Suffering Servant Sermon Lenten Series 2007
The Suffering Servant Shocks the World
It is as if Isaiah were standing
at the foot of the cross watching Jesus suffer and die for us.
But of course thatís impossible.
He wrote several hundred years before Jesus was born.
But he spoke Godís words.
The Holy Spirit guided his pen so that every word he wrote was
provided by God Himself. In
this way Isaiah was enabled to write of the suffering, death, and
resurrection of Jesus long before these events occurred.
The Christians who lived in Old Testament times trusted the same
gospel that we trust today. Their
faith looked forward to the salvation that would be revealed on the
cross where the Suffering Servant would die. Our faith looks back to the salvation that was revealed on
the cross. They looked to
the future. And the future
was guaranteed. Faith
requires no less than a divine guarantee.
Notice how Godís prophecy through Isaiah of the Suffering
Servant is written in the past tense as if what he describes has already
taken place. Hundreds of
years before the birth of Christ we see a clear description of His
The Bible wasnít written in
chapters and verses. These
were provided a few hundred years ago.
The chapter and verse divisions of the Bible are not inspired.
The last three verses of Isaiah chapter 52 actually belong to
chapter 53. As we take to heart Isaiahís words recorded in these three
verses let us consider the theme: The Suffering Servant Shocks the
What is shocking is the joining
of two contradictory truths. They
donít really contradict each other but they certainly appear to do so.
On the one hand, the Servant described by the prophet will be
exalted and extolled, and set up higher than any other man.
On the other hand, this Servantís suffering will be so intense
and His degradation so profound that His face will be scarcely
ďBeautiful SaviorĒ of which we love to sing was not present on the
cross. On the cross He was
marred. His beauty was
taken away. His suffering
rendered His appearance almost less than human.
And yet He is the very same Servant who will be exalted above all
other men and given the honor that rightly belongs to God alone.
The kings shut their mouths. They are struck mute. They
couldnít have foreseen any such thing. It is incomprehensible.
The rulers of this world are astonished. They see what they never would have imagined seeing.
They are now required to consider what was inconceivable.
How can such apparent failure lead to such obvious success?
If you read through this entire
chapter you hear not a word from the Servant.
You hear Him described. In
fact, He says nothing at all. This
is a bit unsettling. Those
who are great successes in life do quite a bit of talking and
self-promotion. But when
this man does what gains Him the highest honor He says not a word.
He endures. He
The suffering of the Suffering
Servant is shocking because it upends the expectations of the world.
If you were to consider every world religion, every religious
doctrine, every word of wisdom collected by the wisest and holiest
people of all the ages you would find nothing to compare with it.
This man is filled with grief.
He is innocent, and yet is loaded down with sin and guilt.
He is beaten and whipped and abused.
He silently endures oppression and pain.
He is treated with contempt by those who, on another day and at
another time, would present themselves as paragons of religious virtue.
He is despised and scorned.
And see Him exalted, lifted up, honored above all the people of
He enjoys this exaltation, not
in spite of His suffering, but because of it.
When his visage was marred beyond recognition, it was the sin of
the world that caused such anguish of soul.
And so it is that when He is exalted up on high at the right hand
of the Father He is honored and exalted and revered because He has taken
away the sin of the world. Here
true love is seen for what it is. It
is not a mere emotion or sentiment.
It is a hard love, a ready love, a love willing to bear hell
itself for the sake of the beloved.
This is the true meaning of
Lent. The ashes of Ash Wednesday have been lost within our
tradition, though here and there they are brought back, sometimes to the
chagrin of folks who think that it looks ďtoo Catholic.Ē
Well, we could use ashes, I suppose.
It wouldnít hurt to be reminded of what we are and to what we
will return. Ashes to
ashes, dust, to dust, so we hear before the body is lowered into the
ground where it will rest until the resurrection of all flesh on the
last day. If Lent is a
season during which we are reminded of our mortality and sin, ashes is a
good symbol for that.
But the essence of Lent is
deeper than any symbol. It
is a shocking truth. It is
an unsettling truth. It is
a truth that causes the powerful in this world to shut their mouths in
amazement. Hereís the
truth. The highest and most
exalted position in all the world is gained for the Lord Jesus precisely
where and when He chooses to embrace the lowest and most shameful
degradation ever inflicted upon a man.
Consider what brought such agony to His innocent soul that His
face was twisted and marred and made impossible to look at! It was your sin. It
was your guilt. It was your
Donít look to His agony in
order to pity Him. He
neither needs nor wants your pity.
Do not weep for Him. Weep
for yourself. Consider that repentance is not just a word.
It is looking at your own sins of thought, word, and deed.
It is considering what you have done that you should not have
done and what you should have done that you left undone.
It is confessing to God these sins without making any excuses.
Then it is looking to the Servant who is exalted up on high, who
has the name that is above every name.
How did He receive such honor?
By bearing in His own body your sins.
The very sins that distress you and that would seek to control
you. The past sins that rise up in your conscience to claim you.
The future sins that beckon, that would lure you into service to
what you know to be wrong and offensive to God.
Consider these sins and look at the marred visage of Christ.
Donít be shocked.
Listen. Then you
will know what shuts the mouths of the powerful and wise of this world.
Listen, dear Christian, to the voice of this Man who suffers for
you. He forgives you.
He speaks tenderly to you. He
lifts off of your conscience the load you are carrying.
He takes that load upon Himself.
He directs you to His passion so that you will know the
foundation of forgiveness. It shocks the world that such suffering could bear such
wonderful fruit. What we
run from, He embraced. And
in so doing, He removed from us what kept us away from God.
It is shocking.
It is unsettling. Such
suffering! But look beyond
the suffering and see the glory that is His today.
Thatís the glory to which He calls us when He invites us to
As we confess our sins during
this holy season we ask our gracious Father in heaven to show our faith
what our eyes cannot bear to see. He,
who was anything but beautiful when He suffered for us, has become for
us our beautiful Savior.
Rev. Rolf D. Preus