Sunday Sermon — Isaiah 53:7

7 Jun

Isaiah 53:7

Like a Lamb to the Slaughter

          In Acts 8, when the Ethiopian eunuch was reading the scroll of Isaiah, the Holy Spirit sent Philip to him. And it was this verse, Isaiah 53:7 that the Ethiopian was puzzling over. Something impacted him so much about the silence of this one who was facing such suffering that he had to ask Philip, “is the prophet talking about himself or someone else?” And of course this gave Philip the open door of opportunity to look at the Scriptures with the Ethiopian to show him how the Savior fulfilled every promise of God. The Ethiopian was saved and baptized and Philip was taken away from this divine encounter to serve elsewhere.

          This passage compels us and for some, it repels us. We think, how could Jesus endure such hardship even though He had all power and was completely innocent? If I am to be like Jesus, does that mean I should endure bullies at school without saying anything? Should I let my uncle abuse me because of the way Jesus did not speak out? Should I let my husband hit me because Jesus was silent? And I want to say NO to all of those questions. Jesus’ silence was in order to accomplish the greater good of our salvation. Jesus’ unwillingness to defend Himself came from a deep desire to rescue us from sin and death. He was a sufferer but He was not a victim. The little child who is abused should speak out in order to accomplish the greater good of calling sin to account. The wife who has been beaten is not being Christlike to remain silent because no good is being accomplished by allowing her husband to continue on his rampages. The student being bullied is not serving the greater good by not reporting his bully. That bully will just trouble someone else down the road if they are never confronted. So let me just get out of the way right from the start the idea that Jesus is calling us to be stepped on for no good reason. To be sure, we should not live for ourselves. But on the flip side, neither should we let injustice thrive by our silence. It is not love to let abusers have a free reign. It is not love to do nothing about the great human rights issues of our day: abortion, genocide, human trafficking. We can’t be fully invested in all of these things, but we should care and we should do what we can locally and globally.

          The bottom line is we should not be repelled by this verse, we should rejoice over this verse. And we should remember that suffering for the greater good is redemptive and right. Most of us would say that those soldiers who landed on the beaches on D-Day and sacrificed themselves were right to do so, because they were serving a greater good.  On the other hand, we would look at someone who came out of the surf at Myrtle Beach and ran out into traffic as a foolish person. So what makes Jesus’ silence both acceptable and admirable is that He was silent for the sake of love. He wasn’t silent just so no feathers would be ruffled. He wasn’t silent because He was fearful. He wasn’t silent to try to protect people. Jesus was silent so that we might be saved. Let’s look at the verse together this morning . . .

 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.

Hallelujah, what a Savior! Here is Jesus submitting in patience willingly to His Father’s design. We see in this passage what happened to Christ and how Christ responded to what happened to Him.

What Did Christ Endure?

First, He was “oppressed.” The heaviness of this word brings to mind the Exodus account where Pharaoh made Israel make bricks without straw. A life of misery and burden. Jesus was filled with joy in His mission but He was always under the shadow of the cross, of His coming suffering. And He was always being pursued by the religious leaders and other enemies who eventually pursued Him to His death.

Second, He was “afflicted.” Not only did His enemies pursue Him, they also persecuted Him. They humiliated Him, treated Him with contempt, shamed Him, spat on Him, ridiculed Him. All their opposition throughout Jesus’ ministry reached its apex in Jesus’ last week. The mockery is almost unthinkable. The perfect Christ, the righteous One, made out to be a common criminal by a bunch of imperfect, self-righteous leaders. How our sense of justice should be awakened when we consider who Jesus is and how He was treated. If ever anyone should have lashed out against ill treatment it was Him. But then we remember the reason He endures is love. And not just any love, but love for His Father. And also love for US. And then our hearts melt and our faces look down as we realize it was our sin that put Jesus in this place of being beaten and scorned.

Third, we see that He was led like a Lamb to the slaughter. The slaughter is that piercing for our transgressions, that crushing for our iniquities. The lamb is an emblem of meekness and innocence. 1 Peter 1:18, “We are redeemed by the blood of Christ, as of a lamb without spot or blemish.” The lamb is a picture of weakness, bringing home to us the fact that Christ had no beauty or majesty that we should be drawn to Him. Verse 8 tells us that the slaughter leads to death. He is cut off from the land of the living. Jesus knew all His life that this was coming, this cross. All prisoners may feel oppressed and afflicted but I imagine there is a big difference between the prisoner who will be paroled in a week compared to the one who will be executed in a week. Jesus knew all along He was headed for slaughter. Yet He willingly walked the Calvary road.

Fourth, this verse tells us that Jesus was like a sheep before the shearing. And Jesus was sheared. The wool of sheep in biblical times was usually sheared away, cut off, in the springtime. Jesus was cut off from the land of the living at springtime, at the same time that the Passover lamb was being offered in the Temple. Jesus was on His way to Golgotha, where He would be stripped of His clothing and nailed to the cross. He was sheared of all outward dignity, He was sheared of all earthly honor. Yet as He hung there upon the cross, no one could cut away His heart of love for God and for His people. His name will be called Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins. This is what happened to Christ.

