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.

In this sermon, I utilize the research from my first book, The Resurrected Servant in Isaiah, to explore Isaiah 52:13–53:12.

This sermon was originally delivered at Faith Reformed Church in Lynden, WA on April 1, 2018 (Easter Sunday).

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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.

The Prophesy of the Suffering Servant

"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.

The Resurrection I See

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.

The Hope I See for the Developing World

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."

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to walk a Stations of the Cross path for the first time at a local abbey. Stations of the Cross is a path made up of a series of images depicting the story of the day of Jesus’ crucifixion. Each station has an image and an accompanying prayer to read as you contemplate what Jesus experienced in his last moments before death. Many Christians walk through the stations during Lent because they focus on the suffering and sacrifice of the Lord leading to the celebration of the Resurrection.

When I visited the stations, I hadn’t known much about them and I didn’t know what to expect. Some of my reflections were surprising, others humbling, but the whole experience left my spirit quieted by Jesus and what he did for us. Here are a few of the reflections I made on my journey.

1. Jesus Became Weak for Us

Sometimes it’s difficult to picture how Jesus suffered. But as I stood at the fifth station and saw the picture of Simon helping Jesus carry the cross, I was reminded of the gruesome nature of Jesus’ death because of his humanity. Jesus was tired. He was exhausted. He was dirty. He had a human body, and that body was quitting on him. At some point, he nearly gave up—he needed help to carry his own cross.

Before his death, he was thirsty, and he had to drink wine from a sponge on a stick. We don’t always think about it, but Jesus got thirsty. And he got hungry, too. When Jesus came to earth he became like us—small and weak.

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” (Philippians 2:5-7, ESV)

2. God Isn’t Surprised

Many of the images made my stomach clench because of the horror of how Jesus died. Then I thought about the prophecies from hundreds of years before. Jesus was not surprised by how he was betrayed or how he was mocked or how it was finally finished. The blood and dirt did not shock him. God the Father was not surprised, either, as he turned away.

Everything that happened those last days from Gethsemane to Golgotha was known by God. He knew that Jesus would suffer, and that the suffering would ultimately lead to salvation.

Knowing it was planned doesn’t make the scene any less brutal. But it does remind us that God’s hand is in everything—even the things that make us cringe.

“For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.” (Isaiah 46:9b-10, ESV)

3. Jesus’ Death Was Sad, but also Peaceful

At the last station, I was very emotional because I could imagine the feeling of loss among the disciples. Their friend had just died and they were left alone.

I bet they felt abandoned. I bet they knew it would all be worth it, but I bet they were filled with sorrow. Even knowing they would see him again would not be enough to fully ease the pain of loss. But after Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension to heaven, God sent the Spirit to guide us. We are not left alone, and that truth brings us peace.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:27, ESV)

These are words of peace Jesus leaves with his disciples before his journey to the cross.

4. We Have a Place in the Resurrection Story

Each station’s image was covered in a glass case, and as I stood at each one, I often found my eyes wandering to the reflection of my own face in the glass. I tried to avert my focus, to turn my eyes away from myself and onto Jesus.

But as I stood there, my face reflected at the feet of Jesus as he hung on the cross, I was struck with the reminder that this story is for us, too. Just as Jesus died with the full weight of our sin on the cross, so we “[die] to sin” daily so that we can be “alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 6:11, ESV)

Jesus died because all of us are sinful and we can’t amend that on our own. Jesus died because he has such deep love for us and he truly wants to spend eternity with us.

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit.” (1 Peter 3:18, ESV)

Jesus’ death shocks us. It humbles us and baffles us. It changes us. It brings us to our knees and reminds us of the greatness of God. We can live because Jesus died.  What a wonderful paradox.

In the middle of Lenten season, I encourage you to reflect on the journey Jesus took so that we might have life because of death.

 

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We all have moments of despair, but there are also the days when the sun peaks through the clouds and we stop and say, “You know, God really is here and working among us. I’m not alone at all.” It’s these moments that we have to capitalize on. These feelings of new life, of resurrection, can transform our lives and the lives of others.

