The Suffering Servant | Isaiah 53:10-12
Brian Hedges | December 22, 2019
I think one of the most enduring pieces of music famous for this season of the year, for Christmas, is George Frideric Handel’s The Messiah. How many of you have ever been to a live performance of the Messiah? Let me see your hands. That’s quite a few of you. Those of you who know the history of it know this is a remarkable piece of music. It’s an oratorio composed by George Frideric Handel, with a libretto written from over 50 passages of Scripture that were compiled together by Charles Jennens. This is almost unbelievable, but it was written in just 24 days, from August 22nd to September 14th, 1741. That’s amazing to us, though it wasn’t actually that unusual for Handel or to other composers at that time.
What is unusual is the amazing beauty and the enduring popularity of this piece of music. Calvin Stalpert, who is professor emeritus of music at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, wrote a book on Handel’s Messiah, and said that since its first performance in Dublin in 1742 there has been no year in which it has not been performed. Perhaps even this season some of you have attended a live performance.
You probably know that while the Messiah is generally associated with Christmas and performed during the Christmas season, it’s actually an oratorio comprised of three acts, and it encompasses much more than just Christmas and the incarnation. Act I is all about the Messiah’s birth, and that’s where you have that very jubilant rendition of Isaiah 9:6, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder. And his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
But then, in Act II, there’s a real change in tone. Act II begins with a prologue, with those great words from John the Baptist in John 1, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” The focus of Act II in the Messiah is on Isaiah 53, which is the passage that we have been studying together the last several weeks.
Act III of the Messiah is all about the resurrection of the saints and the eternal reign of the Lamb in his triumph. So the whole composition and the oratorio, the libretto, all of it encompasses the whole gospel, everything from the birth of the Messiah to the suffering and the death of the Messiah to his resurrection and his future reign.
I thought it was an appropriate way to begin this final message of Isaiah 53. We’ve been working through this incredible song; it’s really a hymn, a song, about the suffering servant of the Lord; one of the four servant songs in the book of Isaiah. We’ve been working through it together in the four Sundays of Advent, and today we come to the fifth and the final stanza of this song. It’s a stanza where everything just kind of comes together, similar to a piece of symphonic music, where you have different themes throughout the different parts of the symphony, and they all culminate together in a crescendo at the end. That’s kind of what this fifth stanza of Isaiah 53 is like.
Since this is our last time together in Isaiah 53, I’d like to begin by just reading the entire passage, really beginning in Isaiah 52:13, and then all the way down through the end of Isaiah 53. Then we’ll focus especially on those last three verses, verses 10 through 12. Let’s read it together; you can follow along on the screen.
“Behold, my servant shall act wisely;
he shall be high and lifted up,
and shall be exalted.
As many were astonished at you—
his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance,
and his form beyond that of the children of mankind—
so shall he sprinkle many nations.
Kings shall shut their mouths because of him,
for that which has not been told them they see,
and that which they have not heard they understand.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.”
This is God’s word.
As we work through these last three verses of Isaiah 53 I want us to notice three things, and these are things that we’ve already seen to some degree in the text, but I want us to see it in these verses and maybe expound a little more, a little differently than we have in the past several weeks.I want us to see the reason for his suffering, the promise of his exaltation, and the fruit of his triumph.
I. The Reason for His Suffering
Why did Jesus suffer? Why does the servant of the Lord in this passage suffer in the way he does? Of course there are all kinds of ways we could answer that question. We could point to the Jews who crucified Jesus (“He came to his own and his own did not receive him”), he was betrayed into the hands of lawless men, Scripture tells us. We could look at the Gentiles, we could look at the Romans, we could look at Herod and Pontius Pilate and how they tried Jesus in a kangaroo court and he was unjustly sentenced to this terrible execution through crucifixion.
(1) All of those would be true answers, but the answer here in the last several verses of Isaiah 53 is that it was the will of God for Jesus to suffer. You see this in verse 10: “Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief.” It wasn’t simply that Jesus was put to death by wicked people, it’s not simply that Jesus was unjustly tried and crucified, although all of that is true; it’s that God was working out his divine and sovereign plan in the sufferings of his Son.