How did Christ Respond?

He opened not his mouth. This is the focus. These words are used twice in this one verse and sandwiched between them is the phrase that He was silent. The great patience of Christ is in view. The great love of Christ is in view. He could have spoken in His own defense but this would have interrupted the plan of God.

1 Peter 2:23, When he was reviled, he did not revile in return, but entrusted himself to him who judges justly.

It is true that Christ did speak out at times, to Pilate, to those who came to arrest Him, to Peter to put away his sword. But Jesus was silent when the chief priest made accusations against Him and His words to Pilate were not an effort to defend Himself so much as an effort to testify to Pilate. The silence was concerning those who would accuse Him. In other words, in His speaking, Jesus never spoke in any way as to hinder our redemption. That is what it means when it says He opened not His mouth. You hear people sometimes talk about how a pig squeals when he gets stuck, but you never hear anybody talking about lambs squealing or making noise.

The lamb willingly yielded to be sacrificed for sin. Christ went as sweetly and readily to the work of our redemption as an innocent lamb to the slaughter.

Jesus knew He was going to suffer but He did nothing to prevent it. He willingly walked the road of suffering. Luke 18 tells us Jesus could have commanded legions of angels to come to His defense, but He did not. Jesus’ sacrifice was voluntary. He laid down His life of His own accord. John 18:4 is very clear on this point. When Judas brought the guards to find Jesus, we see the Bible say, “Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to Him, came forward and said to them, ‘whom do you seek?’” Jesus didn’t turn away from suffering, He leaned in to it for our sake. In the Garden He said, “Not my will but Thine be done” and then He showed that He meant what He prayed by willingly enduring suffering and death.

Even in His arrest, Jesus put a stop to all violence that would seek to deliver him from suffering. He told Peter to put away his sword after he had lashed out at some of the officials who had come to arrest Jesus. And Jesus even healed the ear of one of the officials whose ear Peter had cut off. And then on the cross as Christ suffered, He called on God to forgive His persecutors.

Why did Christ Respond this Way?

Because Christ loved us and washed us from our sins with His own blood (Rev. 1:5) He endured oppression and affliction in silence. Jesus had committed all along to the cross. Philippians 2:8, “He humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross.” Ephesians 5:25, Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. Hebrews 10:7, Behold, I have come to do your will, O God.

The Puritan Thomas Manton said, “Christ holdeth his peace, that we might speak and have boldness with the Father, and taketh the accusation patiently, that he might break it off from us. His not answering was to show our guilt; and yet he carried it so that nothing could be clearly proved to impeach his own innocency.”

Christ remained silent and went to the cross to be our Mediator. Manton, Christ went willingly, that his own people might have everything from the heart of God as well as His hand. Jer. 32:41, “I rejoice over them to do them good.”

Christ remained silent and endured suffering to show His heart of submission to His Father, both to fulfill all righteousness and to be an example for us. We often talk about the need for people to accept Christ but we often forget about the first necessity for God the Father to accept God the Son. This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased. He was pleased right to the cross and beyond and rejoices in His Son even now.

How do We Respond to Christ’s Willful Silent Suffering?

First, of course, we worship Him. We should never stop peering into the depths of the cross. The life of Christ should be the lifelong occupation of every Christian. This is why Paul said, to live is Christ, and why Paul’s greatest ambition was not church growth or missions but that He might know Christ. That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings becoming like Him in His death and so to obtain the resurrection from the dead. Go to hymns or songs, post notes about your house, read and meditate over the gospels, read good Christian books. Join me in April and May on Wednesday nights as we read together and discuss a great little book by Frederick Leahy called The Cross He Bore. Occupy your thoughts with Christ. You may find less temptation to mope around, less temptation to dwell on sinful things, more energy for good.

Second, be empowered for service. This was Paul’s empowerment. He said in Galatians 2:20 that the life He now lived was lived by faith. But what was his motivation? “He loved me and gave Himself for me.” The attitude of Christ empowers our own service. When we feel reluctant, remember Christ’s willingness. 1 Peter 2:21, Christ suffering for us, leaving us an example, that we should follow his steps. Give yourself up with great patience to God. Don’t use reviling words. Don’t be a people of self-defense and railing accusations.

Third, remember the words of Thomas Manton, “Willfulness in sin maketh the heart very sad when it cometh to see it. But, blessed be God, here is an answer to it – you have a willing Savior. Though there be in you much reluctancy against God’s will, and much readiness to offend, yet you could not be so ready to sin as Christ was willing to die for you.”

          Don’t be repelled by the willingness of Christ to suffer in silence. He did it for love. He did it for you and for me. He did it to glorify His Father.

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