient, He alone knew how mighty almighty wrath really was. And He stared into that cup and He trembled to the depths of His soul.
He had never in His eternal existence experienced a shred of estrangement or separation from God His Father. And moments after that, He would cry out from the cross, “My God, where are you? Why have you forsaken me?” And He wasn’t play-acting. He was forsaken. Locate in your Bible the most potent, earth-shattering picture of the just and holy wrath of God and you’re not looking at the ten plagues. And you’re not looking at the worldwide flood. You’re looking at Calvary.
Another exercise: Go and find the most potent, earth-shattering portrait of the mercy of God. You’re also looking at Calvary. It’s why when we read God’s Word, we know that it’s His self-revealing Word. You’re not finished with a text until you can see the glory of God in that passage and yet, there’s a sense in which, as John Piper says, “The cross is the blazing center of the glory of God.” We see it here in ways that are absolutely explosive and mind-blowing.
Can I just say, the reason that Christians find it unthinkable that there could be another way to be saved outside of faith in Jesus Christ, is it because we’re closed-minded? It’s not because we’re closed-minded. If there was a way for you to be saved from the holy justice and wrath of God against your many sins by being more spiritual in 2014, what on earth was God the Father doing crushing His Son on Golgotha?
No, Jesus held up the cup of the wrath of God and He said, “Is there any other way? Do I have to drink? Can this pass from me and these people still be saved?” And the silence of God the Father tells us with crystal clarity that Hinduism is a dead end. Mormonism is a dead end. Just being a good Baptist is a dead end. There’s only one way for you to be saved—for me to be saved—it’s Jesus grabbing the chalice of God’s wrath for you, taking it from you and drinking it down to the last drop, till there’s no more left. Believe that. That’s your salvation—Jesus and Him alone.
Jesus drank the cup of wrath which we deserve, so that we might drink the cup of blessing. There is no experience of blessing in your life, now or in ages and ages to come, that doesn’t owe its origin to Jesus dying on the cross in your place. But the proof that Christ did, indeed, accomplish what He said He would accomplish on the cross is the resurrection. It’s the resurrection. The humble Servant has become the Risen Lord.
Isaiah 53:1–2 Reminds Us of Christ’s Triumph
Isaiah 53:1–2 Reminds us of His Vindication
Look, this story is not just one of limitation, rejection and substitution. There is vindication. There is a Risen Lord on the other side of Isaiah 53. This is a mouthful but I’m just going to read this. Jesus’ resurrection was a demonstration that His message was true, that His death did, in fact, secure our forgiveness, that we who believe have life in Him and that our final resurrection is certain.
The One who was crushed would see the reward of His suffering. Look at verse ten, about halfway through: “…he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days.” We ask the question—you read through that—is this “he” in verse ten the same “he” from verse nine, because the “he” in verse nine is in a grave. How is He going to see the impact of His death when He’s in the grave? Answer: He’s going to come out of the grave; that’s how. “He shall see his offspring.”
“…He shall see and be satisfied,” verse 11 says. Verse 12 says, “He will divide the spoil with the strong.” This is an image of triumph, of exaltation. The tomb was empty. That must never get old for us. The tomb was empty. And all the haters, all the religious leaders, all the Roman officials had every reason to produce a body; they were smart and they were capable. They just had one problem: there was no body to be found. And the reason there was no body to found is because Jesus was too busy dividing the spoil, launching His apostles into a worldwide revival that would turn the world upside down. He had already been vindicated. He was up and moving through Palestine, presenting Himself as risen.
The tomb was empty. And Jesus said that was going to happen before He died. He said, “Destroy this temple….” And the Gospel writer tells us He wasn’t talking about the brick and mortar temple. He was talking about His body. He said, “destroy this temple, and three days I’ll build it back up.” In other words, He’s saying, “You kill me now, I’ll be back in three days, never to die again.” If there was ever such a thing as holy smack talk, that’s it. Holy smack talk. “I’m back up and kicking. I’m changing the world from this day forward.”
And He rose again. He was vindicated by God. I love this quote from S. Lewis Johnson. He says, “The resurrection was God the Father’s ‘Amen!’ to God the Son’s ‘It is finished!’” That is, when Jesus cried from the cross with His last breath, “It is finished!” and God raised Him, He said, “You bet it is. It is finished.”
You know, fallen humanity looks at Isaiah 53—looks at this Messiah—and all we can come up with according to this passage is, “I don’t see any beauty. I don’t see any majesty. Here’s what I see: I see a naked man under the curse of God.” But this passage, oh, I hope we’re hearing the symphony of redemption—God’s magnum opus full out, blazing, blaring with all of its fury and power and sweetness.
Charles Spurgeon relates how clearly Jesus saw through the outward agonies of the cross to the deeper reality of what was really happening when He died. Charles Spurgeon says,
His disciples thought that the cross would be a degradation; Christ looked through the outward and visible, and beheld the spiritual. “The cross,” said he, “the gibbet of my doom may seem to be cursed with ignominy, and the world shall stand round and hiss at the crucified; my name be for ever dishonored as one who died upon the tree; and cavillers and scoffers may for ever throw this in the teeth of my friends that I died with the malefactor; but I look not at the cross as you do….
Oh, shall I tell you what I shall behold upon the cross?—just when mine eye is swimming with the last tear, and when my heart is palpitating with its last pang; just when my body is rent with its last thrill of anguish, then mine eye shall see the head of the dragon broken, it shall see hell’s towers dismantled and its castle fallen. Mine eye shall see my seed eternally saved, I shall behold the ransomed coming from their prison-houses. In that last moment of my doom, when my mouth is just preparing for its last cry of ‘It is finished;’ I shall behold the year of my redeemed come, I shall shout my triumph in the delivery of all my beloved! Ay, and I shall see then, the world, mine own earth conquered, and usurpers all disthroned, and I shall behold in vision the glories of the latter days, when I shall sit upon the throne of my father David and judge the earth, attended with the pomp of angels and the shouts of my beloved!”
Friends, when we look at the cross, we ought to see that. That is, after all, what God in Christ was accomplishing for our redemption. This Messiah came and He lived and He died and He rose, and He is no longer the lowly baby in the manger. If God would peel back the heavens and allow us to glance inside, I can promise you the last thing in the world that you would say is, “Where’s the glory? Where’s the majesty?” And the last thing on earth you would do is flip a quarter in His direction—flip a quarter in the cup beneath the cross.
No, you would do what every single one of the rest of us would do unrehearsed. You would do what every creature in all of creation would do and will do, along with every creature in heaven and every creature in hell, when Jesus comes back: Fall on your face, acknowledging the Lord of the world—the Savior of the world, who came and suffered and died and rose again.