Many years ago, my brother-in-law taught his little girl the answer to a math problem when she was only 4 or 5. As a way to amuse himself he taught her to give the answer to 6 times 7. She didn’t know any other math except basic counting but she knew that the answer to 6 times 7 is 42. She could give the answer without even really knowing what she was saying.
Later on, we will say the words of the Apostles’ Creed together. In this creed, we will state that we believe that Jesus suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. But those words are so familiar that we can easily say them without giving them a lot of thought. However, these verses in Isaiah 53:7-9 do not allow us to simply list these events without any thought. In verses 7-9, we see that Jesus suffered, died and was buried, but the weight of these words force us to take in more fully what it was that Jesus went through. Let’s look at what happened to Jesus on that Good Friday using the description as found in Isaiah 53:7-9.
I. Jesus suffered.
Verse 7 says of the Messiah that “He was oppressed.” Think of all that Jesus had to endure before he died. When in Gethsemane, Jesus suffered extreme emotional torment. When He was betrayed by Judas, He felt an aloneness that is beyond our comprehension. He was mocked and scorned by crowds of people. He was beaten and tortured by the soldiers during his trial before Pilate. He suffered the indescribable anguish of death by crucifixion. Jesus was oppressed, but he endured this all voluntarily. The word “afflicted” has this implication that He willingly allowed Himself to suffer. He did not resist, but willingly subjected Himself to this extreme suffering. That is seen most clearly in His silence throughout.
Isaiah says that the Messiah will suffer silently. Isaiah writes that like a lamb is silent. A lamb prior to its being killed for a sacrifice makes no sound. Nor does a lamb that is having its wool sheared off. The Messiah will be suffering silently right up to His death. This describes Jesus in His passion and death. He was literally silent before Pilate. But more Jesus refused to defend Himself or complain at the injustice even though He was wrongly accused and unjustly condemned.
When our rights are abused or threatened in our culture today, we cry out and complain. If someone told us that we could not do something we had every right to do, we would protest. If someone abused us or hurt our children, we would cry out! If wrongly accused, we would defend ourselves. Jesus did not cry out, complain or defend Himself even though he had every right and reason to do so. Instead He willingly submitted Himself to suffering for us.
I Beheld His Glory is a Hollywood picture from 1953, which tells the story of Jesus. When the movie opened in Australia, a man was sitting behind a young couple as the life of Jesus unfolded on the screen. The flickering projector finally portrayed his engineered arrest, and the sham trial that followed. At that point in the movie, the woman in front of this man turned to her partner in an excited state and asked, “Do they kill him?”
Almost 2,000 years ago Jesus was crucified and died outside the city of Jerusalem for crimes he never committed. Jesus lived a perfect life. In one day he suffered for all the evil thoughts, words and deeds committed by all people. Yes, they killed him, but we must never forget that he willingly submitted himself to the torture and execution so that we could be reconciled with God. Jesus suffered voluntarily and willingly for us!
II. Jesus also Died!
Verse 8 makes it clear that the Messiah would have to die. The words, “by oppression and judgment” refer to a legal proceeding. Oppression here refers to an official arrest or imprisonment. Judgment refers to a legal term. The proceedings were official acts of justice even thought they would be on the highest order of injustice. Yet in spite of the injustice involved, it was still God who condemned Christ to death. It was God’s will as it says in verse 10 and God used these unjust human proceedings to do this. But God allowed and even desired it to happen.
As a result, Christ was cut off from the land of the living. This is an elaborate way of saying that He was brutally killed. He was killed leaving no descendant, which was a disgrace and a tragedy. But the phrase also points to the fact that no one cared. In spite of the obvious injustice, no one stepped forward. Jesus was all alone in His tragic death.
Again, as we saw last week in Isaiah 53:4-6, the point is brought home that this death was for “my people.” Isaiah here speaks as representative of the people. Jesus suffered and died for our sins. That fact should never, ever lose its impact or be made trivial. Yet some have clearly trivialized Jesus’ suffering and death.
Almost 30 years ago, in 1985, plans were being made for a new theme park to open in Oklahoma called “Testament Way,” which I don’t believe ever came into existence. The plan was to offer its visitors a “simulated ride on the River Jordan.” There will be a daily Children’s Noah’s Ark Animal Parade, with mechanical animals. A brochure for the park urged prospective visitors to “hear, see and feel the emotion of Jesus giving the Sermon on the Mount or rebuking the money lenders.” But the main attraction will be the Calvary Pavilion, in which a lifelike robot was going to “actually portray Jesus’ passion and death on the cross.” Not a robot, nor anything else for that matter, can portray for us how intense and awful Jesus’ suffering and death were. We need only read the Scriptures to know that.
