Some of you have already seen the cartoon in today’s bulletin. For those who haven’t, there is a line of silly-looking people awaiting the signature of yet another Christian author. In the foreground are another two, one of which says, “I just can’t understand how he wrote a book on new discoveries about the deity of Christ Jesus.” How CAN people justify more books on Christ, based on the Word of God which hasn’t changed for more than 2,000 years? From where does the new information come, or how has the mind of the latest author been so improved over the great writers and exegetes of the past?
I have 18 books in the Christology section of my small library, but there might be more scattered around in sections where they aren’t supposed to be. I have books by Edersheim, Volmer, Pink, Meldau, Morgan and Stewart among others. There is “Jesus the Messiah,” “The Crisis of the Christ,” “Jesus in Both Testaments,” and a dozen others dealing with the life of Jesus or some parts of it. And that is before we get to the two dozen theological books – all of which have chapters on Christ Jesus. Perusing catalogues, there are literally hundreds and hundreds of books on the life and person of Christ. Plus there ARE new ones being written and published every year.
Going back to the question in the cartoon, how can there be such a constant flow of new books on someone who lived a short life 2,000 years ago? Well, sad to say, many of the modern writers have a special agenda as they write. Some are trying to explain the life of Christ from their own corrupted theological position or religion. For example, a Mormon will look differently at Christ than a Catholic or a fundamental Baptist. Some writers are attacking what others believe about the Lord, and some are attacking the Bible. Some are just trying to make money, and others are trying to make trouble.
And in one way or other, they all highlight the fact that the only real life of Christ is the Bible. There will never be a greater biography of Christ, than what we find in the pages of the Word of God. The simple reason is because the supernatural cannot be adequately expressed naturally. The infinite God, cannot be perfectly described or revealed by the finite sons of men. The eternal Son of God cannot be confined to a 200 page book. As the Apostle John once wrote – “There are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.” But in the scriptures, “holy men of God spake (and wrote) as they were moved by the Holy Spirit,” making the Biblical account different from any other.
We can turn to just about any book in the Bible to learn about our Lord and Saviour. Obviously we could study any of the four Gospels. There are accurate statements about the Lord in the Book of Acts and again in the Epistles. Those comments are far from complete, but in some cases they are extremely important. The Book of Hebrews is filled with the Lord Jesus, often in a mirror image sort of way. And then the Old Testament has as much to say about Christ as the gospels, but sometimes it’s almost as if written in a different language – and I’m not referring to Hebrew. But when we learn that language, we have the wonderful of the incarnation, the crucifixion and the resurrection of Christ, once again.
This morning, I’d like us to notice just one of the biographies of Christ which happened to be written before His life was actually lived. The writer was a man of Israel, and someone who knew the Lord’s Father better than most in his day. This biography comes in the midst of a ministry that was going in a somewhat different direction. Isaiah was a prophet of God, who spent a great deal of his time, attacking and exposing the sins of his society and his generation. But while he preached, he wrote, and his writing style is one of the finest found in the Old Testament. His is an ancient book, having been written more than 700 years before Christ. It is one of the books which was found among the Dead Sea Scrolls. There is no doubt about the fact that it is prophecy and not history.
As Christians we often look at Isaiah 53 in reference merely to the death of Christ – As if the word “merely” can be appropriately used in regard to the death of Christ. But actually, there is a great deal more than just the historical death of Jesus in this chapter. There is theology which should bring a blush to the cheeks to many of the modern theologians. And when it comes to the life of the Lord, it doesn’t just deal with the conclusion, but also with the beginning of that life.
Isaiah 53: 1-2 give us the INAUGURATION of the Life of Christ.
“Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed? For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.”
Our first challenge in these verses is determining the subject. Modern Jewish scholars claim that this is speaking about THEIR nation – Israel as a nation. Oh? I have a question for which I wish that I knew how to find the answer. I wonder if the Hebrew scholars who lived during the final days of the Old Testament held to that opinion. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that before their prejudice against Jesus of Nazareth, they all agreed that this was a Messianic scripture. My guess is that they so hated the Man Who so clearly fulfilled these scriptures that they had to change their interpretation to match their prejudice. But to answer this interpretation, there is so much repeated emphasis on a very special individual that those people don’t have a leg to stand on.
