This is the sermon for Good Friday. The sermon text is: Isaiah 53:1-6. The sermon theme is: Who Would Believe This Message? Here is the Written Sermon.
Who Would Believe This Message?
Do you believe what you see? If you are ever bored one day, go ahead and do a google search for pictures of Jesus. And what you will find will amaze you. You will find pictures of Jesus showing you that he was a white man. You will find pictures of Jesus showing you that he was a black man. You will find Indian and even Chinese pictures of Jesus. But Jesus, of course, was a Jewish man. And most interesting of all, in almost all of these pictures the Messiah you will see is strong and handsome. If only I could have a beard and look as handsome as Jesus. If only I could lift weights and get as huge as Jesus.
You look at all of these pictures and you end up saying to yourself, “I don’t believe it.” But what if you could find out what Jesus really was like? Then would you believe it? About 800 years before Jesus died on the cross, through the prophet Isaiah, God showed us what Jesus-the real Jesus. In Isaiah 53 we read these words: “Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” (Is 53:1 NIV)
In a very unique and amazing way the Lord tells us that he is going to show us clearly and truthfully this Messiah, this Christ. But even if the Lord showed who Jesus was clearly and truthfully, who would believe it? What did Jesus’ life look like? In verse two we read: “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.” (Is 53:2 NIV)
What was Jesus’ life like? In order to answer that question, Isaiah takes us to the vineyard. Every gardener wants all the nutrients to go straight to the grapes so that they are big and plump and tasty. So when there is a sprout that grows and threatens to take away these nutrients, what does the gardener do? He cuts it off and throws it away.
Notice what Isaiah says here. That’s what we do with Jesus. We are the ones who set Jesus aside and throw him away. And in this verse, notice the reason why this is true. We set him aside because, instead of the manly, muscle-filled and handsome Jesus we find in pictures, Jesus’ appearance was not impressive. And in the next verse we see why it was that his appearance was so unimpressive: “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.” (Is 53:3 NIV)
Jesus was rejected by people because he was familiar with sorrows and suffering. Put yourselves in Jesus’ shoes for a moment. Adam and Eve rebelled against God. And now all people are sinful because they are born that way. And because of this sin inside each and every person it leads to death. And so, the sinless Son of God comes to this earth and how his heart was filled with sadness-sadness because of all the sickness, suffering and eventually death that he saw.
And is shouldn’t surprise us that the suffering that agonized his soul overflowed into his life. If you were around Jesus you were around a sad and suffering man. And there is where you have answer to the question we begin with this evening. Why is it that we do not believe what we see in God’s word about Jesus? We do believe this message about Jesus because we don’t want a sad Savior. We want a happy, triumphant Savior. We do not want to see the sad life of Jesus because it might make us sad too. Why do you think it is that there books on the top ten best-selling book list with names like “Your best life now” and “Every day a Friday?” By nature we don’t like to wallow in sadness. But that’s exactly what his life was. It was full of sadness. For he saw all the sin in the world and in our hearts.
And when we see how sad Jesus’ life is, we reject this part of God’s word. We reject this picture and message-despite how true it is. And so, who would believe this message? Who would believe that his life was so filled with sadness? But in the words which follow we find an even more powerful reason to not believe this message from God’s word. Isaiah tells us: “Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.” (Is 53:4 NIV)
Who would believe how full of sadness Jesus’ life was. And as Isaiah says here, who would believe how full of suffering his death was? When I was a freshman in high school they made us read this old book by Charles Dickens called, Great Expectations. And in this book there was a boy names Pip. Pip was in love with a girl who was way above him. So he would go out and visit with this girl he loved and be reminded how uneducated and un-wealthy he was. And then where would go next? He would go home. And there, when he sat down to eat was his brother-in-law, Joe. Now, Pip’s parents had died, so Joe took care of Pip. And after going to visit a clean and beautiful girl, Pip would come home to Joe. He would come home to a man whose hands were permanently stained and burned from the work he did as a blacksmith. He would come home to a man whose back was hunched over from the hard labor he did all day. And there we discover the most bitter irony in the whole book. Joe burned his hands in the forge to put food on the table for Pip. Joe’s back was hunched over so that there would be clothes on Pip’s back and a roof over his head. What Pip should have seen as marks of love, he saw as marks of shame and embarrassment.
And my dear friends in Christ, what Joe when through in his work as a blacksmith is nothing compared to what Jesus endured out of love for you. For here we read that he “carried our transgressions.” Be careful and stop when you read these old Latin words. What is a transgression? A transgression is where for our good and for our protection God draws a line in the sand. And we, in our selfishness, step over that line in rebellion. And so the Lord has told us not to lust, but we do. He has told us not to lie, but we do. He has told us not to hate, but we do. He has told us not to harbor envy in our hearts; but we do.
And because of these transgressions there is also iniquity. Again, my brothers and sisters in Christ, pause and ponder when you bump into these old Latin words. What is “iniquity?” Iniquity is a guilty verdict. We have rebelled against our Lord again and again just as Adam and Eve did so long ago. And the bitter irony in our lives is that Jesus endured our guilty verdict and we turn our backs on him. One would think that if someone would lay down his life for another the one still living would remember, respect and rejoice in the one who made that sacrifice. But our sin is shown in our lack of love toward God, our lack of worship of him, our lack of time learning about him in his word.
And so, let us go back to our question once again: Who would believe this message? Who would believe that Jesus is the Christ? We are annoyed by Jesus’ sad life. And we are embarrassed by his suffering death-even though it is the death and punishment we deserved. So what then is the answer to that question: who would believe this message? The answer to that question is: no one. None of us by nature believes what the bible says about Jesus. And we do not believe the truth of God’s word because we are born this way. We are born in sin. And as a result we are annoyed by Jesus’ sad life and embarrassed by his suffering death. And that’s why the words which come next are so important and so beautiful: “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. 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.” (Is 53:5-6 NIV)
In these words we find two amazing miracles. First, Jesus knows the number and the depth of our sins. He knows sick and sinful our hearts are. And his arms and his side are pierced for us. He sees all our rebellions. And yet he is the one who is crushed in hell in our place. And because Jesus paid this price the sins of the entire world are forgiven. That is the first miracle. But the second miracle is just as amazing. Through the very message that we despise Jesus performs a miracle. As it says in the New Testament, “faith comes from hearing the message” (Rom 10:17 NIV). Through this message that you hear preached about Jesus and through God’s word that you read at home Jesus performs a miracle. Through his word we see Jesus as he actually is-not through made up images on google. Through his word he gives us faith to know that because Jesus was punished, I am forgiven. Through God’s word he gives us faith to rejoice that because Jesus died and suffered in hell, I will never suffer in the hell that I deserve.
Who would believe it? What a great amazing joy it is to know that through the price paid on the cross my sins are forgiven and through the gift of God’s word I now believe it. Amen.