Shakespeare said, "All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players." There are many players in the biblical story. In this grand play across time, with God as the great author of history, we are invited to see ourselves in the characters. There is one act in this grand play that stands above the rest: the great moment of the resurrection. But in this story, there are characters who have been neglected, forgotten, overlooked. Yet, they are the greatest source of inspiration. They are the women who stood by Jesus.
In this sermon, I examine Mark 16, suggesting that we should all emulate the women who stood by Jesus. We should be witnesses in God's grand story like the women were.
This sermon was originally delivered at Faith Reformed Church in Lynden, WA on April 21, 2019 (Easter Sunday).
Over 500 years before Jesus came in flesh, a prophet proclaimed that one would suffer, die, and rise again for the sin of humanity. It was also prophesied that the resurrection of a Suffering Servant would lead to resurrection for every single person. Here is the gospel according to Isaiah and Daniel. This is Easter proclaimed 500 years before Jesus came in flesh.
This sermon was originally delivered at Faith Reformed Church in Lynden, WA on April 1, 2018 (Easter Sunday).
On the cross, Jesus felt the agony of the entire world, including those who feel voiceless in the developing world. He died for us, all of us, so that freedom from sin and all of its consequences could be accomplished; so that we may live in relationship with God once again. All we must do is choose him back (John 3:16), to cry out to Jesus.
"Yet Yahweh was pleased to crush him; he afflicted [him] (with sickness). If she [Zion/Jerusalem] places his life a guilt offering, he will see offspring, he will prolong days and the will of Yahweh in his hand will succeed. From the trouble of his life he will see light. He will be satisfied. In his knowledge, my righteous servant shall make the many righteous and he will bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will divide to him [a portion] among the many, and with [the] strong ones he shall divide bounty, because he exposed his life to death and was counted with transgressors, and he carried [the] sin of many and will intercede for transgressors" (Isaiah 53:10-12, my translation).
500 years before Jesus, these words were prophesied. And in them is resurrection, for all of us. There is resurrection for the suffering in the developing world, who have placed their hands in my hands asking for prayer for relief from the pain. There is resurrection for the homeless man who I watched cry out "Jesus Christ my Lord," asking for salvation from his addictions. There is resurrection for me, the sinner who is only saved because of Jesus. There is resurrection for all of us.
Here, in the gospel according to the prophet Isaiah, I see a suffering servant dying as a "guilt offering" at the hands of his own people, Zion (or Jerusalem). I see a servant who does things that can only happen in life, after his death has already occurred: He sees offspring, prolongs days, and sees light. In these things he is satisfied, for he has accomplished the will of God.
I see resurrection here for all of us.
Jesus accomplished all the things in this prophesy. He is the suffering servant. In Jesus, I see hope for the entire world, including hope to overcome the pain being experienced by those in poverty in the developing world.
It is in Jesus that all things are possible (Philippians 4:13). In Jesus, one day, all things will be made new (Revelation 21). It is Jesus who can sympathize with our weaknesses and intercede on our behalf. It is Jesus who has overcome all.
Perhaps the author of Hebrews states it best:
"Therefore, since the children share in blood and flesh, he also in like manner shared in these same things, in order that through death he could destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and could set free these who through fear of death were subject to slavery throughout all their lives" (Hebrews 2:14-15).
Jesus has come to set us free. And we are given the opportunity to set others free, from spiritual and physical poverty. Let us live that message this day. Let us feel it. Let it be like the joy of Easter Sunday, the resurrection day, when we embrace the spiritual resurrection Jesus offers now and the resurrection of the dead when he one day returns. Let us live the resurrected life now.
(The views on Isaiah 53 in this post are based on my book The Resurrected Servant in Isaiah, published by InterVarsity Press, 2010.)
This article was previously published under the title, "Resurrection for All People, from All Pain, in Jesus."
500 years before Jesus, a prophet shared good news. When we reconstruct the prophet's epic poem, we see the story of Jesus' suffering, death, and resurrection. We see Jesus bearing our iniquities and lifting our sins, in his bruised and battered body. And we see him rising again, granting us relationship with God and new life. Here's Isaiah 52:13–53:12.
See, my servant shall prosper; he shall be exalted and lifted up, and shall be very high. Just as many were appalled at him—so disfigured from a man was his appearance, and his form from sons of men—so [the servant] shall sprinkle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which had not been recounted to them, they shall see; and that which they had not heard, they shall contemplate.
The prophet says:
Who has trusted our report? And to whom has the arm of Yahweh been revealed?
[The servant] went up before [Yahweh] like a tender plant, and like a root from dry ground; he had no form to him and no majesty that we should look at him and nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of pain and knowledgeable of sickness; and as one who others hide their faces from, he was despised and held of no account.
However, he has lifted our sickness, he has bore the load of our pain and we accounted him stricken, struck down by God and afflicted. And he was pierced for our transgressions; crushed for our iniquities; upon him were the bonds of our peace, and by his bruises we were healed. All we have gone astray; each has turned our own way; and Yahweh has interposed upon [the servant] the iniquity of us all.
[The servant] was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; like a sheep to slaughter, and like an ewe before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.
By a restraint of justice, he was taken away and with his generation. Who could have mused that he would be cut off from the land of the living? Marked for the transgression of my people.
And [Yahweh] set his grave with the wicked, and [the servant] was with the rich in his death, although [the servant] had done no wrong, and there was no deceit in his mouth. Yet Yahweh was pleased to crush him; he afflicted [him].
If [Zion] places his life a guilt offering, he will see offspring, he will prolong days and the will of Yahweh in his hand will succeed. From the trouble of his life he will see light. He will be satisfied.
In his knowledge, my righteous servant shall make the many righteous and he will bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide to him [a portion] among the many, and with the strong ones he shall divide bounty, because he exposed his life to death and was counted with transgressors, and he carried the sin of many and will intercede for transgressors.
Translation and reconstruction adapted from my book The Resurrected Servant in Isaiah.