Sent To Bear Our Sins

Isaiah 53:1-12

Rev. Bryn MacPhail

When did we lose control? When did we lose site of what Christmas is about? This is the time of year when even the most devout Christians begin to be lured into focusing on buying presents, visiting relatives, and preparing turkey dinners.

They key word here is 'focusing'. We all have presents to buy. We all have relatives to visit. We all have dinners to prepare for. The question is, 'Are we going to allow these things to crowd out the true meaning of Christmas?'.

So what is the 'true meaning' of Christmas? More properly put, why is the birth of Jesus so significant? As you can see from my 6 sermon titles, there are multiple purposes behind the first coming of Jesus--but I would contend that the other 5 purposes behind the Incarnation of the Son of God all flow from this first purpose:

Jesus was sent to bear our sins .

The 5 subsequent purposes hinge on this one primary purpose--Jesus came to earth to bear our sins. This is the message of Isaiah 53.

In chapter 52, Isaiah announces the coming of God's "servant "(52:13) and introduces some of the purposes of the servant's mission. In 52:15, Isaiah proclaims that "(the servant) will sprinkle many nations ".

For reasons beyond my understanding, your pew Bibles read that "(the servant) shall startle many nations " while, at the same time, footnoting that the meaning of the Hebrew word translated "startle " is uncertain. I can assure you that the meaning of the Hebrew word, naza , is not uncertain--it is a common Old Testament word, best translated as "sprinkle ".

This is not a minor point. In the Old Testament, naza , the sprinkling of blood or water, was always associated with cleansing from guilt and sin. So by saying "(the servant) will sprinkle many nations ", Isaiah was saying something very profound--he was saying that the servant is coming to cleanse people of their sins .

What is not so striking to us, but would have struck a nerve with the Israelites, is that the servant was not simply coming to cleanse Israel of their sins, but he was coming to cleanse people from "many nations " of their sins.

This leads us into chapter 53, "Who has believed what we have heard? "(v.1). Isaiah, in chapter 52, describes the Messiah's physical appearance as "marred "(52:14), and prophesies that the Messiah will not simply cleanse Israel, but He will cleanse "many nations " of their sins(52:15). Isaiah's question then, "Who has believed what we have heard? ", demonstrates that he recognizes the difficulties his prophecy poses for the Hebrew people.

Isaiah's message is hard for them to swallow, but he promises them more than just a message to be heard--he also promises them a person to be seen. Isaiah's next question is, "to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? "(53:1).

Notice that Isaiah is equating the "servant "(52:13; 53:11) and "the arm of the Lord " here(53:1). What does this say about the Lord's servant? In Isaiah 51:9 the "arm of the Lord " is the Lord Himself, and in 52:10 the "arm " of the Lord is "bared "--His sleeves are rolled up for action because the Lord purposes to act personally. Theologian, J. Alec Motyer, paraphrases this section by saying, 'Who could have believed that this (servant) was the arm of the Lord?'(Motyer, Isaiah, 333). Isaiah is promising that God Himself is coming to fix things--God is coming to cleanse the people of their sins.

Not only was the arm of the Lord going to be revealed, not only was God coming to make an appearance, but He was coming in human flesh. Isaiah describes the servant by saying that, "he grew up before him like a young plant "(53:2). This demonstrates that while, on the one hand, the servant was fully God, He was, on the other hand, plainly human with a natural growth. Isaiah also describes the servant as one who grew "like a root out of dry ground "--this is likely a reference to His traceable human ancestry.

Isaiah's message was, indeed, difficult to digest. He was promising an appearance from God, but an appearance in ordinary human flesh--an appearance with no outward "beauty "(lit. "form ") or "majesty "(53:2). Since God's appearance would be ordinary, Isaiah prophesies that the servant would be "despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity; and as one from whom others hide their faces, he was despised, and we held him of no account "(53:3).

To the question, 'Why did Jesus come to earth?', Isaiah gives a clear answer in verse 5: "He was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the punishment that made us whole, and by His bruises we are healed ". Jesus came to earth to suffer. Sweet, baby Jesus came to earth to die.

To be precise, the word translated, "for " in verse 5 comes from the Hebrew, "min " which literally means "from ". Now plug the word "from " into verse 5: "He was wounded from our transgressions, crushed from our iniquities ". Do you see the cause and effect relationship here? Our transgressions, our iniquities were the cause, His suffering and death were the effects. Jesus did not simply die as a martyr--He died as a substitute--our substitute. The punishment that was ours, Jesus took upon Himself .

We, "like sheep ", had "gone astray "; we had "all turned to our own way ", but the Lord "laid on Him the iniquity of us all ". There are no exceptions here. The Messiah was sent to die for your sins; He was sent to die for my sins. "All of us " had "gone astray ". This is a sobering truth.

The birth of Jesus was not a part of a public relations strategy for God. The coming of the Messiah, the birth of Jesus, was to be a rescue mission .

In verse 10, Isaiah writes that "it was the will of the Lord to crush Him with pain "--let's stop right there. It was "the will of the Lord " to "crush (the Messiah) with pain "? God is not simply tolerating the Messiah's death here, but Isaiah clearly says that the Messiah's suffering and death is a part of "the will of the Lord ". How can this be? Surely, the second half of the verse answers the question for us. The temporary, albeit terrible, pain of the Messiah was ordained to produce eternal dividends. The Messiah was to "render Himself as an offering for sin ".

The purpose of "rendering Himself as an offering for sin ", is given at the end of verse 11, "My Servant will justify the many ". It is important to recognize that we need 'justifying' in the first place. In our natural, sinful, state, we are not acceptable to God--as the apostle Paul has said, we are "by nature, children of wrath "(Eph. 2:3). Isaiah reminds us that "all of us " have "gone astray ".

We are all sinners in need of justification. And as sinners, our "wages " is "death "(Rom. 6:23). If we want to receive what is coming to us, if we want to receive what is fair, we get condemnation.

This is why the Son of God came to earth. The Son of God came to earth to bear our sins(53:12), and to thereby free us from the penalty of condemnation .

I am always amazed that, even in the church, Christmas gets more attention than Good Friday. From a marketing standpoint, I understand that Christmas is more conducive to commercialism than Good Friday. But from a Christian standpoint, the goal of Christmas is Good Friday and Easter . Christmas is but the first stage in the unfolding of God's glorious plan of redemption.

We, as Christians, must have clear in our minds why Jesus came to earth. The first coming of the Son of God was not some experiment to see, first hand, how humans behave. Isaiah explains quite clearly the purpose of the coming Messiah. Jesus was born to die. Jesus was to come and "render Himself as an offering for sin ", that by bearing our sins, all who trusted in that offering would be justified.

As much as we want to describe Christmas as being 'all about family', and as being 'all about love and peace', we must not ignore the plain teaching of Scripture: Christmas is about God's love and peace . Christmas is about God's love and peace that came to us at such a great cost to Him.

This is why we are to follow Jesus Christ with all of our heart, soul, strength, and mind. We are to live for Jesus because Jesus died for us . Amen.