Friday, March 31, 2017, 2:53 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Near the Cross.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Isaiah 53 (ESV).
A Man of Sorrows (vv. 1-3)
Who has believed what he has heard from us?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
A lot of people today picture Jesus as someone everybody loved, so if we are like Jesus, people should love us, too. They focus on the fact that he healed the sick and afflicted, raised the dead, comforted the sorrowful, fed the hungry, and encouraged the timid. Yet, they often neglect to mention that he confronted people with their sins, and that he warned of divine judgment, and of sins’ consequences. He called, too, for repentance, obedience, self-denial and death to sin, as well as he promised hope and healing for the penitent. So, if we are like Jesus, shouldn’t we be doing these things, too? Yet, if we are, we, as well, will be despised and rejected of men. And, people will hide their faces from us, too, and will have nothing to do with us.
Our Griefs and Sorrows (vv. 4-6)
Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
When we are born into this world, we are born with sin natures, in the image (likeness) of Adam, separate from God, and without hope (Ro. 5:12-19; 1 Co. 15:21-22, 42-49). Because of our sin, we cannot attain, by human effort, God’s divine approval. We will always come up short (Ro. 3:23). So, God the Father sent his Son Jesus Christ (God, the Son) to the earth to take on human form, to suffer as we suffer, and to be tempted in like manner as we are also tempted, yet without sin. He sent him, too, to die on a cross for our sins. He who knew no sin became sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of God (2 Co. 5:21). When Jesus died, our sins died with him, and were buried with him. When the Father resurrected him from the dead, he rose victorious over sin, Satan, hell and death, on our behalf.
Jesus’ purpose in dying on a cross for our sins was that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life up for us. He died that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us who walk (in lifestyle) no longer according to the flesh, but according to (in agreement with) the Spirit of God. When we put our trust in Jesus Christ to be Savior and Lord (owner-master) of our lives, we are crucified with Christ in death to sin, and we are resurrected with him to newness of life, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (1 Pet. 2:24; 2 Co. 5:15; Ro. 8:1-14; 6:1-23; Eph. 4:17-24).
Both in his life and in his death Jesus bore our griefs and our sorrows. Because he took on human flesh, he experienced what we experience, so he is able to sympathize with us in our weaknesses. He had to do this in order that he might become “a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people” (Heb. 2:17; 4:15). So, when we go through difficult times on this earth, and when we are hated and rejected of humans, and when we experience much sorrow and pain, we have a Lord who has been through that, so he feels what we feel. Not only does he feel our pain, but he is also our comforter, our strength and our healer. He will give us all we need to endure and to remain faithful to him.
Oppressed and Afflicted (vv. 7-9)
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
and as for his generation, who considered
that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people?
And they made his grave with the wicked
and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.
Now, Jesus was not always silent in the face of much opposition. Even at his arrest and trial he was not completely silent. He was still bold in some of the things which he said (See: Jn. 18:1-19:11). Yet, in some instances he was silent, and he did not say anything (See: Matt. 26:63; 27:12-14). He certainly had the wisdom to know when to speak and when to keep silent, and we would all do well to learn from him such wisdom and discernment.
Yet, I take his silence to mean much more than merely lack of words or refusal to speak, but rather as an attitude of submission to the Father, and to the cross, and to the task which was before him, which was to die for our sins. He did not resist this, or fight against it, although, in the flesh, he definitely struggled with it (See: Matt. 26:36-46).
And, we should respond in like manner when we are also mistreated, judged unfairly, and falsely accused. It is ok to cry out to God in our pain, and even to pray for deliverance. It is ok to hurt. And, there are times when it is appropriate to defend ourselves against what is false and what is abusive, i.e. to speak the truth in love. Yet, daily we must surrender ourselves to the cross of Christ, and be willing to suffer injustice, if need be, for the sake of Christ and for his gospel message, and for the salvation of human lives.
Numbered with Transgressors (vv. 10-12)
Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
because he poured out his soul to death
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and makes intercession for the transgressors.
Is it God’s will that we should suffer? Sometimes, yes, but he also gives relief from suffering. Is it even God’s will that we should be persecuted, hated and rejected because of our faith, and because of our testimonies for Jesus Christ and for this gospel? Yes! [See: Ro. 5:3-5; Phil. 3:7-11; 1 Pet. 1:6-7; 4:12-17; Jas. 1:2-4; Matt. 5:10-12; 2 Co. 1:3-11; Heb. 12:3-12.]
Just as Jesus had to go through all of that suffering, pain and anguish, so that you and I could be delivered out of slavery to sin, and so we could be given new lives in Christ Jesus, to be lived to his righteousness, we, as well, must go through difficult times. Sometimes it is for our own purification, maturity, and humility, that we might learn patience and perseverance, and to teach us to rely on God, and not on ourselves. Other times, or even at the same time, it is for the benefit of others that we must suffer, because then God is able to mold us into the people he wants us to be, to be used of him as his servants and witnesses in taking the love of Christ and the truth of his gospel to those to whom he would have us minister his love and his grace.
One of the most difficult of sufferings we will be called upon to bear is to be falsely accused of things we did not do, and to be considered as evil when we have done nothing to wrong anyone. Imagine, then, a holy God being treated as though he is a common criminal when he was sinless, instead. We are not sinless, although our sins are forgiven, if we have trusted in Jesus to be our Savior and Lord. Yet, part of persecution is to be falsely accused, and to have people think evil of us when we are not guilty of evil acts against others. So, we should not be too quick to judge others on the testimony of someone other than the person himself (or herself), because many people’s reputations are ruined by the gossip of hateful and spiteful people.
Yet, if in our suffering, it produces a harvest of righteousness both in our own lives and in the lives of others, we are blessed. Jesus had to die, but his death resulted in our salvation from sin. Sometimes we will be called upon to suffer injustice for the sake of Christ and his gospel, yet it may well produce not only holiness in our own lives, but also in the lives of others, so that is a good thing. If, through our suffering, we are able to impart to others the love, grace, mercy, kindness, righteousness and justice of our God, and others are then able to turn their hearts to the Lord, to follow him in his ways, is it not worth it to suffer for righteousness’ sake? I think it is.
Near the Cross / Fanny J. Crosby / William H. Doane
Jesus, keep me near the cross;
There a precious fountain,
Free to all, a healing stream,
Flows from Calvary’s mountain.
Near the cross, a trembling soul,
Love and mercy found me;
There the bright and morning star
Sheds its beams around me.
Near the cross! O Lamb of God,
Bring its scenes before me;
Help me walk from day to day
With its shadow o’er me.
Near the cross I’ll watch and wait,
Hoping, trusting ever,
Till I reach the golden strand
Just beyond the river.
In the cross, in the cross,
Be my glory ever,
Till my raptured soul shall find
Rest beyond the river.