The long-awaited Savior in us

Prophetic scripture about Jesus Christ serves several purposes.  One clear purpose of those prophecies was to verify and legitimize Messiah once He appeared.  Another purpose is not necessarily to describe him so that we can identify him but to give us insight into his character and his reason for appearing.  As we are called to walk as He walked, this gives us insight into what our character should be by extension.  Let us take a look at Isaiah 53, one of the more well-known prophetic passages about our Savior, to remind ourselves of who and how He is, and what that means for who and how we should be.

v. 2

For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; and when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him.

Jesus started in this world the way all of us start.  He came here as a child born of a woman, and his circumstances were pretty dire.  It was not the entrance of a king that many expected.  What we see is a picture of humility from day one.  We know from the account of his early childhood that He was hunted.  He and his family lived as nomads moving according to the direction of God for their protection and his purposes.  Jesus arrived and remained in this state of humility, not one with a flashy appearance that would draw us to him because of what our eyes see.  There were many things that mattered about this man, but none of those were things that would matter to the world.  He was poor, not particularly attractive and had a target on his back from birth. Our king was born, lived and died in a very common manner.  His was not the life of royalty a king typically would live.

If we look at the life of Jesus through worldly eyes, we would be tempted to pity him.  As far as we know, he never had much.  He was not popular with those in power or of influence.  His worldly possessions amounted to no more than what was worn on his back and his feet.  Yet, we do not measure our Savior by these methods.  We measure him by a completely different set of criteria.  It is the same way God measures us and the way we should measure ourselves and one another.  What this man brought to the world was designed to appeal not to the flesh but to the spirit.  It is what draws us today to him, what draws those who have never set eyes on this man.  It is also what should draw people to us as we walk the way He walked.  We draw people to the kingdom of God by what the eyes cannot see.  We must be conscious of this and intentional in making sure that our focus remains there. 

vv. 4-5

Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 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.

I recall the first time I watched The Passion of the Christ, and it was a rather uncomfortable viewing experience.  Most of the film was not an issue for me, but the graphic depiction of the scourging and everything that followed was quite a bit for me to stomach.  I was a pretty new Christian, so my understanding of these matters was less than it is now.  I watched those scenes and wondered why we would want to sit there and look at the portrayal of such terrible people defiling our Lord in such a way.  It was not as if I had not known that these things occurred, but it was a much different thing to set my eyes upon them.  It was only acting, but the effect on me was rather real.  The same thoughts kept running through my mind as I began to ask myself how those people could have treated an innocent man so cruelly, how they could have murdered him on that cross, but there was a great flaw in my thoughts.  The flaw was in my identification of the perpetrators of that injustice.

Jesus suffered because of us.  Yes, He willingly took on this suffering as He submitted to the will of the Father, and it was the Father’s plan for him to suffer in this way, but the catalyst to all of this was our disobedience in the garden.  Had mankind not fallen, the son of God would not have had to endure such suffering.  It was our sin that He became in that moment.  Yes, He not only bore the weight of our sin, but He became sin for us.  [2 Cor. 5:21]  The same way the righteousness of Christ is imputed to those who believe, our sin was imputed to him in that moment.  The guilt of all sinners for all their sin was placed on him.  His suffering was because of our transgressions, and it relieves us of that same suffering.  Jesus endured all of this completely undeservedly, and He did so in order to free us from that fate.  To beautiful paradox is that the pain and death He endured serves to bring us peace, comfort and life.  What greater picture of God’s love and care for us! 

v. 7

He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth.

At a recent Bible study, we had a discussion about meekness.  I said that meekness is the ability to wield power under control.  I believe I can make that statement a little more accurate by adding that the meek wield their power correctly.  This picture of Jesus being led like a lamb to the slaughter and not saying a word should remind us of his temptation by Satan.  There, He was asked to throw himself off the mountain and command the angel armies to rescue him.  His command of those angels certainly was a power He had, but it would have been incorrect for him to use that power in that way.  Jesus had to say, “I can, but I won’t.”  As He was questioned before his sentence He could have defended himself with truth upon truth to show that He was innocent and not deserving of any punishment.  He could have rescued himself from the clutches of those people.  Yet, He quietly surrendered to the punishment He did not deserve.

