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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
 www.oaklawnurc.org/
 
Title:Like a Lamb Led to the Slaughter
Text:Isaiah 53:1-12 (View)
Occasion:Easter (Good Friday)
Topic:Christ's Suffering
 
Preached:04/03/2015
Added:2015-06-12
Updated:2015-06-13
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


 

Pastor Ted Gray
Good Friday
04/03/2015
 
Like a Lamb Led to Slaughter”
Isaiah 53:1-12
 
In our call to worship from Matthew 26 we read about the betrayal of Jesus Christ. We read how He was betrayed with the most intimate of expressions, a kiss. We read of how one of His disciples, whom we know was Peter from John’s account of the betrayal, struck the servant of the high priest with his sword, cutting off his ear.  Jesus then said to Peter, “Put your sword back in its place... Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than 12 legions of angels?” And He added, “But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?” (Matthew 26:54).
 
As the familiar hymn puts it:
 
He could have called ten thousand angels
To destroy the world and set Him free.
He could have called ten thousand angels,
But He died alone, for you and me.
 
Why is that? Seeing that Jesus had all power to be free from His accusers why did He allow His arrest to take place? Why did He allow himself to be led like a lamb to the slaughter?
 
The answer is written throughout Scripture, including the passage from Isaiah 53 that is before us. Isaiah 53 is a remarkable example of the inspiration of Scripture. It is a remarkable example of the truth described in 2 Peter 1:21, For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
 
In this passage, written some 700 years before the birth of Jesus, Isaiah by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit teaches us that Jesus was led like a lamb to the slaughter because, first, His death was substitutionary.
 
 Substitutionary Atonement
 
Theologians speak about the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ, meaning that Jesus became our substitute as He bore the curse we deserve for our sin. As Isaiah 53:4 says, Surely He took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered Him stricken by God smitten by Him and afflicted.
 
Who deserves to be stricken by God? Who deserves to be smitten by God and afflicted by Him? Who deserves to be charged as guilty? Who deserves to be cursed for their sin? It is you, and it is me. It is all humanity apart from Christ. As verse 6 says, We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us is turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
 
Although He could have called a dozen legions of angels to set him free, Jesus allowed Himself to be led like a lamb to the slaughter so that He would be our substitute, and take upon Himself the righteous and proper curse for sin that we deserve.
 
Perhaps, as the Holy Spirit inspired Isaiah to write the 53rd chapter, Isaiah may have been thinking about the scapegoat that was used in Old Testament times to symbolize how Jesus, as our substitute, bears our sin and takes the curse that our sin deserves upon Himself.
 
Leviticus 16 describes how on the annual Day of Atonement the high priest would take two goats and cast lots to see which goat would be sacrificed and which goat would be the scapegoat. The blood of the goat that was sacrificed pointed to the sacrifice of Jesus and His shed blood.
 
But the scapegoat also pointed to Jesus. The high priest would lay both his hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites. By doing so he would symbolically place the sins of the people on the goat’s head. As Leviticus 16:21 says,  He shall send the goat away into the desert in the care of the man appointed for the task. The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a solitary place and the man shall release it in the desert.
 
No Old Testament sacrifice could fully portray the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. But on the Day of Atonement the goat that was sacrificed and whose blood was shed clearly pointed to the sacrifice of Christ and His shed blood. But the sacrifice of the goat who was sent outside the camp into the wilderness, symbolically bearing the sins of the people, also pointed to Christ. Jesus shed His blood as our substitute; our sins were placed on Him, and He was crucified outside of Jerusalem,  outside the city gate (Hebrews 13:12) as the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.  
 
He Bore Our Punishment
 
There is another reason why Jesus did not call the 12 legions of angels that were at His disposal. It was so that the punishment that brought us peace would be upon Him. In other words, His death was not only substitutionary but penal. He took the penalty for our sin upon Himself.
 
The penalty for sin is death. Romans 6:23 is crystal clear: The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  By being led like a lamb to the slaughter Jesus took the full penalty for your sin and mine, because on the cross He experienced death in all its forms. He experienced physical death. But He also experienced spiritual death. And He experienced eternal death.
 
Death, in the Bible, refers to separation. In physical death the soul separates itself from the body and goes to its eternal destiny. Spiritual death, in the Bible, refers to the separation from God that all humanity has unless, by God’s grace and Holy Spirit’s power, we are born again. What then is eternal death?  Eternal death refers to eternal separation from the love of God in the agony of hell. And that penalty for sin, – the wages of sin is death – Jesus took upon Himself, in all its forms, by being led like a lamb to the slaughter.
 
