The Cross Behind the Crown
Advent, Fuflilled, Isaiah 53
During the Advent season we have been looking at Old Testament Prophecies that pointed to Jesus. These were pictures that were drawn of Christ hundreds of years before His birth. A Mathematician by the name of Peter Stoner calculated that the odds of just 48 details (there are over 300!) being fulfilled by one man was not a one in a billion shot – it was 1 followed by 157 zeros!!!
To put this in perspective think about trying to solve a Rubik’s Cube blindfolded spinning the cube randomly! If you were blindfolded, you would have less than one chance in ten million trillion in getting it right! The possibility of someone in history just happening to fulfill 48 of the prophecies, with no supernatural intervention involved would be less likely than a blindfolded person haphazardly solving the Rubik’s Cube eight time in a row! (Jay Seegert, Creation and Evolution p. 234)
Tonight we look at one of the most profound and moving passages in all the Bible: Isaiah 53. It is a passage that talks about Jesus and the purpose for which He came into the world. This text may seem like it doesn’t belong in a Christmas message, but the truth is that we can’t really appreciate Jesus in the cradle until we understand that Jesus came to die on the cross.
Let me highlight some of these profound words. I hope you will see that they are more encouraging and moving than you ever imagined.
2 My servant grew up in the Lord’s presence like a tender green shoot,
like a root in dry ground.
There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance,
nothing to attract us to him.
3 He was despised and rejected—
a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.
We turned our backs on him and looked the other way.
He was despised, and we did not care.
Jesus Came as an Ordinary Person for Ordinary People
The first thing to notice is that the Savior would not (did not) come as royalty. He came as an ordinary man. He was born in a stable because there was no room for Him in the commercial world. Though great circumstances attended His arrival in to the world (incredible birth, Angels, Shepherds, Magi) he was an ordinary man. Unlike the paintings there was no halo over his head. People did not stop on the street and worship Him. Isaiah said there was nothing to “attract us to Him”.
Rather than being honored, he was scorned. Rather than being loved, many found him threatening. Like the child who is different, Jesus was pushed away rather than embraced.
Why is this significant? It is significant because most of us feel just like that, don’t we? We feel ordinary, overlooked, and unappreciated. Isn’t there part of you that wishes some ordinary guy would run for President of the United States so we were led by someone who understood what life is really like? Jesus was the ordinary man we needed and longed for.
Jesus did not come as a celebrity for celebrities. He did not come as someone affluent for the affluent. He came as someone common to reach the common. He came to earth as He did so we would identify with Him. Even in the way the Lord came to earth He was reaching out to us.
He Came to Rescue Us
4 Yet it was our weaknesses he carried;
it was our sorrows that weighed him down.
And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God,
a punishment for his own sins!
5 But he was pierced for our rebellion,
crushed for our sins.
He was beaten so we could be whole.
He was whipped so we could be healed.
As people watched Jesus beaten and crucified they all thought the same thing: He must have done something horribly wrong. They believed this would never have happened unless Jesus deserved it. But they were wrong!
The truth is, WE are the ones who deserved it! We are the rebels! Jesus came to take our place. As strange as it seems, Jesus came into the world so that He could bear the wrath of God that we had earned.
It may sound harsh, but all of us are skilled liars. We lie to ourselves and we lie to others. We try to convince ourselves that we are really “good people” when we know in our hearts that we ignore God, manipulate others, and pretty well live only for ourselves. We have told ourselves that God must grade on a curve and we are certainly better than most people. It is all a lie! Deep down we know that we do not even come close to the holy standard that God has set for us.
Jesus came to earth to confront the lie and address what is true: we are hopelessly lost. Our sin debt is overwhelming. Jesus came and lived a perfect life (v. 9). He did what we could not do. Then He traded His perfection for our sin! He died on the cross as if He was the person who had committed our sin! His perfection was then applied to our account.
Think about it as if it were a financial transaction. Imagine you racked up more debt than you could ever pay. The debt is so large you can’t even pay the interest, much less the debt itself. All you can contribute to the debt was more debt! You tell yourself that someday you are going to dig yourself out of the debt but deep down you know you are telling yourself a lie.
Then into your life walks a benefactor. You didn’t ask for or apply for this help. However, He walks into the bank and pays your entire debt! Not only that, He signs a note that says he will cover any debt that you incur from this day forward. It is an astounding scenario but Isaiah says that is exactly what did happen: We had amassed a debt of sin we could never pay off. But, Jesus paid the price of our sin. Through His suffering we are offered the gift of new, eternal, full, and satisfying life!
THIS is what makes Christmas such an astounding event and it is the real reason we celebrate every year. Our hopelessness is gone. The sense of defeat is banished. The lies can stop!
This Was God’s Plan from the Beginning
10 But it was the Lord’s good plan to crush him
and cause him grief.
These are staggering words. Human beings killed Jesus. People just like us rejected Him. We are accountable for our actions. However, God’s purpose was being fulfilled in all these things. God sent His son into the world with the intention of crushing Him under the weight of His own wrath.
The God we think is against us is really FOR us. The God we often feel is hiding from us is actually pursuing us. The God we sometimes blame for our afflictions is the very God who is taking steps to make us whole! Our entire outlook is changed when we realize the message of Christmas is this: God loves us and has been pursuing us all our lives.
The Results of the Work of the Suffering Servant
Isaiah ends his discourse with these words,
Yet when his life is made an offering for sin,
he will have many descendants.
He will enjoy a long life,
and the Lord’s good plan will prosper in his hands.
11 When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish,
he will be satisfied.