Derek Kidner in his commentary says that in this stanza (that is, in the last stanza of verses 10-12), “vindication is complete. The persecutors fade from view to review the Lord and the servant as the ultimate doers of what has been done. The Lord has put him to grief. It was the will of the Lord to crush him.”
We’ve already seen it, of course, in Isaiah 53. It’s hinted as in verse 4, “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows, yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God and afflicted.”
It’s more obvious in verse 6, “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.”
This becomes crystal clear in the New Testament Scriptures. It is without any doubt that the apostles and the early church understood the crucifixion of Christ not to have been a tragedy, not to have been an accident, not to have been the martyrdom of a pretended Messiah, but rather to have been the outworking of the sovereign foreordained plan of God.
Listen to just two passages from the book of Acts, Acts 2:22-23. Peter’s preaching on the day of Pentecost and these are his words. He says, “Men of Israel, hear these words! Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know; this Jesus—” listen to this “—delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.”
He doesn’t remove any of the responsibility that they bore. He says, “You crucified him, you killed him,” but he also says, “You did this because of the foreordained plan of God, the foreknowledge of God, the definite plan of God.”
You see the same thing in Acts 4:26-28. It’s interesting, in this context the Christians themselves are beginning to be persecuted. They’re praying, they have a prayer meeting, after the first wave of persecution on this infant church in the book of Acts, they gather together, and they are praying, and they’re praying in accord with Scripture. They’re actually quoting from the second psalm, and the way they word things together show that they understand Jesus to have been the fulfillment of these Messianic prophecies. Listen to what they say, Acts 4:26-28.
“‘The kings of the earth set themselves and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord and against his anointed.’ For truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you appointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the people of Israel.”
Now, he’s just named there the four parties or groups who were responsible, humanly speaking, for the crucifixion of Jesus: Herod, Pontius Pilate, the Gentiles, and the people of Israel. These are the kings of the earth who have gathered themselves together against the Lord and against his anointed.
But listen to what they say in verse 28. “These people were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius pIlate, along with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.”
God was in this. God was doing something. God was working out the plan of redemption through the death of his Son, Jesus Christ. It was the will of the Lord to crush him.
It shows us, doesn’t it, the incredible love and wisdom of God; the love of God that he would be willing to give his only Son, the wisdom of God that he could work through (mark it) the most sinful, wicked act in all of human history. This is the darkest moment that the world has ever known! It’s the worst thing that has ever happened in the history of the world, and it’s the best thing. God is working out his sovereign plan in the very darkness of the world; light breaks through. Wicked men crucify the Son of God, and God the Father puts him to death, he crushes him. “It is the will of the Lord to crush him.” Why is God doing this? Because he’s working out his plan of redemption.
(2) That leads us to the second reason for his suffering: it is the price of our redemption. It was the will of the Lord to crush him, and it was the price of our redemption.
Again, I’ve noted this I think in every message in Isaiah 53, but you have this language of substitution, Jesus as our substitute, him taking our place. Look at it again. You see it in verse 10. “When his soul makes an offering for guilt…” So Jesus offers himself. It says his soul, but the Hebrew word carries the idea of his life and includes his soul, but it’s his life, and he’s making it a guilt offering. It was one of the five sacrificial offerings that were detailed in the levitical law, in Leviticus 1-7; the guilt offering, the most severe of all of the offerings, the most serious of the all the offerings. Jesus here fulfills that. He makes his soul an offering for guilt.
Then in verse 11, “He shall bear their iniquities.” Again, do you remember Leviticus 16? On the Day of Atonement the high priest would confess the sins over the head of the scapegoat. It was a symbolic transfer of guilt from the people to this sacrificial animal. It was just symbolic, it was looking forward to what Jesus himself would actually accomplish. But Jesus bears the iniquity of his people. He bore their iniquities.
At the end of verse 11, “He poured out his soul to death,” then in verse 12, “He was numbered with the transgressors, he bore the sin of many, he makes intercession for the transgressors.”
Over and over again you see this: Christ for us. Him taking our place. Him bearing our guilt. Him carrying our sins.
At the risk of overemphasizing the point, let me just remind you of what we’ve already seen in Isaiah 53. This is so important, I think we just can’t emphasize it enough.
