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2016 Good Friday Sermon – Isaiah 53; John 18-19

April 10, 2016

March 25, 2016 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church – Mechanicsburg, PA

“Behold, My servant shall act wisely; He shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted.”

Gabriel had foretold what Mary’s Son would be: “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” That message of the Annunciation revealed Jesus’ identity. The Messiah was to be born; He would meet the descriptions given of Him in the Scriptures.

The angel’s statement echoes what the LORD had declared through His prophet Isaiah: “Behold, My servant shall act wisely; He shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted.” That Messianic Promise would find its fulfillment in the person of Jesus, as the LORD takes upon human nature and makes Himself present on earth. Yet, as you heard the prophet’s words that described what Jesus would be, the idea of greatness seems to fade away. Recall what Isaiah stated concerning how the LORD’s Servant would be received: “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.”

The LORD declares: “[My Servant] shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted.” But what did you hear about what would befall this exalted Servant? “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. By oppression and judgment He was taken away; and as for His generation, who considered that He was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? And they made His grave with the wicked and with a rich man in His death, although He had done no violence, and there was no deceit in His mouth.”

“[My Servant] shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted.” That’s what the LORD promised. Yet what is seen? The LORD’s Servant is betrayed by one of His own disciples. He is arrested and dragged away. The LORD’s High Priest charges Him with blasphemy. The LORD’s people reject the Messiah whom He had sent to them, declaring total allegiance to Caesar instead. The One who created the world is put before a pagan earthly ruler who condemns Him. The LORD’s Servant is stripped, so that He loses all His possessions. He is high and lifted up, but only  by being suspended from a crossbeam. Even in death, He still has no dwelling place of His own, being laid in a borrowed tomb.

“[My Servant] shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted.” The LORD promises this. And what the LORD promises actually is fulfilled. Not only does the rejection of the LORD’s Servant take place, as Isaiah declared. The other divine words spoken through him also come to pass: “Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush Him; He has put Him to grief; when His soul makes an offering for sin, He shall see His offspring; He shall prolong His days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in His hand. Out of the anguish of His soul He shall see and be satisfied; by His knowledge shall the Righteous One, My Servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and He shall bear their iniquities.”

What the LORD had declared about His Servant comes to pass. It is the LORD’s will that His Servant be crushed in this way, so that an offering for sin would be made. When that offering is made, the LORD’s Servant says: “It is finished.” All has been completed. So what the LORD declared about His Servant is then fulfilled: “Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the many, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong, because He poured out His soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet He bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.” The LORD’s Servant suffers, but that is not the end. He is rewarded for His work. A kingdom is won by Him. He possesses all authority in heaven and on earth. He has subjects over whom He will rule forever.

“[My Servant] shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted.” That divine statement is not negated by what takes place to Jesus. Rather, it is fulfilled by these acts, even the suffering and death that He undergoes. There is no loss of Jesus’ identity. No, He shows Himself to be the faithful Servant, the One who is described: “Although He was a son, He learned obedience through what He suffered. And being made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.” Being made perfect, the LORD raises Him from death. Being made perfect, the LORD gives Him a portion with the many. Being made perfect, the LORD grants Him an everlasting kingdom.

And so the LORD’s prophecy is fulfilled for Jesus. For this day of Good Friday is not a time to lament the humiliation and rejection of Jesus. No, it is to see that His exaltation has begun. For the LORD’s work has been completed by Him. The will of the LORD has prospered in His hand, even in His death. Jesus sees His offspring, all those who have been given life because of the sin offering He has made.

Gabriel’s announcement about Jesus stands true: “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” You are in that kingdom because Jesus has finished what the LORD laid out for Him. He was cut off from the land of the living. But after a short time in death, the LORD prolonged His days. He sees and is satisfied. He makes many righteous by being counted among the transgressors. But now in resurrection, Jesus holds the spoils of what His crucifixion accomplished, even the keys to Death and Hades. And so the LORD’s words are fulfilled and we are shown who our Redeemer is: “Behold, My servant shall act wisely; He shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted.”

+ In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

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