Let us not get confused and peg Jesus for a doormat or a pushover.  His quietness carried a purpose, which was to fulfill the will of his Father in heaven.  This is the kind of meekness we are to carry here.  It is not that we are called to let anyone and everyone walk all over us.  It is not that we are called to volunteer ourselves for abuses.  What we see here is someone who has perfectly surrendered to the will of God when He had the ability to do otherwise.  The correct control of Jesus’s power in those moments was really about the relinquishment of his own will.  That is what it means to be meek.  When people hurl insults at you, and you have the desire and the ability to put them in their place with words or with fists, meekness will draw you back to follow God’s will in that situation.  When people say false things about you because of your faith, meekness removes that desire to correct those rumors just to save face.  If we are to be meek as Christ was meek, then we must submit our will to God’s completely.

v. 9

And they made His grave with the wicked — but with the rich at His death, because He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth.

Scripture and experience indicates abundantly that Christ is a divisive figure.  No one sits on the fence when it comes to that man.  People either love him or hate him.  The sentiment among those in power during his life was that He was a threat to that power.  It was not enough to try to discredit his teachings or convince some not to follow him.  The fact that anyone followed him was a perceived threat.  They hated what He taught and what He represented because that meant a societal change that would not benefit their then-current position.  Because of that, they were moved only by the desire to bring him shame.  In their false allegations, in his punishment, and even after his death the goal was to bring him shame because they could not afford anyone following him or his teachings even after He was gone.  We know now that those efforts were futile.

While the Sanhedrin sought to shame the Lord, one of its members sought to honor him.  While Jesus died between two criminals who had merited their crucifixion, his burial would not be among the wicked.  Wealthy and honorable Joseph of Arimathea would give his tomb for the burial of Christ.  The final chapter of the physical life of Jesus on earth would be penned with honor.  It is a comfort to us when we face disgrace by the world because we know that our faithful God will honor us in death.  There is no false accusation so great that it can strip us of that honor.  There is no ill-treatment at the hands of man that can remove us from that coveted position.  Our heavenly Father will raise us up when the world tries to hold us down.  We will be called hateful and intolerant, but we wear robes of righteousness, and we have a home in the heavens.  The shame the world may try to thrust upon in life us cannot defeat the honor we will have once we have been raised by God.

v. 10

Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand.

It is a sentiment which is true yet can be difficult to understand about our Father.  We read about what Christ suffered, and we see the images depicted on screen, and we wonder how on earth it can be true that this gave the Father pleasure.  The picture I have of the scene in which Jesus hangs on that cross contains two kinds of people.  There were those who could not bear to witness their friend and teacher and son and brother be put to death in this way for no crime whatsoever.  There were others who cheered and chanted, who wanted nothing more than to see him up there being ridiculed while He was dying.  One group certainly loved this man, and the other group clearly despised him.  Perhaps that is why it had been so difficult for me to imagine the Father who loves his Son so much also being pleased by what He had to suffer.

The disconnect for me was in not recognizing the root of that pleasure.  Those who wanted Jesus to die were pleased by his crucifixion out of hatred.  The Father was pleased by his crucifixion out of love because it meant that his children would be free.  The magnitude of the pain Jesus suffered in those moments paled in comparison to the magnitude of the beauty of that veil between mankind and the Father being torn.  It paled in comparison to the magnitude of salvation being offered freely to all who would accept it.  It paled in comparison to the magnitude of multiplying Jesus Christ on this earth in mankind.  The pain and the suffering did not please the Father, but the fruit which came of them gave him great joy.  This is the pleasure we are to find in the atrocities our Savior endured in our stead.  We can cry over his suffering yet rejoice over his victory and our freedom.

There are many words we can choose to encapsulate the life of Christ here on earth.  I think one of the more compelling ones is “submission.”  From his willingness to leave heavenly places for an existence in this fallen world and in human form, to his quiet tolerance of ridicule and hatred which He did not deserve, to his torture and death for our transgressions, all of this was done by a man who had the power to do otherwise in any of those moments.  Jesus taught us many things.  He taught us how to love, how to teach, how to walk in the miraculous, how to draw people with the Spirit of God.  In all of this, Christ could make no progress without first submitting to the Father.  We also cannot hope to live as He lived without the same submission.  The Messiah of humility and meekness exhibited great power in that submission, and that is a power we should pursue as we live submitted to God.