Verse 4, “He bore our griefs, he carried our sorrows.” Verse 5, “He was wounded for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities, upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, with his stripes we are healed.” Verse 6, “The Lord has laid upon him the iniquity of us all.”
Why is it so important for us to grasp this? Well, there are lots of reasons. One reason is just because your salvation depends on it. But here’s another reason: because, believe it or not, the doctrine of substitutionary atonement is under attack. It’s actually under attack. There are writers and preachers and pastors out there who will go so far as to say the doctrine of substitutionary atonement is immoral and unbiblical. It baffles me how they can think it’s unbiblical. The only thing I can guess is that they don’t know the Bible! They don’t read the Bible; I mean it’s right there! Anybody can see it; it’s right there.
This is actually a quote. They will say substitutionary atonement, the idea that God the Father would punish God the Son for the sins of other people, they say that’s “cosmic child abuse”! That’s their language: it’s "divine child abuse."
Now, why do they say something like that, and what’s the answer to that kind of objection?
I think they say that because they are taking one element of divine revelation, and that is the relationship of the Father to his Son and the Son to his Father; they’re taking one element of divine revelation and they’re neglecting everything else. So they construe this as an angry dad punishing a helpless child in order to save other people. That would be immoral.
That would be immoral, but that is not what the biblical record is telling us at all, because never forget that the relationship between God the Father and God the Son is not the relationship between an angry Father and a helpless child; it is a relationship between two co-equal, consubstantial persons in the eternal Godhead, the Trinity: the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit. Jesus was not a helpless victim! He willingly entered into a covenant relationship with his people and with his Father. The Scripture calls this the everlasting covenant.
The idea is this, that before the worlds began God the Father and God the Son, God the Spirit, in council together, looked down through time, they saw everything that would take place—they saw the Fall, they saw the rebellion, they saw sin, and they made a compact together. They made a deal, they made an agreement, and the agreement was that the Son would come, the eternal Son would become man, he would become flesh, he would take flesh upon himself, he would become one of us, he would become human; and then he would live and die as our substitute and our representative, he would do it willingly, he would do it gladly, he would bear the suffering, and he would bear it as a human being but also as the divine and the eternal Son (the two natures in one person); and then God the Father committed that he would raise him from the dead, and that through this divine transaction they would redeem a people for themselves.
We just sang it this morning. I wonder if you noticed when we sang these wonderful words. This isn’t exactly a Christmas carol, but it’s a hymn that’s all about the gospel, it’s all about the incarnation and atonement, and all these things we’re talking about this morning. Here were the words:
“Come behold the wondrous mystery,
Christ the Lord upon the tree;
In the stead of ruined sinners
Hangs the Lamb in victory.
See the price of our redemption,
See the Father’s plan unfold,
Bringing many sons to glory,
Grace unmeasured, love untold.”
What was the reason for the suffering of the servant, the servant of the Lord, the Lamb of God, the Son of God? What was the reason? The reason was because God was working out his plan. It was the will of the Lord to crush him, in order to bring many sons to glory as the Son bore our iniquities. It wasn’t cosmic child abuse, it was the unfolding of the most beautiful plan in the history of the world. It was the unfolding of the love of the Father and of the Son for their people. It was the outworking of God’s gracious and merciful plan of redemption. The reason for his sufferings.
II. The Promise of His Exaltation
That leads us to the second thing, the promise of his exaltation. In this covenant agreement the Son agreed to come and be our representative, suffer and die, and the Father agreed to support him in all of that work and then to vindicate him, to raise him from the dead. The exaltation of Christ.
We read in the New Testament Scriptures (in 1 Corinthians 15, for example) that the gospel, the essence of the gospel, the heart of the gospel, is understood as these three things: Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, he was buried in accordance with the Scriptures, and he rose from the dead in accordance with the Scriptures. Right? He rose on the third day.
There are lots of Old Testament Scriptures that Paul probably had in mind, many of them from the prophets. Perhaps one of them was right here in Isaiah 53. We don’t have the word “resurrection,” but you have it hinted at. You have “exaltation,” you have “vindication,” you have hints of resurrection in verses 10 and 12.
