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Author:Pastor Ted Van Raalte
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 Canadian Reformed Church - CanRC
Preached At:Redeemer Canadian Reformed Church
 Winnipeg, Manitoba
Title:Man of Sorrows
Text:Isaiah 53:1-3 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God The Son

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Liturgy 10:00 a. m.
Psalm 98:1,2.
Psalm 44:1,2,3.
Read: Isaiah 51:1-16
Psalm 80:1,2,3.
Text: Isaiah 53:1-3
Hymn 21:1,2,3.
Psalm 80:7,8.
Psalm 98:3,4
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Pastor Ted Van Raalte, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ our Lord,

We are once again going to remember the death of our Saviour, when he was nailed to a torturous death. The date for Good Friday is this week. Has it snuck up on you? There hasn't been much warning from the world. Of course you can go out and get some Easter eggs and Easter bunnies. In another week you can start buying chocolate at reduced prices. But the world didn't announce a thing about the real events lying behind Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

That's on purpose. How many chocolate bunnies and eggs could you sell if you had each one wrapped in paper that contained John chapters 18 through 20? For, who still thinks chocolate is important after pondering the death of Christ? What do Easter sales figures at your local Zellers mean after you read Isaiah 53? Who really cares about how much money people spend when they realize that Jesus gave what money cannot buy?

The problem is that all too often matters are just the other way around. What usually happens is this: Who really cares about the Easter message after they pour over their astonishing Easter sales figures? Who really cares about Isaiah 53 when they can have fun hunting for hidden eggs? Who really cares about the man of sorrows when they can munch on rich dark chocolate to their heart's delight? Who cares? Few believed Isaiah's message long ago. Few believed Christ's own message later on. Few today believe the gospel of God's rich grace in Jesus Christ. It just doesn't matter to them.

So the question we must face is whether it matters to us! Of course you're sitting here so how could anyone doubt that for you this is of utmost importance? How could anyone doubt it? Who do you think Isaiah was preaching to in our text? To Gentiles? To non-covenant people? To those far removed from God? No! Not at all! He addressed the covenant people of God and he asked, "Who has believed our message?" Who? Rhetorical question, like Rom. 8. No one!

The apostle Paul picked up on this rhetorical question, "But not all [the Israelites] accepted the good news," he writes. "For Isaiah says, 'Lord, who has believed our message?'" (Rom. 10:16). Concerning Israel Isaiah says, "All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people." (Rom. 10:21). They rejected the Christ because his appearance was not acceptable to them. They did not want a man of sorrows. They wanted a man of power! Therefore the question which must be driven home this morning is, "Can You Accept the Man of Sorrows On The Way to The Cross?" This is the message of Isaiah 53:1-3 for us, "Can You Accept the Man of Sorrows On The Way to The Cross?" That is the challenge facing us from the text, for there was nothing to attract us to him, all kinds of things to repel us, and there are a great many attractions outside of him. So, what is your approach to the suffering servant in our text, the man of sorrows who was despised? Do you also despise him? Or can you accept the man of sorrows on the way to the cross?

This morning we are thinking of the time of Jesus' life a week before he was crucified. He began that final week of his life by entering Jerusalem riding on a donkey to the shouts of the children. Yet he was enduring the wrath of the leaders at the same time. "Tell those children to be quiet!" Those leaders treated him that way for all his life. He was never accepted. From his birth to his death, they were sceptical, they were jealous, and they were full of hatred. And their perspective had a huge impact on the nation as a whole.

As he looked ahead to this time, Isaiah had a message from God, a revelation. He began by asking who has believed our message, the message of the prophets. Practically no one! Then he tells us what would make it so hard to believe. This message would find its focus in one person, the "He" of verse 2. He would be despised and therefore the message about him would be despised.

This "He" is the "servant" of chapter 52:13f, "See, my servant will act wisely, he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted. Just as there were many who were appalled at him - his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness - so will he sprinkle many nations, and kings will shut their mouths because of him." (Isa. 52:13-15a). The kings will see something they never before saw or heard of. They will discern some truth about it, but it will surely still be an enigma to them until God reveals the meaning of it all. For, what they saw was so appalling that it turned many away from the message. "Lord, who has believed our message?"

This servant would grow up like a tender shoot. The word is the same as used for a suckling infant. In English we might indeed translate it as "sucker." A sucker is one of those shoots that grows out of an old dead stump or from the roots of a tree. The meaning, therefore, does not lie in the idea of tenderness, but in the idea of helplessness. This arm of the LORD is seen in a young and fragile sucker that is growing up. It starts life as nothing, unnoticed and unimportant.

This picture is continued with the parallel, "and like a root out of dry ground." Now the source from which the sucker draws is shown to be dried out. It has no support but dry ground. It cannot grow or become anything except by special intervention. By nature, it would not grow. This picture should remind us of what Isaiah prophesied in chapter 6:13, "the holy seed will be the stump in the land." All that would be left of the holy seed was a stump. This prophecy was given for the covenant people of God who would be almost destroyed. They would be taken into exile, their homes destroyed, their families broken up, their lives uprooted. Nothing would remain in the land but an old stump.

