Friday, July 27, 2012


But He was pierced because of our transgressions, crushed because of our iniquities; punishment for our peace was on Him, and we are healed by His wounds.” (Isaiah 53:5 HCSB)

He stands in the shadow of the cross—stretching back seven hundred years before Christ walked this planet and hung on that tree.  Isaiah, the prophet, describes the earth-shaking events that would transpire on that skull-shaped hill, as though he is standing beneath the cross of Jesus.

He gapes in shock at what he sees.  Isaiah is looking for the Messiah to come, just like the nation of Israel in Christ’s day—this One, however, is not like what they expected David’s heir to be.  There was HIS STARTLING APPEARANCE. 

See, My Servant will act wisely; He will be raised and lifted up and greatly exalted.  Just as many were appalled at You—His appearance was so disfigured
that He did not look like a man, and His form did not resemble a human being—so He will sprinkle many nations.  Kings will shut their mouths because of Him, for they will see what had not been told them, and they will understand what they had not heard. 

Who has believed what we have heard?  And who has the arm of the Lord been revealed to?  He grew up before Him like a young plant and like a root out of dry ground.  He didn't have an impressive form or majesty that we should look at Him, no appearance that we should desire Him.  He was despised and rejected by men, a man of suffering who knew what sickness was.  He was like someone people turned away from; He was despised, and we didn't value Him.” (Isaiah 52:13-53:3 HCSB)

The man of God shakes his head—hard to believe what he has witnessed in

this vision.  Christ’s appearance was so humble in His life.  Whereas, Isaiah would have expected Him to be born in a palace, He is like a tiny plant growing from desert ground—just a green shoot and not even a fragrant flower to adorn it.  There is no halo on His head.  He wears no royal robes.  There was nothing attractive in His appearance.  None of the winsome charm of a David, none of the wealthy carriage of a Solomon—but, born in a stable, raised as a peasant, living in obscurity, working as a carpenter—His claims would be rejected.  The religious leaders who examined Him would brand Him a fraud.  The government authorities who evaluated Him would find Him a disappointment.

Isaiah sees more—not just His humble appearance in life, but His horrifying appearance in death.  Beneath the cross of Jesus, the prophet looks up and feels a wave of nausea sweep over him by the visage gazing down at him.  At least, he thinks that the Crucified Man is looking at him—hard to tell—for His eyes are merely slits, swollen virtually shut.  His face is ravaged by the violent hands that plucked His beard, and the strong fists that bruised His face. 

I gave My back to those who beat Me, and My cheeks to those who tore out My beard.  I did not hide My face from scorn and spitting.” (Isaiah 50:6 HCSB)

Isaiah sees the nose disjointed and lips puffed out, the jaw hanging sidewise as He gasps for breath—likely broken; teeth missing.  That bowed head is covered with blood from the crown thrust upon it with its long desert thorns hammered in by rods with which His captors beat Him.  He looks like a monster, and not a man!

Those Isaiah overhears, as he stands beneath the cross of Jesus, are mocking Him.  They are scorning the possibility that this Man could be the Messiah.  He is shunned like a leper.  He has no more value than a slug.  Their inspection leads them to brand Him, “Rejected!”

Beneath the cross of Jesus, Isaiah ponders and learns there is more to this Man than meets the eye.  The suffering of the Savior is not for His sin, but for ours!  This is HIS SUBSTITUTIONARY ATONEMENT.

“Yet He Himself bore our sicknesses, and He carried our pains; but we in turn regarded Him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted.  But He was pierced because of our transgressions, crushed because of our iniquities; punishment for our peace was on Him, and we are healed by His wounds.  We all went astray like sheep; we all have turned to our own way; and the Lord has punished Him
for the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:4-6 HCSB)

Note the repeated emphasis of the personal pronouns—our, we, us—what He did was for us.  He took the sin He did not commit and carried it Himself.  He suffered the pain He did not deserve—drinking the poison cup of the curse we should have drained to the dregs.  He died the death we rightfully merited for our wicked ways, not because of His crimes.  He went to hell in our place so that we might enter His place in heaven—the Substitute whose blood atones for our sins—covering them over, hiding us from judgment—beneath the shadow of the cross!

How He suffered!  The scourge lashing His back into red-ribbons of flesh, the spikes driven through His hands and feet pinning Him in agony to the wooden beams—and the separation—this, the most incomprehensible, indescribable pain of all—which brought out the agonizing cry, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?”  We can scarcely imagine.  We cannot comprehend.  Even if we went to hell we would not know—for we would be suffering rightfully, and only for ourselves.  He did for us—and for all, especially those who would believe in Him!

From the endless eternal ages, the Son had unbroken, unbounded fellowship with the Father—a love relationship that was unbridled—intimacy where they were one.  Then, in the days of His flesh, not once did the Son disobey—no unworthy thought, no impure motive, no defiant act, no vile passion—sterling, stainless, sinless.  Yet, beneath the cross of Jesus Isaiah sees Him as a Cursed Man—that is what Scripture pronounces of one who hangs on a tree.  It was true—He suffered the consequence of the curse—thorns, sweat, tears, sorrow. “He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Cor.5:21)

Isaiah is invited to witness Christ’s final hours—centuries before they occurred.  He sees Him praying in agony in the garden, taken by that violent mob while His followers run like frightened rabbits.  It seems certain that He views Him as He is roughly treated—tortured in fact—by those who were supposed to be just judges who placed Him on trial.  Throughout that dark night which the prophet previews, he hears Him say virtually nothing—there is HIS SILENT ACQUIESCENCE.

