Sermon: Isaiah 53:4

20 Mar

Isaiah 53:4

Surely He Has Borne Our Griefs

 J.R.R. Tolkein was a Christian. And when he wrote his Lord of the Rings novels he was communicating a Christian worldview through an alternate world of hobbits and elves and evil creatures. The goal in the story was to destroy the ring of power and that task fell to a lowly hobbit, Frodo Baggins who, though far from perfect, certainly had no beauty or majesty that we should be attracted to him. He had to bear the ring to the top of the mountain and there destroy it. But the bearing of the ring almost destroyed him. Thankfully, he had a trusted friend by his side, Samwise Gamgee. Toward the end of the third novel, Sam is trying to lift the spirits of Frodo. The journey has been so long and Frodo is about to give up. Yet the future depends of Frodo completing his mission. So Sam says these words to Frodo, “I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going, because they were holding on to something.”

          Jesus came, not into the fictional world of Middle Earth, but into space and time 2000 years ago. And He came as the light of the world, to shine into a dark world. But the darkness has not understood it. It was foretold by the prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 53:4 that Jesus would come to bear not a ring of power, but our griefs and sorrows. Yet the darkness has not understood it. That is the focus of our verse today.  So let’s note a few ideas from Isaiah 53:4 this morning.

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.

 The Evidence of Jesus’ Mission. Note that word “Surely.” What an important word. It makes clear that what we are dealing with in the coming of Jesus is not a work of fiction, like the Lord of the Rings.  It is instead a historical certainty, an event in space and time. In fact, it was so certain that the prophet could speak of it as if it was already happening, even though it was yet to happen for 800 years. It was such a sure thing that the prophet spoke of it in this way. How we as a church need to recover the historicity of the Bible. I know we are tempted to shy away from things like the flood or the tower of Babel or Balaam’s donkey or the parting of the Red Sea. We don’t want to be laughed at for believing that a man named Jonah was swallowed by a great fish. It sounds absurd to our world. But since God exists and has created all things, it is nothing to Him to do any of the things I have just mentioned. God can do miracles. He’s God. Now by definition, miracles are rare, but the maker of all things can shape things in any way He wants and work out His plan through whatever means He chooses. I want to urge you today not to be ashamed of the Word of God. There is certainly figurative and symbolic language in the Bible. But when the Bible portrays something as having happened in history, we should accept and believe that it happened in history. The very heart of our salvation hinges on real events that happened in history. Faith is not a blind leap in the dark, it is trust in God based on His actions in space and time. Christians are realists in the end. We believe real things happened in this life which affect life and eternity. It’s the most wonderful thing in the world. Two thousand years ago God stepped into this world darkened by sin through the light of His Son. There is no reason in the world to shy away from what God has said in His Word. Don’t be ashamed of the Bible. Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.

The Effect of Jesus’ Mission. Thank God today that He sent Jesus to bear our griefs and carry our sorrows. Far more than bearing a ring of power, Jesus bore the actual effects of our sin and rebellion on His body. This word for griefs is often translated diseases. And as we go further into Isaiah 53 we will find that not only did Jesus carry our grief and sorrows but He was also pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities. And through His wounds we are healed. How are we healed? We are healed from diseases. We are healed from sorrows. We are healed from sins. We are healed from every transgression. And what do we see when we get to the end of the Bible?

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

22 And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. 23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.24 By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, 25 and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. 26 They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. 27 But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

Jesus bears our griefs and carries our sorrows. He is dealing with sin in all its ugliness. He was coming to bring God’s blessings to us by bearing our griefs and sorrows. We see this illustrated in Matthew 8:14-17  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.”

The connection to the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law and Isaiah 53:4 is that Jesus’ healings were the foretaste of the healing we would gain through the cross. He took away our sins in order that we might have His righteousness (2 Co. 5:21). The Son of God was made the Son of Man in order that sons of man might be made sons of God. He took our misery that we might have His glory. He was born of a woman that we might be born of God.  He took away our sins in order that we might die to sin (1 Peter 2:24). Jesus carries our sin so that we are no longer bound by it. In the gospel we are therefore free from our sin a filled with Christ’s own righteousness.