Look at verse 10. “When his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring.” Here’s the servant of the Lord, who’s actually being cut off from the land of the living, as we’ve already read. He’s being cut off from the land of the living, he’s dying; how does he see his offspring?
When we understand the fulfillment to be Jesus, we know that Jesus wasn’t married, Jesus didn’t have physical descendants, he didn’t have children. What’s the idea here? The idea here is that he’s seeing the outcome, he’s seeing the fruit, he’s seeing the result of his work.
“He shall see his offspring, he shall prolong his days.” Well, that’s a Hebrew idiom that carries the idea of long life. It’s fulfilled in the resurrection of Christ, where he dies, yes, and it’s a real death; and he’s buried, yes, and it’s a real burial; but then God raises him from the dead. Then it says, “The will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.”
Then you see again in verse 12 these words, “Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong.” That language, dividing a portion, dividing spoil, that carries the idea of a king who has gone through the battle and he’s won the war, and now he’s gathered the spoils of war, the booty, the loot, the spoils of war, and he’s dividing it among his people. That’s the idea. It’s showing us here the triumph of the servant, the exaltation of the servant.
Earlier in this series I read these wonderful words from Philippians 2, which describes how Jesus, though he was in the very form of God, did not count equality with God something to be grasped at, but instead he made himself a servant. Verse 8 says, “And being found in human form he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him, and has bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Theologians for years have taken the language of Philippians 2, as well as Isaiah 53 and many other passages, and they have essentially divided the entire work of Jesus Christ, the entire career of Jesus Christ, into two parts: his humiliation and his exaltation. The humiliation includes the incarnation, it includes his birth, it includes his life, it includes his trials and his suffering and his death—really, everything up until that Sunday morning. It includes his burial—everything up until Easter morning, the first Easter morning, when Jesus rose from the dead, and that begins the exaltation.
The exaltation of Christ (this is the second part of Jesus’ work) includes his resurrection from the dead and his seating at the right hand of God. It’s called his session; his resurrection, his ascension into heaven, then his session, his sitting at the right hand of God, his intercession for his people, as well as his glorious return, when Jesus comes again; his second coming and his eternal kingdom, his reign. All of that is part of the exaltation.
You might think of it this way, that the life of Christ is comprised of two volumes. Volume I is his humiliation; it’s everything leading up to his cross and the burial. Volume II is his exaltation; it’s everything from the resurrection forward. This was what God promised. You even see it here as a promise to the servant of the Lord.
This is so crucial for our salvation. There would, in fact, be no salvation if there was only the birth of Christ and the death of Christ. If there was no resurrection, if there was no ascension, if there was no intercession, if there was no second coming, there would be no salvation! All of these things are absolutely crucial and important.
Just think about the resurrection for a minute. How crucial it is that Christ would be raised from the dead! Paul tells us this in 1 Corinthians 15:14. He says, “And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” We’re just wasting our time, Paul says, if Christ has not been raised from the dead! Your faith is in vain!
Paul would be the last person in the world to say, “It doesn’t really matter what you believe, as long as you believe in something.” No, he wouldn’t say that. That’s ridiculous. It matters what you believe in. It matters that what you believe in is true, that it is historical, that it’s grounded in fact and reality. That’s what he says the resurrection of Christ is. He says if Christ has not been raised your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. No forgiveness, no pardon, no assurance, no removal of guilt, no second chance, no restoration, no renewal, no heaven, no eternal life, none of it, if Christ is not raised from the dead! The exaltation is crucial. He had to be raised from the dead.
Not only that, the resurrection is crucial because it is through the resurrection of Christ that you and I have hope not just of forgiveness, but we have hope that our mortal bodies themselves will be redeemed.
Did you know that death is not the end for the Christian? The end, in fact, is not just an immaterial spirit in the presence of God after you die, although we have that. Paul says, “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.” That’s good. But that’s an interim period. That’s not the end game. The goal is for your body to be resurrected, and that’s going to happen someday, believer.
If you are a Christian, there’s coming the day when Jesus comes back and the dead in Christ will rise first. If you’ve died at that point, your body is going to be resurrected from the dead, it’s going to be made new, it’s going to be made glorious, like his glorious body; it’s going to be made perfect, and you will never suffer again, you’ll never experience sickness or pain again. Your body will be glorified. That’s what we’re waiting for. In that day you will see Jesus with your waking eyes, every bit as much as you can see me right now. This is our hope, and it’s all founded in the resurrection of Christ.