But again, Who is this individual? He is “the arm of the Lord” – that is, He is the power of Jehovah and the means to wield it. The one spoken of here is the strength of Jehovah, the Creator, Judge and Sustainer of the Universe. He is the arm of healing and comfort, the hand of God’s strength. If scripture is permitted to interpret scripture the matter would be settled in John 12:37-38. “But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him: That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed?” The arm of the Lord is the power of God to accomplish salvation. “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”
Verses 1 and 2 describe, in part, the conditions of the early life of Christ. God designed and promised to make Israel the nation through which all other nations would be blessed. This plan of the Lord wasn’t about Moses’ law, or monotheism, or the Jewish Temple. It was the design of the Lord that through Israel would come the Messiah – the Saviour – bringing healing to sin-dead souls around the world. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believeth on him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Israel was to be like a beautiful tree with special fruit to bless the entire world. Despite the individual’s reluctance to do so, if any, by the grace of God, repent before God and put his trust in Christ Jesus, that man, or woman, or child, will enjoy God’s eternal life. But Israel chose sin over Jehovah and the tree was cut down – almost destroyed. In cooperation with Satan and as traitors toward God, Christ’s own people couldn’t see the beauty of the Lord. From the very days of the Exodus, they rejected Moses, one of the forerunners and illustrations of Christ. And they rejected the Lord’s physical blessings and the spiritual ones as well. They ignored, rejected, and sometimes murdered the prophets of God. When David, the great-grandfather of Christ was made king, many said, “We will not have this man to reign over us.” Manasseh and Ephraim, Asher and Dan, and most of the others refused the son of Jesse, as well as his great, great grand son Jesus. They chopped down the tree, BUT they couldn’t pull out the stump. Eventually, in the fullness of time, the old stump grew a little shoot and a tender stalk. The old stump, with the choice root, began to quietly grow again, and Christ Jesus was born.
After the hoopla of Jesus’ birth, about which Isaiah didn’t take much notice, leaving us with an example… After the short-lived excitement of Jesus’ birth, His early years were quiet and unassuming. Other than the shouting of angels, the visit of Magi, and Joseph’s family making a quick trip to Egypt, the early life of Christ didn’t have much fanfare or spotlight. He was raised in semi-poverty by a man with an honest, but not all that profitable, occupation. The Lord was raised as a root in dry ground, and as every farmer knows that doesn’t bode well for a very fruitful harvest. – but for the grace of God. Young Jesus needed and received help, and an ordinary education, filial love, maternal comfort, and paternal direction and counsel. But His brothers and sisters grew to resent him, just as Joseph, the son of Jacob, was resented and hated by his brethren. And then eventually Jesus’ step-father died, and that resentment probably increased. Did Jesus, the eldest son in the family, assume some of his father’s authority? Did this exacerbate his sibling’s hatred?
There were other things in His childhood as well. “He hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.” Was Christ Jesus a handsome man? Probably so. But these words don’t necessarily speak of Jesus’ physical beauty. They refer not to his looks, but how he was looked upon by the neighbors, and later by the Judeans.
Our Lord was no ordinary child. Because Jesus didn’t join in the sinful, para-sinful and “apparently” sinful things that many children get into, it is very likely that he had fewer friends than his younger brothers and sisters.. Why is it that so often, sinful things somehow link people to their closest friends? Young Jesus didn’t enjoy the same worldly music that the kids his age enjoyed, so there wasn’t that thing to bring them together. Although He was the sharpest kid in class, He wasn’t the class president or voted “the most likely to succeed.” He wouldn’t pollute his body with teenage vices; he never tasted tobacco or other drugs. He didn’t get a tattoo; He didn’t wear the ugliest clothes He could find. And He didn’t make Himself look foolish to impress some even more foolish girl. How do I know these things? Because the Bible tells me that Christ did no sin, even to the point of perfection with his mouth and words. Nothing put Jesus on the “hot list” or with the “in crowd” despite the fact – or because – He was peerless. Underlying this, it was very possibly rumored that he was illegitimate. The people of Nazareth may have seen how unmarried Mary left Galilee for a while, returned and left again. The events leading to Jesus’ birth may have been misunderstood by those who were out of the loop. That was a day when morals were not so perverted – when sin was still sin.