1. Resurrection gets us through the rough times.

The last month has been rough for me. I have often felt like everything is going the opposite way it should. But today, I realize that Jesus is here. It’s not that I didn’t believe that before—of course, I did—but today I feel like he is sitting next to me. When I think about Jesus’ presence among us, about his resurrected life, I imagine how Mary Magdalene must have felt upon seeing the resurrected Jesus. John’s Gospel records:

“Mary stood outside at the tomb, weeping. Then, while she was weeping, she bent over to look into the tomb, and she saw two angels in white, seated one at the head and one at the feet where the body of Jesus had been lying. And they said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have put him!’ When she had said these things, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?’ She thought that it was the gardener, and said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will take him.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.’ She turned around and said to him in Aramaic, ‘Rabboni’ (which means ‘Teacher’). Jesus said to her, ‘Do not touch me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, and my God and your God.” ’ Mary Magdalene came and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord.’” (John 20:11–18 LEB).

When you encounter the living Jesus, in the midst of despair, everything changes.

Here’s how my viewpoint recently changed: I just had the wonderful opportunity of announcing that the organization I lead, Jesus’ Economy, will be able to fund two church planters in northern India for another year. For us, reaching this goal was huge and difficult. And honestly, I wasn’t sure if we would make it. But I also couldn’t bear the thought of not living up to our commitment to fund these two church planters for three years.

The prompting of being on mission for Jesus, in proclamation of his resurrection, is what kept me going through this rough patch. And God coming through inspired me.

I believe the resurrected Jesus will keep you going, no matter what you’re going through.

2. Resurrection is self-sacrificial.

I often think of what various holidays are like for those serving Jesus around the world—and of course, I especially think of our church planters in northern India.

Our church planters in northern India are living self-sacrificially everyday, spreading the gospel to those who have never heard Jesus’ name. Their lives are living testimonies of who Jesus is. And this puts it all in perspective for me: all of my difficulties do not remotely compare to their hardships. And yet, they get the splendid opportunity of seeing Jesus work everyday—which really makes it all worth it.

Easter resurrection is something real for church planters in northern India: They regularly see lives fully transformed by Jesus. And so, their lives make me wonder how much better and fuller my life would be if I could make the same kind of sacrifice. This makes me think of Jesus’ words just prior to the cross:

“This is my commandment: that you love one another just as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this: that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:12–13 LEB).

Living resurrected life with Jesus means living self-sacrificially. And that changes everything. It makes every difficulty an opportunity to do something good for someone else. It takes the perspective off of us, and puts the perspective on God’s workings in the world.

3. Resurrection is a fresh perspective on the world.

Until this last month, I thought of thankfulness as an attitude, but it’s so much more. Thankfulness is a perspective we look at the world through. As we are grateful for the resurrected life of Christ, and the resurrected life he offers us, our worldview changes. It’s not about saying, “Oh, I’m so grateful I have all this (whatever this is for you).” Thankfulness is saying, “Oh, I’m so grateful that Jesus came for me (for all of us), and that he is with me now—right here.” Saint Paul put it this way:

“One person prefers one day over another day, and another person regards every day alike [for the Sabbath and festivals]. Each one must be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who is intent on the day is intent on it for the Lord, and the one who eats eats for the Lord [in celebration], because he is thankful to God, and the one who does not eat does not eat for the Lord [that is he fasts], and he is thankful to God. For none of us lives for himself and none dies for himself. For if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord. Therefore whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For Christ died and became alive again for this reason, in order that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living” (Romans 14:5–9 LEB).

Paul is talking about various viewpoints for feasting, celebration, worship services, and fasting among his audience, but this has a direct implication for us. Whatever we do, let us do it for Christ, in thankfulness—in order that he might be Lord over all things in our lives, in every season.

It’s this perspective that perfectly fits with the Easter season, when we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection for each of us, for all of us. This season we celebrate Jesus’ resurrected life and his resurrection of our lives.

I’m not saying that this sorts everything out; like all of us, I still get depressed along the way. But today on the other side of this, I feel different—today, I realize that God is much greater than I could ever imagine. Today, I realize that he indeed always comes through—he resurrects our efforts and turns them into something beautiful.

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.

The Prophesy of the Suffering Servant

"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.

The Resurrection I See

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.

The Hope I See for the Developing World

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.)