The Heidelberg Catechism asks, “How does Christ’s resurrection benefit us? First, by his resurrection he has overcome death so that he might make us share in the righteousness he obtained for us by his death; second, by his power we too are already raised to new life; and third, Christ’s resurrection is a sure pledge to us of our blessed resurrection.”
You know how 1 Corinthians 15 uses the language of the first Adam or the first man and the second man or the last man? It says, “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.”
Again, we sang about it this morning in that wonderful hymn. Christ is the true and better Adam, he is the last Adam, he’s the second Adam. Here’s just one of those verses we sang.
“Come, behold the wondrous mystery,
Slain by death the God of life.
But no grave could e’er restrain him;
Praise the Lord, he is alive!
What a foretaste of deliverance,
How unwavering our hope;
Christ in power resurrected,
As we will be when he comes.”
The promise of his exaltation.
III. The Fruit of His Triumph
That leads, then, to the last thing, the fruit of his triumph.
You know, Charles Spurgeon loved to preach on what he called the “shalls” and the “wills” of the Bible. They are these places in Scripture where it says that something shall be done, it shall come to pass, it will be done. You have a bunch of them right here in Isaiah 53:10-12.
It says, “He shall see his offspring…The will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand...He shall see and be satisfied...He shall justify many...He shall bear their iniquities...I will divide him a portion...He shall divide the spoil with the strong.”
These are the fruits of his triumph. He will divide the spoil with the strong. He’s going to do this. What are the spoils of war for the suffering and victorious servant of the Lord? What are the fruits? What are the results of his work? I want to just show you three as we draw a close this morning, three things that are the fruits of the triumph of Christ.
(1) Here’s the first: justification. Look at verse 11. “By his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.”
The old King James reads this way, “He shall justify many.” “Accounted righteous” is one way of translating it, or “justify,” that’s another.
What is justification? It’s a big word, right? It’s a big theological word. What do we mean when we talk about justification? We mean simply this, that God pardons our sins (he forgives us) and he accepts us as righteous in his sight. That’s the heart of it. He pardons us, our sins, our iniquity, our guilt. He forgives us.
It’s not just that we go back to square one. He also accepts us righteous in his sight. He accounts us as righteous, he credits righteousness to us, he credits faith as righteousness, Paul says in Romans 4.
The idea here is that through our union with Christ by faith God looks on us now in the Son. We are united to him. He looks at us in the Son, so that when Jesus died on the cross, he died for our sins, there was this glorious exchange. Okay, this is what some of the old writers talked about as the “great exchange.” The exchange was, he took our sins and he gives us his obedience and his righteousness. This glorious exchange.
So, he bears our guilt and our sins on the cross, but because we’re in him he takes what belongs to us and he gives us what belongs to him. He gives us his righteousness, he gives us a righteous status, so that when God the Father looks at us, from a legal perspective, from a judicial perspective, when he looks at us—when he looks at you, believer—he looks at you and sees not your sins, but he sees Christ’s obedience and righteousness. He accounts us as righteous in his sight. That’s first, justification.
(2) But there’s more. Here’s the second thing: intercession. You see this in verse 12. “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…” It ends like this, “...and makes intercession for the transgressors.”
Do you know what intercession means? It means prayer. It means prayer. An intercessor is someone who prays for another, someone who intercedes. Someone who intercedes is someone who stands between. That’s what Jesus does. He intercedes for us, he pleads for us.
Now, we have to understand this correctly. It doesn’t mean that Jesus is standing between us and an angry God and that Jesus is just trying to keep God from punishing us. That’s not the idea at all, because God’s love is the whole fountain of redemption. God loves us, and that’s why Jesus came.
So, when Jesus stands as our advocate, when he intercedes for us, he’s not pleading with an angry God to forgive us, he’s pleading with a loving God to do what he planned to do all along through the death of Christ. He’s pleading with his Father, but he’s taking this position in a legal sense. He’s pleading before the Judge the merit and the fruit of his death.
