my righteous servant will justify many, and He will bear their iniquities.”
Come to think of it, our Lord Jesus Christ died in Genesis, the first book of the Bible. Addressing Satan, God announced: “I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your offspring and hers, he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” (Genesis 3:15) Put in everyday language; “You used the woman to bring down the human race; and I will use the woman as an instrument to bring the Redeemer into the world, who will save the human race.” (The Expositor’s Bible)
God will not tolerate sin, therefore if God is just, all sin must be punished. However God made provision, a way of escape, for the human race. It was just a question of timing, ‘in the fullness of time.’ Things came to a head some two thousand years ago in Jerusalem on the Calvary Hill where the Lamb of God was slain and His blood shed, to fulfil, once and for all, what is written that without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin. (Hebrews 9:22b )
That He would send a Messiah to the world to redeem the world from sin, runs like a thread throughout the thirty-nine books of the Old Testament. God projects what His mission would be and what He would accomplish. He specifically revealed that this Saviour would die and went further to unravel how. First, He had to be born, and this was realised through a mysterious virgin birth. God became man and lived as a man with human beings.
When it was time to fulfil the task, the Godhead deemed the Son ‘good enough’ and the only one worthy, to pay the price of sin. Jesus met the perfect requirements. His response: “Here I am – it is written about me in the scroll—I have come to do your will, O God.” (Hebrews 10:7)
God put in the spirit of the prophet Isaiah these words of approval. “Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on Him and He will bring justice to the nations. He will not shout or cry out, or raise His voice in the streets. A bruised reed He will not break, and a smouldering wick He will not stuff out. In faithfulness He will bring forth justice; He will not falter or be discouraged till He establishes justice on earth. In His law the islands will put their hope.” (Isaiah 42:1-4) Our Lord Jesus offered to go down this road for the sake of humanity, willingly. “I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pull out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting...” (Isaiah 50:6)
The Suffering Servant
The prophet Isaiah described in minute detail the sufferings the Lamb of God would have to bear for our redemption. It was, to say the least, cruel and wicked. Yes, He had to pay for sins He had not committed, to die a death that He did not deserve, so that you and I would be set free. He bore the brunt of a violent punishment worthy of a criminal. He was despised, rejected and severely maltreated. Here was a humble and righteous man who would not hurt a fly. Yet for the sake of our sins, He underwent all of it. “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 disfigured beyond that of any man and His form marred beyond human likeness.” (Isaiah 52:13-14)
“He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him.” (Isaiah 532b) “A man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces He was despised, and we esteemed Him not.” (Isaiah 53:3)
The prophet Isaiah lived about eight hundred years before Jesus’ crucifixion and he prophesied with precision the gory details of what would occur.
The most painful bit was that Jesus was privy to all that He would endure. Nothing could be more traumatising than to watch it unfold before your very eyes the stark reality of human treachery. He would need every ounce of energy He could have mustered, first to bear the heavy cross alone and secondly, to take upon Himself all that mockery, scorn, humiliation and shame. Yet He considered accomplishing the will of the Father of paramount importance as an act of obedience; and in so doing glorify His name. With this in mind, He was able to say, in a matter-of-fact way, “My Father if it is not possible for this cup to pass away unless I drink it, may Your will be done.” (Matthew 26:42)
Thus after His death as prophesied by the prophet Isaiah, “He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in His death, though He had done no violence, nor was any deceit found in His mouth.” (Isaiah 53:9)
The punishment that should have been meted to humanity Jesus bore as our substitute. “Surely He took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered Him stricken by God, smitten by Him, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed. We all like sheep have gone astray, each has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:4-6)
On that fateful day, our Lord Jesus willingly went to the cross, without restraint. This act of sacrifice was the ultimate. There would be no need for any more sacrifice. He did it once and for all. By His death He wrapped up all the preceding animal sacrifices that were a mere shadow of what was to come. When God instituted the sacrifice of blood at the Garden to cover sin (Genesis 3:21) He had in mind the sacrifice of His Son for the redemption of sins.
(Part two next week)