I was given the opportunity over Advent to do my own Sermon Series. It took a while for me to choose the passages, but I went for the following themes and passages:
1. Be Prepared to Know Isa 52:12-53:13
2. Be Prepared to receive Matt 3:1-19
3. Be Prepared to Meet Matt 24:1-35
Here is the first talk of the 3. I hope that this will be a blessing to you as you read it.
Theme: Be prepared to know.
Aim: To a church congregation that in order for us to fully receive Jesus, we need to know what he has done for us?
- How well do you know… the nature of the servant?
- How well do you know… the meaning of his suffering?
- How well do you know… the result of the suffering?
How well do you know…? I use to get asked that question when I was at school. How well do you know your times tables? How well do you know your periodic table? How well do you know your vocabulary?
May be at work, the phrase could relate to someone who you work with. How well do you know… the boss, colleagues, colleague’s friends, wife, and children?
You hear it at police stations. You are sitting in a room ready to be interviewed, and the first question is, how well do you know, the victim/ robber?
You could hear it in the supermarket, while buying your groceries, and you hear, how well do you know her boyfriend, or how well do you know her husband. They are firelighters to start gossip.
The answers that respond to that type of question are either I know a lot or I know a little. I have two questions that I would like you to consider as we look at today’s passage and they are:
How well do you know the really important thing in your life?
How well do you know the person who came to save us?
As we start today on a three-week series called “Be Prepared”, we are going to look at how prepared we are in, knowing who Christ is, being prepared to receive him in our lives, and then to finally meet him, when he returns in glory. We are going to look how well we know the suffering servant, what happened to him, what his suffering means, and the result of his suffering.
Let us now look at our passage from Isaiah, and ask ourselves
1. How well do you know… the nature of the servant? 53:1-3+ 7-9
How do we know about God? What happened in order for us to know God? God revealed himself to us! When he reveals himself, then we know more about him. God revealed himself first to Adam in the Garden in Genesis, he revealed himself to Moses in the burning bush. We can’t look for God, and expect him just to be found. He has to reveal himself. How will God reveal himself to us now? No one would believe in Jesus, unless he revealed himself, and that is what V1 highlights. Who has believed our message? There are two things going on, first we need to know who the servant is, and then believe faithfully in him. Unless we see a revelation of God, then we don’ believe it, and we continue to seek knowledge to answer our question. As V2 highlights, he grew up like a tender shoot, a root out of dry ground. Jesus was born in a stable. He was a baby. His physical appearance had nothing to draw us to him. His physical appearance is not important, but something else is, and I will explain that later. In 1 Samuel 16, Samuel was sent by God to choose a king from the family of Jesse, and he came across Eliab, who was the oldest brother, and the Lord said in verse 7 “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at his heart.” This is the same view of the servant. We are blind to what the servant looks like, because what really matters is the heart. The Lord will only judge the heart of a person, so are your hearts prepared to know the truth about Jesus?
Isaiah really uses some big adjectives to describe a picture in our minds of what will happen to the servant. He will be rejected, despised. The people turned their faces from him; they held him in low esteem. V7-9 , oppressed, afflicted, led like a lamb to the slaughter, sheep before his shearers, judgement, cut off, punished, assigned a grave with the wicked, death, violence. All these words describe exactly what Jesus went through. Isaiah made this prophecy, about 700 years before Jesus’ crucifixion, and describes exactly how the suffering servant, Jesus; was going to suffer. Is that the Jesus we see at Christmas? If you were Mary, and you were expecting a child, would you wish this on the one you would give birth too? This Friday I saw my new 1 week old Nephew, and as I held him, I couldn’t wish anything on earth to harm him, for he looked so weak and helpless. In V7-9 we see the process of what Jesus went through for us. He was oppressed, and afflicted as he walks to the cross. He didn’t open his mouth. Have you ever tried not to scream in pain? Well Jesus offered no physical resistance or verbal resistance. Isaiah brings in the image of the Lamb. He was led to the slaughter. Lambs usually make a lot of noise before they are slaughtered, but Jesus was silent. He knew exactly what had to be done.
Jesus’ execution on the cross, v8 who protested? No-one! They didn’t understand what was going on; he was cut off from the living, his death. Why? For the transgression of my people he was punished. This is an act of Substitution. God sent the servant to take the place of us. He was battered, despised, bruised, oppressed, rejected, for us. These words bring out how much Jesus was brought low. He was brought down as low as possible. For all of us, every aspect of human nature is inadequate. We commit things that we shouldn’t have done, and we run away from the Lord, we turn our faces away from the one who took all our sorrows, and weaknesses, and made them his own.
He was buried as someone who had committed a crime. He was assigned with the wicked, and the rich, V9 but nothing came from his mouth. He was guiltless. He had done nothing wrong. He led a life of perfection, loyalty, obedience to his father, and he was buried as a criminal.
Well what happened to the servant? He suffered the pain of our sins, and he bore them on the cross. Are we prepared to take that to our hearts, that an innocent servant took everything for us? That is what happened to the servant.
2. How well do you know…The meaning of his suffering V4-6?
What does all this mean? Why did the servant suffer?
V4-6 He took up our pain and our suffering. He stood in place of me. He took all our sins to the cross. For we see him stricken by God. We think that it is God the father who sent his Son and that is true, but why? He did it for us because he loves us. V5 Pierced and crushed for us.
I remember in the film The Matrix. The Main Character called Neo, he had been chosen as the “One”. The machines were about to destroy the city of Zion, and only Neo could save them. He went into the Matrix, and faced Agent Smith, in a battle. In the end, he was successful, but it cost him his life. This is the same in this passage.