“He was oppressed and afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth.  Like a lamb led to the slaughter and like a sheep silent before her shearers, He did not open His mouth.  He was taken away because of oppression and judgment; and who considered His fate?  For He was cut off from the land of the living; He was struck because of my people's rebellion.

They made His grave with the wicked and with a rich man at His death, although He had done no violence and had not spoken deceitfully.” (Isaiah 53:7-9 HCSB)

He met His fate with resignation—but not as a helpless victim, for He might have called legions of angels to His rescue had He chosen.  The Man who spoke a word of authority and commanded a storm to cease, demons to flee and a dead man to rise, would not lack power to destroy His enemies.  But, He did not come to condemn.  He came to save.  That would require His silence.  They taunted Him, “He saved others, let Him save Himself!”  But, He could not save others if he had chosen to save Himself.

So, he didn’t demand a defense attorney.  He would not beg for the court to have mercy.  He didn’t protest the miscarriage of justice.  Christ is the Lamb of God—and He dies as one led to the slaughter.  Pilate was perplexed at this.  Herod thought it a joke.  The Pharisees took full advantage of their opportunity to hire witnesses to perjure themselves although He who was Truth Incarnate “had not spoken deceitfully.”  The crowd was whipped to a frenzy, screaming, “Crucify!  Crucify!”  This, despite the fact, that He “had done no violence.”  The Lamb’s response?  Only a snippet of speech—a few sentences occasionally—He surrenders silently.

In the slaughterhouse, the cattle are bawling, the hogs are squealing, the sheep—they watch in silence as their blood drains out—and they die.  Here is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29b)  He is silent.

He dies “with the wicked” as Isaiah stands beneath the cross of Jesus noting two criminals hanging on either side of the Lamb.  The prophet observes a “rich man”, Joseph of Arimathea, who begs for the body and tenderly wraps it and places Him in his own expensive tomb.

Jesus is dead—truly dead—His limp, lifeless corpse locked in a sepulcher of stone, sealed with a massive rock and guarded by soldiers.  The shadow of the cross falling on Isaiah is so dark—so demonic—he is at the point of despair—when the ground begins to quake and a burst of light blasts away the stone!  Awe, terror, joy, wonder—worship, yes, worship—as Christ emerges alive, carrying the keys of death, hell and the grave!

Isaiah is privileged to see through tears of joy the breathtaking beauty of the glorified Lord in HIS SATISFYING ACCOMPLISHMENT.

Yet the Lord was pleased to crush Him severely.  When You make Him a restitution offering, He will see [His] seed, He will prolong His days, and by His hand, the Lord's pleasure will be accomplished.  He will see [it] out of His anguish, and He will be satisfied with His knowledge.  My righteous Servant will justify many, and He will carry their iniquities.

Therefore I will give Him the many as a portion, and He will receive the mighty as spoil, because He submitted Himself to death, and was counted among the rebels; yet He bore the sin of many and interceded for the rebels.” (Isaiah 53:10-12 HCSB)

God was satisfied.  “It is finished!”  The debt was paid in full.  Every demand that a Holy God required as payment for sin had been met.  The wrath of God had fallen on the Son.

Christ was satisfied.  He had done all that He could do.  He had been utterly faithful.  Looking back to the saints who lived before Him, stored securely and serenely in Paradise, the payment was made to now usher them from the bosom of Abraham and into the presence of God.  Christ descends into the world of the dead and declares His victory!  He leads the triumphal train to the place with golden streets via a crimson road.  “It is finished!”  He is the Way—and none come to the Father but through Him—still today, and as long as the Door of opportunity remains open for repentant sinners to receive grace He will ever be the only Way.

We are satisfied.  Those who trust Christ need do nothing else.  We cannot.  “It is finished!”  Then one day we will receive the full measure of our promised inheritance, and will be satisfied in His glorious Kingdom with the Lamb, His love and in His light, basking eternally in joy and peace.

All will be satisfied—heaven and earth made new.  Jesus will be crowned as King of kings and Lord of lords.  “It is finished” and He shall reign forever and ever!

Isaiah was beneath the cross of Jesus.  Are you?

Beneath the cross of Jesus I fain would take my stand,
The shadow of a mighty rock within a weary land;
A home within the wilderness, a rest upon the way,
From the burning of the noontide heat, and the burden of the day.

O safe and happy shelter, O refuge tried and sweet,
O trysting place where Heaven’s love and Heaven’s justice meet!
As to the holy patriarch that wondrous dream was given,
So seems my Savior’s cross to me, a ladder up to heaven.

There lies beneath its shadow but on the further side
The darkness of an awful grave that gapes both deep and wide
And there between us stands the cross two arms outstretched to save
A watchman set to guard the way from that eternal grave.

Upon that cross of Jesus mine eye at times can see
The very dying form of One Who suffered there for me;
And from my stricken heart with tears two wonders I confess;
The wonders of redeeming love and my unworthiness.

I take, O cross, thy shadow for my abiding place;
I ask no other sunshine than the sunshine of His face;
Content to let the world go by to know no gain or loss,
My sinful self my only shame, my glory all the cross.” (Elizabeth Clephane)

Can you join me in singing this?  Is it a reality that you have seen with eyes of faith?

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