One of the greatest illustrations of this, of course, is Peter. Do you remember Peter? Peter was one of the disciples of the Lord, and Jesus, before he is betrayed and crucified, tells the disciples, “You’re all going to be offended because of me, you’re all going to deny me.”
Peter so self-confidently says, “Not me! Though all the rest forsake you, I’m not going to!” I think Peter was sincere. I think Peter really thought he would be able to stand when the trials come, but he was full of self-confidence.
You remember what Jesus said to him? He said, “Simon—” he doesn’t even call him Peter now. He says, “Simon, Simon, Satan has desired to have you that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you, that your faith will not fail. After you are converted [or turned], strengthen your brothers.” That’s what Jesus does. He prays for him! He prays for him that his faith will not fail.
Now, Peter in a way failed, but his faith didn’t fail. Peter blew it, he sinned, he denied the Lord three times with an oath, denied that he knew him, and you remember that Jesus looked at him across that courtyard, and when Peter saw that look he went out and he wept bitterly.
But he’s restored in John 21 and he becomes the premier leading apostle, in the first half of the book of Acts, who is leading the gospel proclamation in Jerusalem. Why? Because Jesus prayed for him!
Jesus prays for us as well. The great Scottish preacher Robert Murray M’Cheyne one time wrote in his journal, “I ought to study Christ as an intercessor. He prayed most for Peter, who was the most to be tempted. I am on his breastplate.” He’s using the idea of the high priest, who would go into the Holy of holies with this breastplate on, and inscribed on the breastplate were the names of the children of Israel. “I am on his breastplate.”
Then he says this. “If I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room, I would not fear a million of enemies. Yet the distance makes no difference; he is praying for me.”
Dear Christian, I want you to know this morning, no matter what you’re going through, Christ prays for you. He prays for you. He’s the intercessor. He is interceding.
You say, “I don’t feel worthy for him to intercede for me!” But notice, he intercedes for the transgressors! Do you feel like you’re a transgressor? If you feel like you’re a transgressor and you believe in Christ, he prays for you! That’s what the text says.
The New Testament picks up this kind of language. You remember Romans 8:34, “Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died; more than that, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.”
Hebrews 7:25, “Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” This is what he does!
You say, “What is Jesus doing in heaven right now?” This is what he’s doing: he’s praying! He’s praying! He’s praying for you right now, Christian, as you worship! He’s praying for you that you persevere in faith, he’s praying for you in your suffering, he’s praying for you for your forgiveness, your ongoing forgiveness and cleansing, he’s praying for your sanctification, he’s praying that you’ll make it to the end. His prayer will be heard.
(3) That leads to the final thing: satisfaction. I used this word last week, satisfaction, and I used it in this sense, that the atoning work of Christ is being called a satisfaction.
Arthur Pink wrote this great book, back in the 1920s or ’30s or whenever it was, called The Satisfaction of Christ, and it was essentially just an exposition of the doctrine of the atonement. The atoning work of Christ was a satisfaction in this sense, that when Jesus died on the cross he propitiated the just wrath of God against our sins, he satisfied that wrath. God was appeased, completely and fully satisfied with the death of Christ.
But there’s another sense in which we could talk about satisfaction, and you see it right here in the text in verse 11. “Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied.” “Out of the anguish of his soul.” The old King James says, “Out of the travail of his soul.”
It’s a very intense word, this word for anguish or travail. It’s the word that can be used to describe the labor pangs of a woman in childbirth. I have four children now, and I was there for the birth of every one of them, and I have a new appreciation for what this means. In this day, when it was written, this was before there were epidurals or anything like that, so it was intense. Some of you women know how intense it can be, the pain that comes with labor, travailing to bring a child into the world.
But it’s a wonderful picture of what Christ did on the cross. When he died on the cross he was travailing in labor pangs in order to bring forth something. What is he bringing forth? It says, “He shall see the travail of his soul and he shall be satisfied.” What is it? What satisfies him? What satisfies him is to see the justification of those for whom he died! He’s actually borne their iniquities; now he will see them saved. He will see the travail of his soul and he will be satisfied. It means, I believe, the absolute certainty of the salvation of all the chosen ones of God, the absolute certainty of the salvation of the elect family of God.