Jesus suffered the awful death blow that was intended for us. That is something we must stand in awe of or fall down on our knees in gratitude for. We must be careful that we don’t come to view Jesus’ death on the cross as an attraction in an amusement park, something to see in a movie or even something else to do during the church year with our worship services. We must never forget that Jesus died an awful death for us!
III. Finally, Jesus was buried.
There is an interesting conflict in verse 9 regarding the burial of the Messiah. First, it says that He was assigned a grave with the wicked. That is what the sinful men who tried and killed Jesus intended. They believed that he was is like a criminal, a wicked and perverse blasphemer. They likely thought, “Let’s kill him like a criminal and bury him as such.”
Yet the Christ will still be buried with some honor. God will see to it that man’s sinful plan is blunted. God made certain that in Jesus’ burial with the rich, some honor was shown. Joseph of Arimethia, of course, would come and with great love and care, bound and buried Jesus’ body for an honorable burial in his own “rich man’s tomb”. Moreover, this somewhat honorable burial gives us a glimpse of hope. It means that God had not after all abandoned His Christ, His Son. Still the fact remains that Jesus Christ was truly dead and buried.
Then these verses conclude with a startling irony. Jesus suffered, died and buried, all as a condemned criminal; however, the opposite was actually true. In spite of all He endured and all the abuse heaped on Him, Isaiah concludes by saying that he had done no violence. There was no deceit in His mouth for he had not said or done anything that was wrong. He was completely innocent of any wrongdoing or sin. He was perfectly sinless, yet He voluntarily suffered as a sinful, guilty person for us.
That is what I urge you to reflect on as we remember Jesus’ suffering and death. Jesus was innocent, yet Jesus willingly subjected Himself to the worst and most undeserving suffering. And it was all for us!
IV. How do we respond to this?
First, make sure that you believe it! Believe that these facts are not just facts, but that they are true for you. Some people view Jesus’ suffering and death as a fact of history and nothing more. They may feel pity for Him, but little else. Some Christians may view Jesus’ suffering and death as only a point of doctrine. It is important for the overall theological system but not much more. Is this truth, this central core of our faith, a truth that grips you in the very center of your being?
Then if that is true, let’s do as we sing in the song “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” says. “Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were a present far too small. Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.” Will we give ourselves to Him fully, completely and daily?
Cinque, the leader of the mutiny, looks over at him and says, “You don’t have to pretend to be interested in that. Nobody’s watching but me.” But Yamba is interested. He beckons Cinque over, and begins to tell him the story he sees in the pictures. First, he points to a picture of some Jewish people being attacked by lions. “Their people have suffered more than ours,” he says. Yamba flips ahead to a picture of the baby Jesus, crowned with a halo of light: “Then he was born, and everything changed.” Cinque asks, “Who is he?” Yamba admits he doesn’t know, but says the child must be very special. In each picture, Yamba has discovered, this man has a halo. “Everywhere he goes,” says Yamba, “he is followed by the sun.”
Yet, all is not sunny. “Something happened,” he says, pointing at a picture of Jesus in chains, surrounded by soldiers with spears. “He was captured, accused of some crime.” Cinque shakes his head, insisting, “He must have done something.” “Why?” asks Yamba, in a one-word question that captures all the injustice of slavery. “What did we do?” Then, with tears in his eyes, he asks Cinque: “Do you want to see how they killed him?”
Cinque reminds Yamba it’s only a story, but he just shakes his head. Evidently, it’s becoming more real to him than that. “But look,” he goes on. “That’s not the end of it. His people took his body down from....” There he pauses and draws a cross in the air. “They took him into a cave. They wrapped him in cloth, like we do. They thought he was dead, but he appeared before his people again and he spoke to them. Then, finally, he rose into the sky.” “This is where the soul goes when you die here,” Yamba continues. “This is where we’re going when they kill us.” The final illustration is one depicting heaven as a place filled with glorious light. Stroking the picture gently with his fingers, Yamba concludes, “It doesn’t look so bad.”
There are times when our lives, our work, our pressures may seem overwhelming, but let’s not forget what Jesus did when he died for us. And let’s not lose sight of where this ends up: resurrection and life!
Finally, let’s remember that it is often the simple things that make a difference in how we let others know about Jesus. In the case of Yamba in Amistad, he only saw pictures of Jesus’ life and he was deeply touched by who Jesus was and is. Let’s let our lives be pictures to those who may not believe or who may doubt. God may use the pictures of our lives to let others see who Jesus is and God may draw others to him through us.