Good Friday, 2013                                                       
Rev. Dr. D. K. Schroeder
Isaiah 53:4-6 Sermon                                                                               
March 29, 2013

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Hymns (from The Lutheran Hymnal):

154 "Alas!  And Did My Saviour Bleed"
172 "O Sacred Head Now Wounded"
170 "O Perfect Life Of Love"
655 "I Pray Thee, Dear Lord Jesus"
----- "The Old Rugged Cross"
180-186 "Jesus In Thy Dying Woes" 


TEXT:  “4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 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. 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.”

          If you’ve been watching the news at all lately, you’ve probably seen the recent updates on the Sandy Hook school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.  It was at 9.30 am on December 14th of last year that 20 year-old Adam Lanza went to Sandy Hook Primary School, armed with an assault rifle, and fatally shot 20 students and 6 faculty members.  Before leaving his home that morning, he fatally shot his own mother.  And the whole thing ended when he committed suicide by shooting himself in the head. 

          This is the news that greeted me on my 58th birthday, which was December 14, 2012.  It’s a birthday that I’m not going to soon forget either.

          This event literally rocked the small town of Newtown, Connecticut right down to the foundations.  Nobody can really comprehend the intense amount of shock, grief, sadness, mourning, and other emotions that the townspeople were feeling.  Then we can consider the added grief of the family members of the casualties that spread across the nation.  And of course we all were very deeply touched by this incident, even if we didn’t have any close relatives involved.

          And now, with the recent news events surrounding the releasing of information about Adam Lanza and what they found in his home, this is back in the headlines again.  And with the pending legislation about gun control, the families of the Sandy Hook victims are speaking out.  It’s like we’re reliving this nightmare all over again; but for them, it’s like the nightmare hasn’t stopped.  And this whole flood of emotions starts all over again as well.

          This is the effect of sin gone rampant.  The sinful activities of Adam Lanza are right at the front.  It’s blatantly obvious.  But the effects are far-reaching and deep.  We know that murder and mayhem was not part of God’s will for humanity.  We also know that the sorrow and sadness people are experiencing was not part of God’s will either.  But because of what sin has done, these intense emotions are a natural result.  That’s what we have to deal with today, is the effect sin has had upon our world.

          This evening as we once again ponder our Saviour’s cross and his suffering and death, we need to see just how far reaching and how deep our Saviour’s love is for us.  His love for us never stops, and it has no bounds.  And that’s what we see explained in our text for this evening, which is Isaiah’s prophecy about Jesus, the suffering servant.

          The very first part of verse 4 says:  “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows…”  When we hear that, we first think of the grief and sorrow we have over sin in our own lives.  We are sinful creatures who desire the forgiveness God offers through Jesus.  When we come confessing our sins, we do so with a sense of grief and sorrow that we are sinful in the first place.  That’s the most obvious meaning, and it is important for us to realize this.  But we must also realize that the meaning goes far deeper than that.

          As I was studying this section of Scripture preparing for this evening, one source brought up what Matthew records in chapter 8, verses 14-17.  Listen to the account of what happened:   14 And when Jesus entered Peter's house, he saw his mother-in-law lying sick with a fever. 15 He touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she rose and began to serve him. 16 That evening they brought to him many who were oppressed by demons, and he cast out the spirits with a word and healed all who were sick. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: ‘He took our illnesses and bore our diseases.’”      

          Do you see what Matthew did here?  He directed us right back to our text for this evening.  By giving us the story of Peter’s mother-in-law, we are given a much broader picture of Jesus bearing all of our griefs, sorrows, illnesses, and diseases.  It’s like we sing in the old hymn:  “What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear; what a privilege to carry, everything to God in prayer.”

          Dr. Roland Miller has this to say: “Christ the Healer was not a magician. When he takes away sin, he suffers for sin. When he takes away disease, in some way — and I leave with you and your own experience to decide in what way — he suffers that too.”

          It’s difficult for us to understand what Jesus feels when it comes to sin and suffering.  We like to think about forgiveness in terms of our sin just disappearing into thin air.  It’s like the Apostle John says in his first Epistle, that if we confess our sins, our faithful and just God will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  That’s a great thing for us to remember.  We receive the forgiveness we ask for.  Jesus came to make all of that possible.

          But what we don’t understand is what actually happens with all those sins and griefs.  They don’t just magically disappear and vaporize into thin air.  Those are the sins and griefs that were laid upon Jesus himself.  When Jesus went to the cross, he took with him all of the burden of sin, which included all of the effects of sin.

          If we think about the Sandy Creek incident again, just think of the huge burden that sin has caused.  But our Saviour has assured those affected by this tragedy, just like he has assured us in our individual circumstances, that he takes all of that burden away, and puts it upon himself.  Isaiah reminds us that this happens “surely.”  That’s the way this prophecy begins.  Jesus has borne the sins and griefs of the world without any doubt at all.  It is for real.

          If we look at our own lives with our own sin and our own individual set of griefs and sorrows, we can understand the immense burden that creates.  If we attempt to carry this all on our own, we would be certainly crushed.  And now if we multiply that by each and every person that ever lived or will live, we can’t even begin to comprehend what that burden must have been like for Jesus as he carried it to the cross.

          However, we hear some blessed words of assurance in verse 5 of our text for this evening: “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.”  This is what he did willingly and gladly for people the likes of you and me, simply because he loves us.  He came, so that through faith alone in him, our sins would be forgiven and we would be healed.

          As part of our Tenebrae service this evening, we will be singing the old hymn “Jesus in thy dying woes,” which focuses upon the seven last words of Jesus on the cross.  As we sing this, I want you to pay special attention to the verbs in those verses: he craves our pardon, he pities, he loves, he is whelmed, he thirsts, and he obeyed.  In addition to this, he wants to supply us with his grace so that we come to him in faith alone, craving the forgiveness he offers to us.  And because of what we receive, we now crave forgiveness for others and pity the lost, the suffering, and the sorrowing.

          The last verse of the hymn reads:  “May your life and death supply Grace to live and grace to die, Grace to reach the home on high: Hear us, holy Jesus.”   He does not want us to be whelmed over by the magnitude of the suffering we see around us, but be whelmed by his power and mercy.  He wants us to thirst for the peace that can only come through faith in Jesus our Saviour.  This is the faith we share with the world around us.

     As we come together this Good Friday to once again walk the way of the cross to Golgotha, the sheer magnitude of all this can be overwhelming.   We will never comprehend all that Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour carried, bore, and suffered.  What we can comprehend however, is why he did it. Listen to the words of Dr. Martin Luther:  “…he descended from the bosom of the Father into our misery and our prison, that is, into our flesh and our most wretched life, and took upon himself the penalty for our sins so that we might be saved.”

So as we depart God’s house this Good Friday evening, we can leave with the knowledge of what Jesus has surely done for us on our behalf.  He has borne all of our sin and the effect sin has had on our lives.  And we can remember the simple words of John chapter 3, verses 16-17:   “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.”