But the Lord's promise was that out of this stump would come forth a shoot. "A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit." (Isa. 11:1). This very shoot is the servant in our text who would grow up like a sucker out of dry ground.

For the exiled people of Judah no tangible sign of the Lord's covenant blessings would remain. All they would have was his Word. In his Word the LORD promised that the very Servant of the Lord who was coming would arise out of the most humble circumstances, just like they were in. One would have counted the tree completely dead, but then a sucker sprouts up. No one pays attention, because it is nothing to look at. Nothing like that illustrious oak that once stood over the same spot. No great size, no beauty, no majesty. No wonder no one took notice.

"He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not." The exiled people of Judah had these words of Isaiah to ponder. They could resolve to set their thinking straight and see the Lord's work where others would miss it. As he said through Zechariah, "Who despises the day of small things?" (Zech. 4:10). This was the message they were to believe, that the very one despised, the one without beauty or majesty, the man of sorrows, was a revelation of God.

We don't need to be in the dark about whom Isaiah speaks. Isaiah may have searched diligently to determine the time and circumstances of the things he was prophesying, but we who live later should not be ignorant. No one so fit the description here given as did Jesus of Nazareth.

His appearance at that time in Israel was unnoticed by all. He was born in the humblest circumstances, laid in a trough from which animals ate their food. Only lowly shepherds and far away wise men worshipped him. A select few, like Simeon and Anna, knew him. But the leaders rejected him. He was from Nazareth. Nothing good could come from there. His own people from Nazareth despised him, "Isn't this Joseph's son?" (Lk. 4:22). "Isn't this the carpenter's son? Isn't his mother's name Mary, and aren't his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? Aren't all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things? And they took offense at him." (Mt. 13:55-57a). When he told them the truth about their sinful hearts they determined to kill him by throwing him off a cliff.

Besides his humble circumstances and the rejection of his hometown, the Lord also suffered general rejection from the people. The leaders accused him of casting out demons by Beelzebub. He had to avoid certain areas because of their desire to kill him. He had to weep over Jerusalem for their failure to accept the message of the prophets, for stoning those sent to them (Mt. 23:37). Our Lord also saw the suffering of God's people. His heart was moved to compassion at the sight of a widow going to bury her only son. He wept at the tomb of Lazarus.

But when we look for the man of sorrows, we must look especially at the end of his life. That man of sorrows who was familiar with suffering had to face the agony of the cross. Not just of nails driven through the flesh of his palms, but the heavy curse of God. In the Garden of Gethsemane he was sweating blood as he prayed to his Father. He was in agony unlike anything anyone has ever endured. Familiar with suffering. Indeed! He suffered as no one ever did since the foundation of the world. A man of sorrows. Indeed! "My heart is sorrowful, even unto death." he shares with his disciples (Mt. 26:38). One of his own disciples handed him over! Then they all forsook him and fled, as he had foretold (John 16:32).

A man of sorrow! One from whom men hide their face. They are ashamed to look upon him as he stands all alone against the powers of the day, against Caiaphas, against Annas, against Pilate, against Herod, against the whole world. What a sight he is! What can he do? He looks helpless. He looks weak. He has nothing like the looks of royalty. Nothing attractive. Nothing to match the grand claims of his words, they say. He did not make himself great. He made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant. For this all he was despised and rejected. "Like one from whom men hides their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not."

"Who has believed our message? And to whom has the Arm of Yahweh been revealed?" To a people who rejected him! Who is this Arm of Yahweh? It is he! The word "arm" here deserves a capital A. We read about him in chapter 51. "My salvation is on the way, and my Arm will bring justice to the nations." This Arm of the LORD is his great Power, his power for righteousness and salvation. "The islands will look to me and wait in hope for my Arm." "My salvation will last forever, my righteousness will never fail." And again, "Awake, awake! Clothe yourself with strength, O Arm of Yahweh; awake, as in days gone by, as in generations of old." "Was it not you who dried up the sea . . . so that the redeemed might cross over?" Who went with the Israelites? In 1Cor. we read that they all ate and drank from the supernatural Rock that followed them and that Rock was Christ (1Cor. 10:1-4). How was that Rock? Who was that Arm? It was our Lord Jesus Christ, the very some one who took flesh as the man of sorrows who was acquainted with suffering. In him was fulfilled this prophecy from Isaiah 52:7, "Yahweh will lay bare his holy Arm in the sight of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God." He is that Arm by which the LORD redeems his people from their sin, so that, as we also read in Isaiah 51:11, "The ransomed of Yahweh will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away."

And yet the prophet asks, "To whom has this Arm of Yahweh been revealed?" And Paul quotes the answer of Isaiah found in another place, "All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people." (Rom. 10:21, from Isa. 65:2). Isaiah the prophet held the hands of God out to the people. He revealed the message about the Arm of Yahweh. But they despised the message, just as Israel would reject the man of sorrows.