The greatest agony Jesus faced on the cross was not the excruciating pain of physical death by crucifixion. The greatest agony that Jesus faced on the cross was the separation from His heavenly Father’s love. His greatest agony in the crucifixion came as He endured for us the penalty of eternal separation from God the Father, all the agony of hell, on the cross. Jesus expressed that torment in the agonizing rhetorical question, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”- which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  (Matthew 27:46).
 
He could have called legions of angels to deliver Him, but He allowed Himself to be led like a lamb to the slaughter to pay the penalty in full for your sin and mine, if we truly believe upon Him.
 
A Guilt Offering
 
Not only was the substitutionary death of Jesus penal as He bore the penalty for our sin in His body, but it was also propitiatory – that is, atoning. As verse 10 says, The Lord makes His life a guilt offering.
 
The penal aspect of the death of Jesus speaks of the negative element. It describes His payment for the penalty of our sin.  But the propitiatory portion of His death speaks of the positive. The word “propitiate” means “to appease the wrath of someone” - in this case God - and it is done by covering over that which has caused the wrath.
 
In the Greek translation of the Old Testament, known as the Septuagint, the root word for “propitiate”  (hilasterion)  was used for the mercy seat on the ark of the covenant in the holy of  holies, the most holy place in the tabernacle and temple. The ark was a little under four feet long and over 2 feet wide. It contained the two tablets of the law, and the author of Hebrews describes how it also contained a jar of manna and the staff of Aaron. The cover, known as the mercy seat, was overlaid with gold and had cherubim with outstretched wings over the cover. God promised to reveal Himself between the outspread wings of the cherubim. (Exodus 25:22).
 
Once per year, on the Day of Atonement, the high priest would enter the Most Holy Place and sprinkle the blood of a sacrificed animal on the mercy seat on the ark. The blood of the sacrifice came in between the presence of God - between the outstretched wings of the cherubim - and the two tablets of the Law which were underneath the mercy seat.
 
The blood of the sacrificed animal was a foreshadow of the shed blood of Jesus Christ. The blood on the mercy seat covered the sight of the law, which had been broken innumerable times by the people. The blood of the sacrifice was pointing to the appeasement of God the Father’s wrath through the sacrifice of the Son’s shed blood. By His blood your sins and my sins are covered, if indeed we believe in Him with saving faith.
 
On the ultimate Day of Atonement, the day we remember as Good Friday, Jesus shed His blood to be the atoning sacrifice – the propitiation – for the sins of all who believe in Him.
 
Many Are Justified
 
How does the death of Jesus Christ on the cross apply to us, especially on this Good Friday as we take the Lord’s supper together?
 
One application is that many are justified by the sacrifice of Jesus. Isaiah’s prophecy ends in verse 12 by saying, For He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. That language is similar to the language which Jesus used when He instituted the Lord’s Supper. In Matthew 26:28, as Jesus took of the cup, gave thanks and offered it to His disciples He said: “This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”
 
The “many” that Jesus speaks of describes a number so great that it cannot be counted. The Lord had promised Abraham that his descendants – and that is his spiritual descendants, those who like Abraham are justified by faith in the Messiah (Galatians 3:29) – would be so numerous that they would outnumber the grains of sand on the seashore and the number of stars in the sky.
 
In much the same way the sins of those who are justified also outnumber the grains of sand on  the seashore and the number of stars in the sky. And they are heinous sins, each one worthy of eternal death, eternal separation from the love of God in hell. There is the drunkenness of Noah who lay uncovered in his tent, bringing on the mockery of his son, Ham.  There is the adultery of David, along with murder and many other sins and shortcomings. There’s the denial of stouthearted Peter who said, “Even if I have to die with You, I will never disown You.”
 
Just as there is no way to count the number of those who are justified by the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ, so too, there is no way to count the number of sins covered by His precious blood. Yet those sins, far too numerous to count, are all covered by the blood of Jesus Christ, - with one provision: Those justified are the ones who believe.
 
