MARTIN CHEMNITZ PRESS
A MIGHTY FORTRESS LUTHERAN CHURCH
Pastor Gregory L. Jackson, Ph.D.
6421 W. Poinsettia Drive
KJV Isaiah 53:1 Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed? 2 For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. 3 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. 5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
UPON THE CROSS
Every child knows the meaning of this Old Testament prophesy. It was written centuries before Christ was born. Imagine someone from King Arthur’s Court predicting what would happen today. That is how distant this prophesy was (not in exact years), so far back in time that one can hardly imagine so many years. And yet, these verses, in fact the entire chapter is a vivid portrayal of the crucifixion of Christ.
Paul uses this verse in Romans 10, teaching us that faith comes by hearing. To be more accurate, he is saying that faith comes by preaching. It is not the act of hearing itself that brings about faith but the Holy Spirit working through the spoken Word of God. Faith comes by sermons, we might say. Who has believed our sermon?
KJV Romans 10:16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? 17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
God’s love for His people was so great that He began preaching the Gospel to us when Adam and Eve were expelled from the garden (Genesis 3:15). If Isaiah was early, think how ancient those words are that we remember tonight. God said to the serpent, “You will bruise his heel, but He will crush your head.”
From the beginning God placed faith in the hearts of people through the spoken Word. Most of the time He entrusted this Word to prophets. Christ appointed apostles who then trained pastors to serve under them. I know one person who does not accept any sermon as the Word of God. He said he can only be taught by direct quotation of Scripture. But Jesus said, “Whoever hears you hears Me.”
KJV Luke 10:16 He that heareth you heareth me; and he that despiseth you despiseth me; and he that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me.
Some people did not even pay attention to Jesus, who taught them:
KJV John 5:24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life
So we are inclined to say, “Who is this, a mere man, to tell us what God thinks and says?” But that is exactly what pastors have been called by God (through the congregation) to do. In the same way the head of the household is placed in that role to teach his family the Word of God. True, many men despise this role and reject it. But it is still God’s decision and appointment, God’s Creation and order. Those who acknowledge this as good and wise will benefit from it.
Faith grows from hearing the Gospel promises. The last two verses in this section are especially noteworthy in a remarkable chapter:
4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. 5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
Verse 4 tells us how terrible the crucifixion would be. Verse 5 teaches us what the crucifixion means. It would have a purpose. The Son of Man would be wounded to pay for our sins, beaten for our evil. His whipping would be to give us peace through the forgiveness of sins. “By His stripes we are healed.”
For those who believe in Jesus, and this comes only through the work of the Holy Spirit in the Word, these words are a great comfort. We already know this, but in hearing it again our faith is deepened.
Luther has two very good points to make about the crucifixion. One is that we should never dwell upon the cross in this way, saying, “Look at what those Jews and Romans did to the perfect Son of God!” That is all wrong and contrary to this lesson. Instead we should say when we meditate on the cross, “Look at what I did to Jesus. Those are my sins that He bore. I was the transgressor and He was whipped. I rebelled against God’s Law and He was humiliated and mocked. I am the cause of His suffering.” Otherwise, although the Romans and the Jewish leaders played a role, we miss the whole concept of His atoning death. If Jesus died because of THEIR sins and not because of MY sins, then I am not expressing faith in the cross.
Secondly, Luther correctly taught that the surest form of sorrow for sin is not weeping, or feeling bad, or outward and emotional signs of repentance. No, the surest sign of genuine repentance (which is a work of the Holy Spirit and not from our own efforts) is when we are forgiving toward others. Whenever we stew about wrongs committed against us, and many of these things do happen, since we do them to others as well, then we are saying, “I would like to enjoy complete and free forgiveness of my sins, but I will not give an ounce of mercy to anyone else.” That is a failure to grasp the meaning of forgiveness, a failure to be thankful for forgiveness.
Why did Jesus die on the cross? He was tortured to give us peace, not agitation. The first step is taking away our sins through His atoning death. God says, “Here is a great Treasure, an infinite source of forgiveness, the cross of My beloved Son, where He poured out His blood for your sins.” The more God teaches us this great truth, the more we trust it and grasp it as the greatest and most life-giving truth on earth. Through this trust in our hearts created by the Word God grants us forgiveness. God says, “You must do one thing absolutely to receive the forgiveness of sins. You must believe the Gospel of forgiveness.” In believing and holding on to this truth, we receive the what the promise offers.
In practicing this forgiveness we enjoy a double blessing. It is far better to be forgiving than to be full of revenge. (Unfortunately, it is also much more difficult, but it gets easier with practice.) And in addition—this is the second blessing—the person forgiven also enjoys this peace of God. Revenge and bitterness are doubly difficult on people, both in giving and receiving. It is very contagious. I knew some kids where the little girl was a blond angel and also the youngest. She was very sunny all the time. Not one day. I was at their home when she stormed in and whacked her older sister for some slight on the way home from school. It’s hard to sort out. One child said eloquently, “He hit me back first.”
Somebody started something and it gets escalated. It spirals upward as we see all the time on the news.
To enjoy this blessing of forgiveness, we have to dwell on the meaning of the cross of Christ rather than whatever annoys us at the moment. I don’t mean to minimize this, because some people have really been the victims of various kinds of assault and robbery. I knew a woman who was beaten almost to death for a few dollars in the cash register. However, when we think about the immensity of God’s forgiveness of all of our sins, then we can be more expansive in forgiving others. We can do that for two reasons. One is that forgiveness is not wasted. If someone is forgiven and yet goes on doing more bad things, then God will add up the totals later. God is just and will be not be mocked. Secondly we can be forgiving because we need to be in that pattern of behavior, which belongs to Christ, rather than following the unbelieving world in exacting revenge.
The first place to begin practicing this forgiveness earned for us by Christ is within our own families. That is where the greatest and most important conflicts arise. When we apply this lesson of forgiveness, we enjoy the benefits and see its blessings in our children, who also have the peace that passes understanding from this message of the Gospel.