And because of his experience,
my righteous servant will make it possible
for many to be counted righteous,
for he will bear all their sins.
The first people who heard this believed the Savior was going to make Israel into the dominant nation in the world. It may seem like this prophecy was not fulfilled yet but it is has been fulfilled in a powerful way.
Because of the work of Christ ALL people can be part of His family. The spread of Christianity is evidence that this prophecy has been fulfilled and will someday be fulfilled in an even more staggering manner. You and I are here tonight as evidence that Jesus did what He came to do!
All around the world people every day are becoming followers of Christ! Even Muslims are turning to Christ when they realize what the Bible actually says about Jesus. Some of these people come to Christ in a miraculous manner. The good news is that there is still room for you.
Tonight as we reflect on this powerful gospel that is found in the Old Testament book of Isaiah let’s draw a few lessons and conclusions.
First, Christmas is rightly a time of joy. This is a time we should celebrate the goodness and grace of God. The presents under the tree are all reminders that we have received the greatest gift of all from God: a new start, a new hope, an eternal inheritance, forgiveness, and a position in the family of God.
Every Christmas decoration should be seen as a celebration that God has seen us and He loves us. He pursues us! We are not insignificant, as others sometimes seem to imply. We MATTER TO GOD! The God of creation wants us to know what it is like to walk with Him . . . this gives us every reason to celebrate.
Second, Christmas is a time of humble worship. All the things that lead us to rejoice should also lead us to worship.
In spite of our rebellion, God loves us. In spite of our sin, God pursued us. To make our redemption possible our Savior suffered, endured rejection, was tortured and died a horrible death. How can you remain unmoved by such love?
If someone took a bullet for us on the battlefield we would campaign for that person to get a medal of honor. We would feel we owed them our lives.
If someone paid our staggering financial debt we would be indebted to that person. We would do what we could to help them and honor them. We would spend our lives knowing that our freedom was due to their generosity.
So, when the Son of God comes to earth to give His life for us, we should likewise worship, honor, and praise him at least as much as in these other instances. The saving that Jesus does for us is greater than any man could accomplish.
The Lord deserves our attention. He deserves our worship. He deserves our honor. O come let us adore Him! O come let us adore Him, Christ our Lord!
Finally, it is time to respond to Him. The message of Christmas is this: God has done what is necessary for you to walk with Him every day from now until forever. However, you must respond to the invitation.
Many years ago now the Chicago Tribune had a cartoon on the front page at Christmas that had a lone box under the tree that said John 3:16 (For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son that whoever believes in Him would not perish but have eternal life.). The caption of the cartoon was “the Unopened Gift”.
How many years have you seen and known about this gift that God has given? And how many years has the gift gone unopened?
I gave an illustration a number of years ago that I think underscores the point.
Suppose you knew someone who needed transportation to work. They needed to be able to take their kids to school and run the errands that come with life. So, as an act of Christian generosity and compassion you give that family a car. The family cries when you gave them the keys. They send you a very nice thank you note about how your kindness has changed their life.
Every week on Sunday they go out to the garage and look at and admire the car. Sometimes they even sit in it. Once a year they invited their friends over to have a party in honor of the car in the garage. They talk about how the car has changed their lives. But they never take it out of the garage! Nothing has really changed.
Here’s the question: if you were the one who gave the car, would you feel good about the gift? You would not. You gave the car so it would be driven.
Here is the parallel. God saw our great need and sent Christ to die so that we might be delivered from the darkness and set free to walk in the light. Jesus came so we would be delivered from the bondage of the past and set free to walk in a new direction. He gave us new life so we could actually live a new way!
If you really want to show gratitude for what God has given to us, then open and use His gift! Don’t simply talk about how great the gift is; use it! Allow God’s grace to change your life. If you want to show real gratitude this Christmas, embrace the life Christ offers and let Him lead you in a new direction. Let God soften your heart and change your life.
How do you do this?
- Give up any notion that you are good enough to earn His salvation. Stop lying to yourself. See your situation for what it is . . . you are far from God even if you are wonderfully “religious”. All the talk about being a Christian and loving God means absolutely nothing if you have not surrendered to Him.
- Second, embrace God’s gracious gift by admitting your sinfulness, repenting (or declaring your desire to go in a different direction), and putting all your hope and confidence in what Christ has done for you. Often that comes in the form of a prayer that says something like this,
Lord, I need you. My life is a mess and even though I try to keep up appearances I know I am not obeying you. I feel like I am in a quicksand of sin and I can’t get out no matter how hard I try. Today I take the rescue that you offer. Today I embrace Christ who died for my sin and rose again to break the power of sin over me. From this day forward I want to be a new person. Please forgive my sin. Make me new. Lead me in the right way. Amen.
The amazing thing is this: When we sincerely seek God in this way He hears us and makes us new.
- The third step is also important. Once you are given grace you need to “drive it”. True faith not only desires to be made new . . . it begins to follow the Lord in everyday life. A person who claims to be a follower of Christ but doesn’t follow . . . is a mere pretender. This doesn’t mean you will be perfect. However, you will start taking your guidance from the Bible instead of Facebook. You will be more concerned about what Jesus says than the celebrities of our day who claim to be Christian. Life will change. Your outlook will be altered. Life will be new.
Isaiah 53 reminds us that you cannot understand the significance of the cradle unless you understand the wonder of the cross. And when you understand the wonder of the cross, your celebration of Christmas will take on a sense of worship. It will no longer be a celebration of material abundance; it will be a celebration of life-changing grace, mercy, and love.