- Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12
- Matthew 26:1-5, 14-46
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GRACE, MERCY AND PEACE are yours this day from God our Father, through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. AMEN.
The text for us to consider is from Isaiah 53 – verses 2 and 3 which read “For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”
In the Name of Jesus – Amen.
Numerous times throughout His teaching, Jesus made it clear – just as He does in our Gospel lesson when He says, “You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified.”
And each time the subject comes up, it is either dismissed, as Peter did, “Surely, this will not happen to you!” Or it is ignored, as it is in this instance – as if it fell on deaf ears. Sometimes we are even told, “But they did not understand what He was saying.”
Like most faithful Jews of their day, even the disciples looked for an earthly ruler. One who would live and reign in an earthly Kingdom. We see a glimpse of it when, after His resurrection and just before His ascension, the Disciples ask Jesus, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” They were expecting the glory, power and dominion which Jesus possessed to be visible and obvious for all to see.
And so even today, many seek outward, visible majesty for the Kingdom of God here and now. And such expectation leads many to dishonor Christ and reject His work. After all, we worship a Lord who has died. In the words of our text, He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And what kind of all powerful divinely majestic being would come among us to be a man of sorrows – and acquaint himself with grief.
But this, in itself, shows the great difference between our God and Lord and all of humanity. Humanity strives for glory and honor and majesty. And in the striving – shows how low we have sunk because of our inborn sin. Those who are comfortable and confident – those who have certainty as to their status and position have no need to strive and seek to maintain it – to fight for it. It is only those who feel weak and vulnerable who seek to fight and strive for something better.
But the Lord of the Universe – He who created heaven and earth – has no need for the praise of mankind or adoration and acceptance. It is due to Him by right – as the one who created all things. To Him bow all the angelic hosts – even the demons must submit to His name and authority.
And yet, He stepped down from His throne to come among us and live as a Man of Sorrows.
When He was born in Bethlehem – Judea had already shown itself a barren wasteland for faith. Ruled by foreign nations since being taken captivity into Babylon, now under the sway of Rome, the people of Judea longed for their greatness under King David, but even their religious leaders paid little to no attention to the prophecies about Jesus in the Old Testament. And so, the Divine Son of God – the Rose of Sharon who shared the glory of the Father since the world began – had His feet planted in the dry ground of Palestine. There he group up, unnoticed – unremarked upon.
Consider just some of the circumstances of His birth and we see that this should not have been. Herod calls the Scribes to ask where it is that the Messiah is to be born – an interesting question to come out of the blue. And when the town of Bethlehem and the shepherds surrounding it are abuzz with the news of angels singing glory to God – speaking of a child born in Bethlehem and wrapped in swaddling cloths – an unusual star in the sky, leading strangers from foreign lands to the very place where the Child was – the Scribes and religious leaders pay no attention.
Dry and arid as a desert wasteland was the faith landscape – even among the Jews of Jesus day. Oh sure, they practiced the rituals – they went to the temple – they obeyed the 613 man-made laws that were supposed to keep them in God’s favor. But it was a dry – formalistic – cold and dead spirituality that did not look for God’s grace and mercy, but instead it was a religion that looked to present it’s deeds and it’s works to God as if they were deserving of His favor.
So, when Christ comes declaring that He came to seek and to save what was lost – and that He is the great physician who came to heal the spiritually sick and those who needed God’s grace and mercy – most people turned up their nose at Him – rejecting His mission and His purpose. They weren’t sick – they weren’t sinners – they weren’t needy.
It remains little different today. The world is not a good soil ready to receive the word. The world is not a fertile place for Christ’s Word and work to grow. It is still dry and arid.
There remains lots of talk about Jesus – many love and respect what He says about the meek inheriting the earth – the peacemakers – Love your enemies, give to the poor, judge not lest you be judged, whatever you would have others to do to you, do to them. People love it because the Law is accessible – it’s easy to understand – DO THESE THINGS AND LIVE! So, let’s be honest, many people love some of Jesus’ teaching.