V5 He was pierced for our sins; he deals with our sinful state. He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought peace was on him. The pain of death created for us the peace, and reconciliation to God the father. We were alienated from God, because of our sin. As we remembered the many thousands, who lost their lives in conflicts, and wars, two weeks ago; the sacrifice of their lives, was in order for us to be a nation free from evil dictators. They faced the punishment of death for in order to create peace. Jesus’ body was whipped, flogged, and by his wounds we are healed. The broken bond between us and God is restored. The wounds of Jesus have brought healing to our relationship with God, for the object of achievement, was restored with completeness. But do we always maintain that relationship?
V6 Do we turn our back from God? Why? Because we are in a broken and fallen world, cursed by sin. Our hearts are full of imperfect thoughts, and passions. We are all like sheep.
Last year, me and the vicar did the I AM saying’s of Jesus in John at the assemblies at the school, and we used this illustration to show “I AM the Good shepherd”. We need a shepherd in our lives, and Jesus is our good shepherd. He guides us, and rescues us when we get lost. Sheep have an instinct to eat grass, and when they see good grass that leads away from the flock they go a bit more there, bit more there, until they get lost. We do that today. We are influenced by things in our world today, that take our hearts away from God, and we trust the sinful passions of our hearts, and not the loving grace of God. So we wonder away.
Isaiah makes it personal each one of us has turned to our own way. We all turn away, individually! We have a bit of TV here, going to the pub, playing on games machines, watching football, doing the cleaning, doing the knitting, reading novels, and we move away from the shepherd. But the shepherd comes and rescues us, for; the Lord has laid on him the iniquities of us all. Did you know that Jesus took all our rejections, blaspheming guilt, and made it his own? Isn’t that amazing? We should be so glad that Jesus has come. So when you are going out to buy presents for people, or when you are going out to Christmas dinners, remember that the point of preparing is not to indulge ourselves, but to get to know the one who took our guilt. To get to know Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who was pierced and crushed for us. That is the meaning of his suffering.
The final question I want us to consider is this:
3. How well do you know… the result of the suffering? 52:13-15+53:10-12
Well this is all great, I know the nature of the suffering, what Jesus went through, but what is the result? What is the main point?
Well from the start of the passage, Isaiah gives us the answer: V13 Jesus will be raised, lifted up, highly exalted. Let’s look at this triplet:
Raised: Jesus, after he was crucified, pierced, wrapped up, he was laid in a tomb, he was there for three days. Have you ever left sour milk for two days out of a fridge, it’s not pleasant, so could you imagine in the smell of a dead corpse in a tomb. Well, when Mary went to the tomb, she came upon an empty tomb. She heard from the angel that Jesus had been raised to life. He was alive! Jesus is alive and he has conquered death. Then he was:
Lifted up: Jesus gave to his disciples; the commission in Acts 1:8. “You will be my witnesses in all of Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” After that, He then ascended to heaven on a cloud before their sight. The last talk, we will see reverse of this event.
He was highly exalted: This is the point; to bring glory back to God. Though the pain and the suffering, rejection, and death of Christ to us seems to be the worst thing that could happen to any human being, it was to bring glory back to God. For out of Jesus’ suffering, his glory would be revealed, and now he is exalted as King of Kings, and as Isaiah explained earlier in 9:4. V14 Even though he was disfigured beyond human likeness. To the Jews he wasn’t the saviour they were hoping for, V15 but kings will be silenced, and his word will spread across nations, all the way to where we are today. It would have a world-wide effect, bringing leaders to submission. V15 The eyes of the blind shall be opened, the ears of the deaf will be healed and they will understand. They will see the glory of Jesus, and as we prepare for his return, we should begin to spend time to get to know him.
The last 3 verses bring all these lines to a point: v10-12. Even if God the father brought suffering on his son, and made his life an offering for sin; look at the positives that come out of it. He will prolong his days, have the light of life, he will have a portion among the great. His reward is to be the King of heaven, and to bring us to our heavenly father. Through his knowledge, the knowledge that he had to die, nothing would be achieved, and now he has opened up the way for us to be with him in eternal life. Isn’t that something worth believing in? Isn’t that something to admire and be thankful for? They are the results for the servant’s suffering.
Let me conclude by answering the questions I have asked:
How much do you know…the nature of the servant? We know through reading our scripture, that God revealed himself to us, through Jesus. His purpose was not to be attractive physically, but what he was going to offer for us. He is the substitute for our lives. He stepped in and bore all our sins on his shoulders. He had to suffer and die for us in the most appalling way.
How much do you know…the meaning of the suffering? He suffered for us. We are all curse by sin, we continually turn our faces away from him. The meaning of the suffering is for us. We still go around and do what we want, and we still make Idols in our lives, and turn away from God. But all the suffering was in order for us to be united back to our father. Jesus though did it to get the highest result.
How much do you know…the result of the suffering?
Even though Jesus went through the most horrific death. He was raised to life from the dead, has ascended to heaven with his father, and now is highly exalted on his throne. The one, who was brought to the lowest of the low, was made the highest of the high. He is the king of kings, and Lord of Lords. Even though he was crushed for us, and suffered for us; he did it to bring himself glory. We should worship, and give thanks to our God for what he has done for us. I want to ask you again:
How much do you know the most important thing in your life? Is it Jesus? Do we know all the facts? No!! We only know what is written, but let us uses this time of Advent to explore who Jesus really is? Who is this child who was born in a stable? Who is this man who hung on a cross for me?
How much do we know about the suffering servant? Let us go away today, and prepare to know Jesus, before we look at next week, how prepared are we to receive him Amen.