Lent 4 Midweek
The Suffering Servant
In the + name of Jesus. Amen.
Look! My Servant will succeed. He will rise, be lifted up, and be exalted very high. The fourth Servant Song begins like triumphant hymn of glory. It recalls Isaiah’s vision at his commissioning when He sees the Lord “high, and lifted up.” But this is not the kind of upward mobility by which the world measures success. No, this lifted up Servant isn’t a result of His power. As just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so it is necessary for the Son of Man to be lifted up (Jn 3:14). “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself.” He said this to show the kind of death He was about to die (Jn 12:32-33). This lifted up Servant isn’t lifted up to power, but to crucifixion.
Many were amazed at Him, for His appearance was more disfigured than any man and His form more than any person. The Servant who is lifted up is a man, but He doesn’t appear to be one. His appearance is disfigured from beatings and whipping. Bones set out of joint, swollen, bruised, bleeding. A mockery of a man.
So He will sprinkle many nations. Kings will shut their mouths on account of Him because they have seen something they haven’t been told and have witnessed something they haven’t heard before. When He stands before both Pilate and Herod, they don’t know what to do with Him. This is something they haven’t seen or heard of before. Guilty men plead for mercy when they are beaten. Criminals are brought to their knees after this kind of abuse. This disfigured Servant just stands there and bleeds. As if He wants His blood to cover the people who beat Him and abuse Him. Gentile and Jew alike are sprinkled with His blood. Like a Sacrifice.
Who has believed what we told them? And to whom has the LORD’s mighty working been revealed? He grew up before Him like a shoot from a stock, like a sprout from a root in dry ground. And when we saw Him, He had no form or beauty to make us want to look at Him; or pleasing appearance to make us delight in Him. Even before His appearance was marred by His accusers, there wasn’t anything special about the Servant that would draw us to Him. A normal, everyday man. Like you and me. He was born in humble means, grew up in working-class family. He wasn’t clothed like a king; none of His features would tell you that He was anything more than an average Joe; there was no beauty about Him. Except His feet. His beautiful feet. How beautiful on the hills are the feet of the messenger who brings the good news and announces peace, who tells the good news of salvation, and tells Zion, “Your God is King!” (Is 52:7). The only thing to distinguish Him from ordinary men is the Word that He preaches.
And for this He was despised, forsaken by men, a man of sorrows who knew suffering. People covered their faces so as not to see Him. He was despised, and we thought nothing of Him. The crowds flocked to see Him to see what wonders He might work. They were looking for a sign, for a show. But for His preaching, He was despised. Blasphemer, they called Him. And then they beat Him. When they paraded Him down the streets, the squeamish turned their heads; mothers covered their children’s eyes. Don’t look at this man–He must be cursed!
Surely He has taken on Himself our suffering and carried our sorrows, but we observed that God had stricken, smitten, and afflicted Him. And certainly He was pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our sins; By His punishment, we were saved and by His wounds we were healed. We have all gone astray like sheep. Every one of us has turned to go his own way, and the LORD has punished Him for the sins of us all. Even though we did not want a Servant and thought we had no need for a Savior, He willingly put Himself under our sorrows, our sicknesses, or sufferings. When He walked this earth, He didn’t seek the high and the mighty; He didn’t come knocking at the doors of palaces. He sought the poor, the needy, the sick, and the lonely. He was despised because He put Himself among the despised of the world. It was necessary for Him to heal the sick, to comfort the sorrowful, to preach peace to the sinner. Because He Himself bore those burdens. We have all gone astray, but He sought us wherever we could be found.
Because He willingly bore our burdens, He willingly offered Himself to accept the consequences of our burdens. When His enemies and evil men rained blows down upon Him, when the agents of the state drove Him at the end of a whip, and put nails in His flesh, they were simply acting as the hand of God. We observed that God had stricken, smitten, and afflicted Him. For Caesar does not bear the sword in vain, but is an agent of God’s wrath. Jesus couldn’t be murdered in a back alley by jealous colleague. It was necessary that He be crucified under Pontius Pilate because it was necessary that God punish Him for the sins of all.
He was oppressed and mistreated without opening His mouth. Like a lamb He was led away to be slaughtered. Like a mother sheep is silent before the men who cut off her wool, so He doesn’t open His mouth. After He was tried as a prisoner, He was then taken away. Who in His time even considered that He was cut off from the land of the living and struck down for His people’s sins? Silently He stood before His accusers, this Servant. Though the charges were trumped up and invented whole cloth, they were at the same time true. Blasphemer, they called Him. Yes, He died for blasphemers. Rebel, they yelled. Yes, He died for rebels. Thief, murder, adulterer, liar. Yes, He dies for these and more. So He could not answer a word. God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us. Such charges could not be set right by a good whuppin’. These were death sentences. After He was tried, He was taken away. And by a cross, He was cut off from the land of the living.
They assigned Him a grave with criminals and with a rich man in His death, though He hadn’t done any crime or said anything deceitful. In life no house, no home, / My Lord on earth might have; / In death no friendly tomb, / But what a stranger gave. / What may I say? / Heav’n was his home; / But mine the tomb / Wherein he lay. A certain Joseph from Arimathea, a rich man and disciple of Jesus, offers up his own tomb for the Lord’s body. And so Joseph steps in for all Christians. The holes dug in the earth and dust are meant for us–for you are dust and to dust you shall return–but Jesus beats us to them. He fills the tombs of criminals and sinners so that even in death, Jesus is there. You are already in Joseph of Arimathea’s gave, or do you not know that whoever is baptized into Christ Jesus, into His death is baptized? We were buried with Him, therefore, through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we likewise would walk in newness of life (Rom 6:3-4). Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb is also your tomb, and his tomb is empty.
Yet the LORD planned to crush Him and slay Him. After He has sacrificed Himself for guilt, He will see those born to Him and will enjoy a long life. And so by Him the LORD will succeed in what He wants to do. There is more beyond His suffering and death. He will see those born to Him, and will enjoy a long life. Dead eyes don’t see. After His death comes resurrection. Jesus now sees those who are born from above, those who are born of water and the Spirit, little brothers and sisters of the firstborn from the dead. He enjoys a long life–an eternal life, in fact. The success of the Lord’s plan and purpose from the foundation of the world is shown in Christ’s resurrection. And because this Servant is risen, you also shall rise.
Because of the toil of His soul, He will see the light and be satisfied. By His experience My righteous Servant justifies many by taking on Himself the heavy load of their guilt. Because of this I will give Him many people as His share; and He will divide the spoil with the mighty because He pours out His life in death, lets Himself be counted with sinners, while He takes on Himself the sins of many people and intercedes for the wrongdoers. The darkness of the tomb cannot contain Him who is the Light of the world. The third day is the Light-day, the Sun-day. The third day is also the first day of the week, the day when light first broke the darkness at God’s first, “Let there be…” And so the Light of the world breaks the darkness of death. The Sun of righteousness rises from the dead. He sprinkled many with His blood; He also shines His righteousness on the guilty. He divides the share He has earned and distributes His righteousness to our accounts.
This Servant is Jesus Christ. No other person in the history of the world comes even close to the Servant of whom Isaiah sings. He is a Servant who suffers in order to serve righteousness, salvation, and resurrection from the dead. Behold the Servant of God, Jesus Christ.
In + Jesus’ name. Amen.
Rev. Jacob Ehrhard