Who has believed our message? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, And like a root out of parched ground; He has no stately form or majesty That we should look upon Him, Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him. He was despised and forsaken of men, A man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; And like one from whom men hide their face, He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him.
The Wounds that Heal
My Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
Tonight's the night, as the song says. Tonight is the night that we mark the sacrifice for sin. I am always surprised, although I should not be, about the number of so-called Christian teachers who cannot wrap their minds around the simple truth of the vicarious atonement. They are not Christians in-fact, of course, but they parade as pastors, and professors of religion, and theologians, and they come out from under their rocks at this time of year to tell us "the truth" about Christ and Christianity, and how they cannot agree that blood was needed for our salvation, they cannot accept that our redemption required the grisly sacrifice of Jesus. They wonder aloud and in print about what sort of God would require such a sacrifice. One wonders, viewing their annual discourses in disbelief, why do they bother with church and religion, and the Christian religion, especially.
Of course, the answer is simple. They are servants of the one whose entire purpose of being is to destroy God and all His works. They oppose sound doctrine and the historic Christian faith because their lord and master demands it of them. Naturally, they do not consciously realize this fact, most of the time. They invent their own rationalizations for pursuing their satanic ends, but that is the reason. They are true believers - just not believers in Christ. And they are out to convert the world, particularly the part of it that is Christian. They emerge from their shadows at this time of the year because this is the day - not Halloween - when evil was once at its peak of power, and then was decidedly crushed under the wheels of its own labor. Today is the significant day, second only to Easter. Today is the day that the devil delivered the wounds that heal, and that is our theme tonight: the wounds that heal.
Our prophecy from Isaiah begins with a sentence that fits so appropriately. Who has believed our message? Clearly, it is not those who cannot accept the thought that the suffering of Good Friday was actually necessary. The answer could not be those that accuse God of monstrosity because He tortured and killed Jesus in such a marked fashion for the sake of rescuing and redeeming sinful man. The prophet Isaiah had the same sort of problem in his day, people just could not imagine that what Isaiah was saying was true. A suffering servant? The Messiah being something less than desirable in appearance, and being hated and abused? That just did not fit their preconceptions! It did not match their hopes and desires, either.
These were people who wanted a beautiful image, and a triumphant and glorious savior, just like so many so-called Christians today. There were some who believed. Isaiah is simply wondering who they are - and where they are. But he acknowledges that those who believe do so because God made them believe - they are the ones "to whom the arm of the LORD has been revealed". And what was revealed to them?
Jesus. They didn't learn the name, yet, but they heard the prophecy. They heard about the one who would grow up in hostile and unbelieving times, among people who generally had no time for God - that is the parched ground of the prophecy. He would come with humility, and claim no special notice for who He was. There would be "no stately form or majesty That we should look upon Him, Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him." Jesus was the first, "what you see is what you get" sort of guy. Worse yet, Isaiah says that not only would people not recognize Him for who He is, but they would reject Him and hate Him. He was despised and forsaken of men. His life, and particularly His death is described for us by Isaiah like this: "A man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; And like one from whom men hide their face, He was despised, and we did not esteem Him."
All of the wounds we have talked about this Lententide, and the ones we have ignored this year, fell on Christ on our behalf. "Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried". Jesus died to redeem us. The wounds He bore, He bore on our behalf. Modern thinkers try to paint Jesus as this revolutionary who got caught and died for leading a philosophical revolt against the status quo. That is simply not so.
Other thinkers try to pretend that Jesus was paying some debt owed to the devil, as though the devil has some position roughly equal to God and we had stumbled into a position where the devil owned us and Jesus had to buy us back. There is a bit of truth in that, as there is in any really good lie. By sinning, we have sold ourselves into slavery to sin, and therefore to the inventor of sin, Satan. But he doesn't own us, and Jesus did not die to buy us out of his ownership. The devil leads the pack of the condemned on the road to hell - and he is none too happy with consignment to that place, either. The price Jesus paid with His wounds and His blood was not paid to the devil. It was paid to the justice of God. Isaiah points to that truth with the words, "Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted." This was all done to rescue us from our own deeds and what we have justly earned and deserve.
And these are the wounds that heal. "But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed". He endured the nails through His hand for those who would not lift their hand to help Him - or anyone else, for that matter. We often lose sight of the reality while we prattle on about the details of the crucifixion. It is almost as though we imagine that crucifixion was somehow easy for Him to bear. One only need consider how few "Christians" attend worship regularly, and how many find no motivation in themselves to attend Maundy Thursday or Good Friday services.
It is so common for those who claim to be Christian to skip church that there is a new style of mission congregation being developed with the single aim of capturing those who want to miss worship. There is even a website now, ditchchurch.com, dedicated to outreach to those who don't want to be bothered with church, even on Easter. [It is for people who want to have fun in church, or make fun out of it.] Only someone who has not considered the cost of their salvation could allow anything but the most urgent issues of life keep them from hearing the wonderful news of life - and receiving the gifts of God in the divine service - and thanking God for all that He has done for us.
How could you turn casually away from that torment? How could you nonchalantly wander from the cure for death? The answer is that you don't believe it, and have never actually considered the love of God that moved Him to such extravagant lengths to save you. Listen to the words, "But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities". Then there are the milder "chastening" and "scourging". These were no afternoon of light work, no dilettante's exercise. This was torment and agony endured to set you free. These are the wounds that heal - and they heal you and your sickness unto death.
Part of the problem is that we often have trouble thinking of ourselves seriously as all that evil. We say it, but we consider ourselves to be basically decent people. Sure, we have sinned, but it is nothing compared to the next guy! Some of our sins, we actually enjoy. But that is because we don't understand, and because we cannot see what they are doing to us and what they mean. The cross of Jesus is the proper measuring stick when you want to measure the depth of your sin and how serious even the ones you find pleasure in really are. "All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him."
Go to dark Gethsemane, if you want to hear how terrifying your sins are, and then follow to Golgotha and see the price that was exacted because you sinned and did not take the business of evil seriously. Sickness and death are bits of the trouble that sin causes, to remind us that it is not just a word-game, and that we really do need a Savior. I don't mean to say that this or that sickness is caused by this or that sin, or that because you are sick, you must be worse than that healthy person across the way. Not at all! We each must face sickness and death in our own time, and none of us is pure and righteous of ourselves.
But because the iniquity of us all fell on Jesus, sickness and death are not the final answer. Forgiveness, life, and salvation are! Our sins are forgiven because the Innocent One died for us, the guilty. We shall rise from the grave and live in eternal glory because of Jesus. His are the wounds that heal. Each of us were terribly sick, with sin, sickness unto death. And Jesus took care of us in love, and pours out His redemption upon us all, that he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved!
"Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed." We know it is so because Jesus said so. He said, Tetelestai!, that is, It is finished!
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
(Let the people say Amen)
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