Now today the Holy Spirit takes the same message and presents it to us in all its fulness. We don't just hear about the man of sorrows to come. We have four gospel writers who showed just how much he was despised and rejected. We live in a world that still despises and rejects him, also at Easter.

Can you accept the man of sorrows on the way to the cross? Or do you also despise him? We need to face this question in our time and circumstances.

The world we live in is busy. But it is also exciting. People spend billions on marketing. On making things attractive. On just the right packaging. Just the right slogan. Just the right presentation. We live in an MTV age. Many attractions compete for your attention.

But there is nothing attractive in him. Nothing quick-paced. No adrenalin-pumping beat. No sit on the edge of your feet fantasy. He is the man of sorrows on the way to death. To the cross. You are too busy. You lose sight of him. You have so many exciting things in life. You forget him. You have no time for him. No room for him. No NEED for him!

I am not just afraid that many of us might live our lives that way. I am sure that many of us DO! We live in a world that is constantly challenging moral boundaries. TV programs, DJ's, certain talk shows, and all kinds of advertising sit on the edge of what is acceptable. As the norms keep being challenged, the boundary keeps being adjusted. This kind of stuff gets lots of viewers. It's exciting. It's adrenalin pumping. The craziest things keep people watching, and they just have to get crazier all the time.

We are all shocked at the human rights tribunals and successful court challenges of the gay and lesbian lobby. But on the other hand there are Christians inviting right into their living rooms all kinds of shows that make fun of biblical morals. What you deny at one place you endorse at another. That's like blessing and cursing come out of the same mouth. My brothers, this ought not to be!

Our culture says there is no cross, no need for a cross. Culture says that sorrows are silly, at least if they have to do with sin, because there is no sin. There is no guilt. There is no God. Culture has us busy every moment with exciting entertainment. We are amusing ourselves to death. It is all fun, fun, fun. People were created to party and society exists just to make your life more of a blast. Whether it's the car you drive, the internet service you use, or the breakfast cereal you eat, they all exist for you, to put the world at your fingertips, to make you the king, to give you a good time, to make you forget your worries. Meditation? What is that? Slow down and think? Never!

Can you still accept the man of sorrows on the way to the cross? Or do you despise him too? We live in this culture! We cannot get out of it. We do business in it. We use its resources. We play its sports. We buy its wares. Everything is about energy! good looks! smiles! It's fast, fun, and flirtatious. But too much of it is flirting with the devil and with sin. We live in this! Can you see through it? Can you see the emptiness of a thousand horizontal things occupying your day when there is no vertical thing? No relation to God? It is all empty, futile, and in vain. The short time we are here may be a blast but it will never make up for an eternity without God.

We need the man of sorrows as he is on his way to the cross. We need to believe the message. We need his Power in weakness. We need Jesus Christ, the mighty Arm of God, revealed unto us. Let the following not be said of you!

"Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him. This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet: "Lord, who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?" For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere: "He has blinded their eyes and deadened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn- and I would heal them." Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus' glory and spoke about him. Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not confess their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved praise from men more than praise from God." (John 12:37-43)

Whose praise do you value more? Seriously! If we really value God's praise more than man's then why are we afraid to speak of the hope that is in us? Does the fact that others reject him make it hard for you to accept him? Are you holding back? Are you letting the opinion of others hold back your own expression of jubilation over what he has accomplished and over who he is? Are you scared of the reactions of others? Tiptoeing your faith?

You must dare to be among the few who accept him, the few who really count him to be their Saviour and Lord. You must accept the fact that as they rejected him so they must reject you. He was not esteemed. Nor will you be.

We do not and we cannot share the priorities of the world. God himself revealed this when he sent his own Son without beauty or majesty to attract us to him. God turned the rating system of this world on its head. He directed all those who long for salvation to the man of sorrows and he said, "There is my Power! There is my outstretched Arm! There is my Salvation!" If you want to have my salvation, then you too are going to have to turn all the priorities of your life around. You will have to challenge every assumption this world throws at you. You will need to make the holy gospel the measure of every activity and every enjoyment in this life.

You will have to keep before you the man of sorrows on his way to the cross. He hid his glory and majesty. But he is your King! He is your Saviour! He is your Redeemer! He is your Justifier! He is your Lord! He is your Way to God! He is the Arm of Yahweh and he has been revealed to you.

Behold him walking the way to Jerusalem. Behold him weeping over the city. Let him not weep over you! We face the great danger that Easter with its tears and death somehow doesn't hit home because we are ensnared by the world. Turn your world on its head then, and accept the man of sorrows, on his way to the cross. Believe the message. "Man of sorrows, what a name, for the Son of God who came. Ruined sinners to reclaim. Hallelujah, what a Saviour! Do not fear mortal men or live in constant terror, but listen to him. "I, even I, am he who comforts you." (Isa. 51:12a). He does something real and lasting for you, something more than the world. He saves you. Amen.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Pastor Ted Van Raalte, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2003, Pastor Ted Van Raalte

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