Justified by Faith in Christ Alone
    
The last verse of Isaiah 53 assures us that Jesus bore the sin of many, and in the first verse we see who the “many” are. They are the ones who believe the promise of Scripture. They are the ones who believe with a saving faith in Jesus Christ. Isaiah begins this chapter by writing, Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
 
The arm of the Lord, – an expression which describes the strength and power of the Lord to redeem you from your sin, – must be accepted by faith in Jesus Christ. As we take of the bread and drink of the cup we must always examine ourselves. We must always ask ourselves, “Have we truly repented of our sin? Is our faith truly based in Jesus Christ alone for salvation? Is the desire of our heart to leave this building serving Him, being faithful to Him, living by His Word?”
____
 
On September 14, 2008 Ray Overholt died. He was 84 years old. You might recognize his name as the author of that familiar hymn, 10,000 Angels. A year before his death, Overholt had given an interview to Belief.net in which he described what led him to write the song.
 
He described how he was a country western singer who played in all the honky-tonk bars. His life was controlled by alcohol and the sins that flowed from that were many. But he knew that people were praying for him. And because of that, even though he wasn’t a Christian at the time, he thought he should write a hymn about Jesus. He opened a Bible and found his way to that passage we read in the call to worship from Matthew 26, where Jesus says, Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than 12 legions of angels?”
 
Based on that verse he wrote the hymn, not realizing that 12 legions of angels is far more than 10,000. A legion in the Roman army was 6000 soldiers. 12 legions of angels would be 72,000 angels. But he explained, he wasn't a Christian, he didn’t know much about the Bible.
 
But by God’s grace, that song which he wrote when he was singing in the honky-tonk bars, with his life controlled by alcohol, was also what the Lord used to lead him toward salvation. He began to sing the song in churches and while doing so heard the gospel proclaimed. By the Holy Spirit’s regenerating power Ray Overholt placed his faith in Jesus alone for salvation.  By God’s sovereign grace, the man who sang in so many honky-tonk bars was now among those whom Isaiah refers to when he asks the question, Who has believed our message and to whom is the arm of the Lord been revealed?
 
And I ask the same question of you: The arm – the strength – of the Lord has been revealed to you. You know the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ. You know that He alone could pay the penalty for the wages of sin, and did so on the cross of Calvary. And you know that He is the Propitiation, the One whose blood makes an atoning sacrifice which covers every sin believers have ever committed. His shed blood even covers every sin that we will, unfortunately, commit in the future.
 
You and I know those truths. They are clear in Scripture, but are they also embedded in your heart? Do you believe in Christ with saving faith?  Is your faith, and mine, truly placed in Christ alone?
 
The Suffering Servant Glorified
 
And then a third application: He who suffered so greatly will be eternally glorified. Verse 11 and 12 describe how since the Lamb led to the slaughter justified many and bore their iniquities, He will be given a portion among the great. As verse 12 says He will divide the spoils among the strong.
 
Those verses are pointing to the exaltation of Jesus Christ. Those verses are pointing to the exaltation described in Philippians 2 which tell how Jesus made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, 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.
 
Isaiah is pointing ahead to the exaltation of Jesus Christ described in so many Scriptures, including Revelation chapter 5.  In that chapter we read of an innumerable angelic host singing in a loud voice: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” Then John writes: I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: “To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be the praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!”

* * *
He could have called ten thousand angels
To destroy the world and set Him free.
He could have called ten thousand angels,
But He died alone, for you and me.
Do you believe that?  If so, then you know why a day in which a horrific crucifixion took place is remembered as “Good Friday.”  Jesus, rather than
calling legions of angels, allowed Himself to be led like a lamb to the slaughter to pay the penalty and to bear the curse of all those who believe
in Him alone for salvation. Amen.

 

- bulletin outline -

 

He was oppressed and afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so He did not open His mouth. -  Isaiah 53:7

 

“Like a Lamb Led to Slaughter”
Isaiah 53:1-12
I.  Jesus was led like a lamb to the slaughter (7) because:
    1) His death was substitutionary (4)


  
     2) His death was penal: The punishment that brought us peace was upon Him (5)


 
     3) His death was propitiatory – atoning; although we like sheep have gone astray, Jesus made
        atonement for us on the cross (6, 10)


 
II. Applications:
     1) Many are justified by the sacrifice of Jesus (12)


    
     2) Those justified are the ones who believe (1)


 
     3) He who suffered so greatly will be eternally glorified (11-12)



 
04/03/2015
Good Friday



* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 04/0, Rev. Ted Gray

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