And notice Isaiah says, “our” griefs, “our” sorrows. The prophet Isaiah includes himself among those who needed the Messiah to bear his griefs, sorrows and sins. Jesus bore the pains we should have borne and carried. They were our griefs, not His. Jesus carried our sins without ever sinning Himself (see Is. 53:9). Everything that happened to the servant was in fact what should have happened to us. “We” thought he was being punished by God but we were wrong; it was our punishment that was on Him, as we will see in verse 5. He was beaten and we were made healthy. He was pierced and we became whole. He suffered that we might be forgiven.

How deep the Father’s love for us,
How vast beyond all measure,
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure.
How great the pain of searing loss –
The Father turns His face away,
As wounds which mar the Chosen One
Bring many sons to glory.

Behold the man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders;
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers.
It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished;
His dying breath has brought me life –
I know that it is finished.

I will not boast in anything,
No gifts, no power, no wisdom;
But I will boast in Jesus Christ,
His death and resurrection.
Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer;
But this I know with all my heart –
His wounds have paid my ransom.

Our Evaluation of Jesus’ Mission.

And yet for all the beauty of the heart of God toward us in His Son, the words of the prophet show us what our evaluation of Him is apart from grace. We considered Him cursed by God. Stricken, smitten, afflicted. By God. It was our sin that brought Him to earth and caused Him to be the man of sorrows who bears our griefs. But we looked at Him as cursed, not seeing that it was our sin that nailed Him to the cross. Jesus carries our sufferings but we ironically think that His sufferings come not as a result of our sin but as a result of God’s curse.

The Message renders this verse very well — But the fact is, it was our pains he carried—     our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us.
We thought he brought it on himself, that God was punishing him for his own failures.

Isaiah was saying that Jesus has borne our grief and carried our sorrows and these are the consequences of our sins. But incredibly, those who watched Him die thought He was being punished by God. We considered Him stricken, smitten by God and afflicted. The ESV Study Bible in its notes simply acknowledges that this is true. And in one sense, it is. Later in Isaiah 53 we will read that it was “the will of the Lord to crush Him.” There is a sense in which it was the plan of God that Jesus would come and suffer for our sakes. But that is not the sense here. This verse is not a simple statement of fact, it is an expression of irony. The key to understanding this is that little phrase at the start, “yet we considered Him” . . . The issue here is not whether it was God’s plan for Jesus to suffer but whether we see our part in His sufferings. There is no doubt that Jesus suffered. He is the man of sorrows. But it was our griefs that were the source of His sorrows. The irony of verse 4 is that Jesus bore our griefs and carried our sorrows but we didn’t understand that and instead of considering His sufferings as an act of loving sacrifice from the perfect One we saw Him as cursed and crushed and cast down by God. We saw Him not as a Savior taking away judgment but as a sinner facing judgment.

Christ faced the assaults of the devil, sweat as great drops of blood in the garden of Gethsemane, felt the sense of separation from the Father on the cross, the burden of carrying the sin of the world, the horror of bearing the wrath of God against sin, all for us, all to free us from facing the wrath He willingly endured for us.

Let’s have Isaac Watts carry us out this morning.

  1. Alas! and did my Savior bleed
    And did my Sov’reign die?
    Would He devote that sacred head
    For such a worm as I?
  2. Was it for crimes that I had done
    He groaned upon the tree?
    Amazing pity! grace unknown!
    And love beyond degree!
  3. Well might the sun in darkness hide
    And shut his glories in,
    When Christ, the mighty Maker died,
    For man the creature’s sin.
  4. Thus might I hide my blushing face
    While His dear cross appears,
    Dissolve my heart in thankfulness,
    And melt my eyes to tears.
  5. But drops of grief can ne’er repay
    The debt of love I owe:
    Here, Lord, I give myself away,
    ’Tis all that I can do.

May you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, that through His poverty you might become rich. God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.


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