But Jesus? The true Jesus? The itinerant rabbi who claimed to be God in human flesh (even though he looked like every other Jewish man of his day)… The one who casts down the mighty from their thrones and sends away those who feel themselves rich? The Jesus who pronounces woe upon hypocrites and those who think they are well and have no need for the forgiveness and salvation offered by the great physician of their souls? He isn’t very welcoming by worldly standards – calling out sinners – speaking of their need for repentance and forgiveness – that’s ugly truth that nobody in this world – Jew or Gentile want’s to be associated with.
And so, there was no beauty that he was to be desired – scratch that – there IS no beauty that He should be desired – not from a human perspective.
Yet, that people would find no beauty in Jesus is more an indication of the ugly blackness of the human soul that looks to honor, power and presteige in this world rather than the beauty offered by God in Christ.
For in His coming to us we see the most beautiful example of true love – a beautiful picture of what our own love should look like – self sacrificial love – a giving of ones-self to the other without any hope that they could give even a little back to us.
What is more beautiful than a love story where the most mighty and powerful King comes off his throne and does everything needed to rescue and redeem the riotous young maiden who has committed every vile and filthy deed imaginable – even led the charge of rebellion against His rule and his crown.
This is what Jesus has done. The Lord of the Universe has come to be born as one of us – He takes upon his own shoulders the guilt of our offenses against him – He takes in his own flesh the punishment we deserve for our sin – all to free us and make us acceptable to God so that we may live under Him in His kingdom, that we would even be able to serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, raising us up to new life even as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity.
Do you see Christ’s beauty? Do you understand how he is utterly and totally unlike the ugliness of sinful humanity that seeks after it’s own benefit and its own glory and honor and the praise of others?
This is what we must see and appreciate in Christ Jesus – He is our rescue and redemption. There was nothing at all in it for Him. While we were still His enemies, He came to rescue and redeem us – not because of what we could offer Him, but simply because of His love and compassion for us. He loved us when we were unlovable, intolerable and insufferable. And came to make us His own.
And how did the world react – Jew and gentile alike? They united together to put him to death. They showed their own ugliness of heart as those who needed rescue and redemption.
Jesus called out their selfishness and their hypocrisy – showing humanity that it is spiritual dead and blind and ignorant of the ways of God. And humanity couldn’t bear it. They determined not only to reject Him, but to silence Him – to put Him to death for holding up the mirror and showing humanity the ugly truth about itself.
“The chief priests and the elders of the people gathered in the palace of the high priest and plotted together in order to arrest Jesus by stealth and to kill him.” They coopted the Roman governor, they even paid off one of Jesus’ own disciples to betray him at a time when the crowds would not interfere.
Such rejection continues today – as Christ’s people are silenced – as men, women and children are martyred for trusting in Christ’s forgiveness and mercy for sinners. Even worse, when His Word is twisted and perverted by those who claim to know and believe in Him – but they look only to earthly glory and the praise of men.
The prince of peace has come to bring peace unto the nations – and humanity still revels in war – anger – bloodshed and hatred still reign.
Christ Jesus has come – poured out His Holy Spirit upon mankind – given us the good gifts of His Word and His sacraments to change our hearts and our minds to conform us to His will and mind – and yet much of the world prefers to wallow in sin and all forms of idolatry and immorality.
There are many who claim His Name, saying, “Lord Jesus, Lord Jesus” – but bring shame upon it by refusing to submit to His Word and hear His voice and believe what He speaks is the truth. And more and more, there are those who even call themselves true Christians who deny the He is the omnipotent Lord of the universe who has redeemed us by shedding His blood and dying on the cross – and then rising for us on the third day, just as He promised.
And for all the reproach, for all the offense taken at Christ, He truly was a man of sorrows – one aquainted with grief. One from whom many hide their face.
All because we fail to see the true beauty and majesty in what He has done – pouring out His mercy and grace upon us.
So may the Holy Spirit lead us to ever hold fast to the truth – the true beauty of Jesus – who has redeemed us – who through the grief and anguish He suffered rescued us – bearing our sin and standing between us and God so that He would receive God’s wrath – and we would receive God’s favor and blessing. For that is what He came to do – and for this, we DO recognize Him for who He is, the Lord’s Servant who was high and lifted up – even as we exult and praise His name for all He has done for us.
In the NAME of Jesus. AMEN.