Despite His absolutely flawless young adult life, Jesus was not the most favored child of Nazareth.
Verse 3 might be called the CONTINUATION of the life of Christ – His ministering years.
“He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”
When Jesus began His ministry, little changed – He was still despised and rejected. With only a few exceptions, the words that fell from Jesus’ lips were disregarded; He was distrusted. Like his forefather David, his associates came from those who were in debt, discontent and distressed. Everyone had an opinion about Christ Jesus, and the majority despised and rejected Him.
How did they reject Christ? They “hid as it were their faces from him;” they turned their backs and closed their ears. When they refused to look on Jesus as the subject of Moses and David, in effect they rejected him. When they denied that He was the author and finisher of the true faith, they rejected him. When at any time, they looked to some institution, ordinance or act of morality as more important than Christ, they reject him. He was lifted up for all to see, but most spit upon Him and cast reproaches in his face. And not very much has changed unto this day..
Look at the characteristics of Jesus’ three and a half years of ministry. They are characterized by sorrow and grief. It is not that there weren’t victories from time to time, and moments of great joy. But the overall atmosphere during Jesus’ ministry was overcast and rainy. There was political turmoil and economic uneasiness in the general society. The religion of the Jews was being torn apart by the ultra-liberals who were in most of the seats of power. But the majority of the people basically agreed with the ultra-conservative hypocrites. And then there was the hatred and persecution of both groups against Christ.
And yet, what an important part of the life of Christ that is for us. First, of course there was all that Jesus revealed through His teaching. But then what comfort there is for us to realize that He also knows our sorrows and our cares. He has experienced just about every pain that we have ever experienced, therefore He can not only sympathize with us, He can empathize. “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.”
The CULMINATION of that life is seen in verses 4 and 5.
“Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” Here we not only see God’s estimation of Jesus’ death, but man’s as well.
In man’s opinion, Israel esteemed Him “stricken; smitten and afflicted” by God. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day, considered Christ as the enemy of their one true faith. They acted on the behalf of God, or so they thought, doing Jehovah a favor in killing His beloved Son They shouted “crucify him, crucify him,” when Pilate sought to release the Lord. As Peter testified, “Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, YE have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:”
How more wrong could any group of people be? Jehovah’s estimation was entirely different from that of the leaders of Israel. Christ Jesus took our griefs and our sorrows “in His own body on the tree.” He sorrowed not to GO to the cross, but He did sorrow UPON the cross. God was not the cause of that suffering and grief. That grief was caused by the sin which He carried on our behalf. He was wounded – pierced through by nails, by a spear and by love. He was bruised as prophesied by the Lord in the very early chapters of Genesis. He was punished for us – “by His stripes sinners are healed.”
God viewed the death of His perfect and beautiful son as a substitutionary sacrifice for sinners. He bore the wrath of God while He hung upon that stake for those people He intended to save. Satan didn’t kill Christ, nor did the Romans or the Jews, although in their hearts they did. No one killed the Saviour, because He gave up His spirit, when He gave his life as a sacrifice for sin.
Then lastly verse 6 gives us an EXPLANATION for the Life of Christ.
“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
The life and death of the Lord makes no real sense without this verse. The eternal creator of Heaven and earth did not initially come to this place to rule and reign. How could He be so abused, suffer so and then incredibly – die? It makes no sense until you realize His true purpose – and our true need.
We all have an eternal problem – the effects of our sin could be remedied in only one way. Our condition was one of complete and utter alienation from God. As a verse from Ecclesiastes 7 says, “There is not a just man upon the earth that doeth good and sinneth not.” We aren’t the good, honest people WE think that God thinks that we are. We are rebels from the truth and aliens from the holiness of God. Christ came to supply a solution to that problem by dying our death on our behalf. He was our vicarious substitute; He took the place of all those who repent and trust Him.
Unless this point is understood, then the coming of Christ – the birth of Christ – will never be understood. And unless His sacrificial death is received by faith, that sacrificial death will be of no effect and His coming will have been pointless as far as you are concerned. And the effect of this verse is basically the evangelical message: “Ye must be born again.” “Except ye repent, ye shall all eternally perish.” “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.”