Lent 4 March 26, 2017
149, 153, 152, 375:5
He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.
Prayer for the 4th Sunday in Lent: Almighty God, our heavenly Father, Your mercies are new every morning; and though we deserve only punishment, You receive us as Your children and provide for all our needs of body and soul. Grant that we may heartily acknowledge Your merciful goodness, give thanks for all Your benefits, and serve You in willing obedience; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
In Christ Jesus, Dear Fellow Redeemed:
As we’ve seen over the past few weeks, mankind is sinful. We have heard that “Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness.” (1 John 3:4) To sin is to break God’s law. By observing our lives, we know that what the Scriptures say is true, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)
Being sinners, we have no one to blame but ourselves. In the beginning, God wanted man to live a never ending life of perfect joy in the garden of Eden, free from sin! But man brought that to an end. Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s law when they ate from the tree which God had forbidden them to eat of. The result? “Through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin; and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.” (Romans 5:12)
Death is what each of us deserves as punishment for sin, what each of us has brought upon himself through our own sin, for “The wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23)
The law, written in the heart or recorded in the Scriptures, serves as a mirror and shows us our sin, for “By the law is the knowledge of sin.” (Romans 3:20) From the law we know that we deserve punishment, for we have broken God’s law. The fact that we deserve punishment is enough to make anyone sorrow over sin. On account of sin, with no hope, mankind is grief-stricken as he thinks on his impending death.
This is the way the law works. I’m sure that death row is full of people who sorrow over their coming execution, but they have earned it by their crimes. If a crime is committed, it is the function of the law to convict and condemn! So each of us, as sinners are condemned to death. Mankind sorrows over the punishment he has brought upon himself through sin.
But God sent Someone to bear that punishment in place of mankind. We read in Hebrews 9:28, “Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many.”
The sinless Son of God, who did not deserve punishment for anything, suffered God’s wrath for our sins. If we had not been sinners, Christ would not have had to suffer and die.
Jesus, in “taking the form of a servant, and coming in the likeness of men,” (Philippians 2:7) suffered all of the consequences of sin, yet, as the writer to the Hebrews states, “Without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15) Jesus suffered temptation, hunger, thirst, grief, and, perhaps worst of all, rejection. The Son of God came into the world to pay for the sins of all people, and then He was rejected, even put to death, by the very people He came to save. Not only was He rejected by the Jews, but on the night of His arrest, His beloved disciples forsook Him as well, they hid their faces from Him.
Jesus suffered all of this when He took our guilt upon Himself. As our text says, “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.” Jesus was entirely without guilt. And yet, He was esteemed as stricken and smitten by God, and afflicted. That is, people looked on Jesus as a criminal, receiving the just reward for His deeds—yet, the reward of death Jesus Christ received was our just reward. The verse following our text continues, “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him.” (Isaiah 53:5)
As we look at the cross upon our altar, with the figure of the anguished body of the Savior stretched out upon it; as we think about Jesus’ bleeding head, adorned with a crown of thorns; as we listen to Jesus’ words of despair as He suffered the torments of hell—“My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” we see that the Man of Sorrows suffered so much! And He suffered it on account of us! Our sins made it necessary for Christ to go to that cross! WE should have been the ones who were nailed to a cross and lowered into the depths of hell!
As believers, we know that our sins led the merciful God to send a sinless Savior to suffer the punishment which WE deserved.
The Man of Sorrows suffered much. On account of our sin, on account of the fact that we could not pay for sin ourselves, God, out of His infinite grace, sent us a Savior from sin. This Savior paid the eternal price necessary for sin, even though He did not deserve it. He did it:
God’s grace is the undeserved love that Jesus felt toward mankind. As we have seen, the LORD wanted mankind to live in everlasting joy from the beginning. When mankind brought this to an end, man’s joy was still God’s will. And so God went about restoring man’s everlasting joy.
Because mankind destroyed this joy by sin, and continued in sin after the first sin, man could not redeem himself. The psalmist writes, “None of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him.” (Psalm 49:7)
It causes us to sorrow, knowing that our sin made it necessary for Christ to suffer and die in our place. But we are eternally grateful that God saw fit to send us the Savior, for without Him we are doomed to everlasting punishment, for Ezekiel writes, “The soul who sins shall die.” (Ezekiel 18:4)
On account of the perfect life that Jesus Christ offered up for us on the cross, we no longer look dreadfully toward eternal punishment. Instead, we look joyfully to everlasting life, for the Bible tells us that “You, being dead in your trespasses, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven your trespasses.” (Colossians 2:13) The Bible tells us that “Christ Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.” (1 John 2:2) Jesus speaks of the everlasting result of this payment in John 11:25f, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.”
The world sorrows over sin because it knows that one day God will demand an account of sin. Believers, on the other hand, sorrow over sin because we know the extent to which God went to erase sin from our account. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” (John 3:16) On account of our sins, Jesus Christ suffered humiliation and the pain of hell and died.
It was not only on account of our sin that Christ suffered and died. It was also on account of the boundless love of our God and Savior, for “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 Jn 4:10).
As we continue further into the season of Lent, may God grant us sincere sorrow over sin. But may that sorrow not be the sorrow of the world, which, sorrowing over the punishment it faces, nevertheless, turns from God, hiding its face from Jesus Christ and continuing to despise Him. May our sorrow be the sorrow of the believer, who sorrows over the sins that led Jesus Christ to suffer and die. And may God grant that He would not leave us in sorrow, but that the Holy Spirit would work joy in our hearts, knowing that through the sorrows and griefs that Jesus Christ suffered, we have everlasting joy.
Let us ever praise God for His wonderful contrast. The Man of Sorrows has brought unto sinners everlasting joy!
What punishment so strange is suffered yonder!
The Shepherd dies for sheep that loved to wander;
The Master pays the debt His servants owe Him,
Who would not know Him.
The sinless Son of God must die in sadness;
The sinful child of man may live in gladness;
Man forfeited his life and is acquitted,—
God is committed. Amen.