Now, I’m not going to get into this morning the mystery of how God elects and all of that. We’ve talked about that in recent weeks. But a passage like this (it is, again, one of those great shalls or wills of the Bible) assures us that the fruit of Christ’s work will be seen. He will not be disappointed. There will be no stillborn children, no miscarriages, in the family of God. He will see the travail of his soul and shall be satisfied. Not one will be lost.
“The Father chose his only Son
To die for sins that man had done.
Emmanuel to the choice agreed,
And thus secured a numerous seed.
He sends his Spirit from above
To call the objects of his love.
Not one shall perish or be lost;
His blood has bought them; dear they cost.”
“He shall see the travail of his soul and shall be satisfied.”
Do you know that this hope, this confidence in what theologians call a definite atonement, an effective atonement, this confidence is what fueled the Moravian missionaries back in the early 1700s? It fueled them to leave their homeland and go to the New World and take the gospel there, knowing that they would never see their friends and loved ones that they left behind again.
There’s a great story of this, when the Moravians are leaving their own country and they’re on the boat and they’re sailing away, and their friends and their family from the shore are shouting out, “May the Lamb see the reward of his suffering!” That’s why they were sending them. They were sending them so that through the gospel witness of these Moravian missionaries Christ’s suffering would bear fruit. It was their great confidence.
This is biblical. Matthew 24:14, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” The missionary task will be completed, the gospel will be proclaimed to all the nations of the world, and you and I have the privilege of being a part of that task as we send and as we pray and as we give and as we go and as we share the good news with others.
We’ve seen this morning as we’ve looked again at the servant of the Lord, we’ve seen the reason for his sufferings, we’ve seen the promise of his exaltation, we’ve seen the fruit of his triumph.
Here’s the final thing; it’s just a question. Have you personally appropriated this good news to yourself? Have you believed this message for yourself? It’s one thing to sing about this at Christmas, it’s one thing to even read about it in Scripture; it’s another thing to see your name written in these lines, to know that when he bore the sins of many he was bearing your sins; that when he intercedes for the transgressors he’s interceding for you; to know that when he shall see the travail of his soul and be satisfied that you are included in that number!
How can you know that? There’s only one way: believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved. That means personally, from your heart of hearts, trust in Christ and in Christ alone. It’s not your works, it’s not what you do, it’s not your morality, it’s not turning over a new leaf, it’s not getting your life together; it’s none of those things. It’s trusting Christ.
Now, when you trust him, he’ll change you. You trust him, he’ll transform you. I believe that with all my heart. But the turning point is when you cease not believing, or you just cease apathy and not caring, or you cease trusting in yourself, trying to save yourself; and instead of that you look to Christ, you depend on him, you trust in him, you rest your weight on him, you put yourself into his hands, you say, “Lord, I need salvation, I can’t save myself; you alone can save me. Please save me of my sins. Please be merciful to me, a sinner. Please forgive me for the sake of what Jesus has done on the cross.”
If you’ve never done that, would you do that today? I hope you will. If you have done that, would you share that news with somebody else? Let’s pray together.
Our gracious and merciful heavenly Father, words fail us to describe the wonder of your love, the wonder of the gospel that we have talked about this morning; but we pause to worship you, to thank you, to praise you for what you’ve done. You are good and you are gracious and loving and merciful. We just thank you that you love us this much.
We pray this morning that you would help us take the good news to heart, help us believe it personally, and may it bear fruit in our lives. May it lead to real transformation, real peace of conscience and peace in our hearts with you, but transformation as well as we think of what Christ has done and then the response of faith and love in our hearts leading us to love others.
As we come to the Lord’s table this morning, we pray that the very things that we have talked about and that we have heard we would now see visibly represented to us in the bread and in the juice, and that as we take these elements we would do so with faith in our hearts, saying from our hearts to you, “Lord, I take you, and I take what you’ve done for me. I receive it, I accept it, I trust it, depend on it.”
Father, for any who do not believe, any who do not know Christ in a saving way, would you open their eyes, would you give life to the dead, would you give the gifts of faith and repentance, and would you draw them to Christ today so that today will be the day of salvation? We pray this in Jesus’ name and for his sake, Amen.