In Isaiah 53:1-12, the Bible details what men did to the Messiah, and what the Father did to His Son. Calvary is the ultimate expression of what men did to Christ. Golgotha finds God in the hands of angry sinners. When the Lord of Glory appeared, men despised Him, men rejected Him, men oppressed and afflicted Him.
The prophet Isaiah saw it all and cried, in essence, “Look at what men did to Christ. They put Him in prison before they killed Him.” To add to the sorrow and shame, in the days of His humiliation, it pleased God the Father to bruise His Son, it pleased the Father to put Jesus to grief. Not that the Father is sadistic, but rather that the Divine Decree of redemption was finally accomplished so that sinners can be reconciled. In the light of a majestic plan of special redemption, look at what the Father did to His Son and then stand and sing,
“Amazing grace how sweet the sound,
that saved a wretch like me.”
The focus of attention is turned to concentrate on what Christ did for His own in order to understand the substitutionary work of Christ on the Cross was for a definite purpose. Jesus did not come to make all men savable. He came to seek and to save that which was lost. The Messiah did not come to place all of humanity in a position of potential redemption. He came as a specific substitute for specific sinners. The Lord accomplished the act of redemption and is now applying that redemptive grace to all who are to be the heirs of salvation.
There are many passages throughout the Word of God to prove this point, for the texts are numerous, but we really have to go no further than our passage. I pray that God the Holy Spirit will allow all who come under the preaching of the gospel in this place to clearly realize how narrow, how specific, how special the death of Christ was as He worked for those He loved. As Jacob labored for Rachel, so Christ labored to be married to the Church.
Consider first, the personal pronouns of passion (Isa. 53:4) and possession. Surely “He hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.” To whom does the prophet refer when He speaks of “our griefs” and “our sorrows”? In verse 5, we read that Jesus was “wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities.” Are all men, without exception, in view here so that the sins of Judas, the sins of Hitler, and Stalin, and Mussolini are covered by the blood of Christ? That is one possibility.
But logic compels us to reason that the text is not so expansive. It is to a much more narrow, a much more focused and spiritual body that the prophet writes to declare that the Messiah has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. For all who are outside of Christ there is nothing but the wrath of God stored up and poured out, but for all who are in Christ, for all who will finally and ultimately come to Christ, there is this special revelation of divine tenderness. Of the Church alone can it be said, of the two spiritual, Israel alone can it be declared that the Savior has tenderly lifted us up from the pit of hell and carried us on wings of love to heaven. Christ understands our grief and our sorrow for we are grieved over sin and know godly sorrow of repentance.
Men who are outside of Christ are not grieved by their sins. Men who are outside of Christ have no sorrow for sin. Talk to the unconverted. What do they care that the Laws of God are violated? What do they care about sorrow for sin? They care nothing at all. The mouth of the ungodly speaks in an endless stream of words to justify: filth in the name of free speech, anarchy in the disguise of individuality, and hatred in the halo of patriotism or rationalism.
In 1994 there were reported that fifteen million people tuned in to watch an actress on Civil Wars pose completely nude. That is the future for prime-time TV in Pennsylvania. New York already has it. Jesus said, “Blessed are they that mourn; for they shall be comforted.” Only the Christian will weep over sin. Only the soul touched by the grace of God will cry and shed bitter tears of repentance. Beware of dry eye conversions.
Sin has made mankind sick, and only Christ can cure that spiritual disease by lifting our sins upon Himself, thus carrying them. Peter declared, “Our sins He Himself has borne in His body upon the tree” (1 Peter 2:24). Jesus Christ as the suffering Savior bore the sin that is the cause of the evil consequences of rebellion, and thereby He became our substitute. Truly has He done this so there is a quiet confidence in the Messiah. In the Divine economy, either a person bears the pain and penalty of sin, or there is a substitute who bears the pain and penalty of sin.
During the Civil War, a man could have a substitute to take his place in the army. If Christ has borne all sins of all men, then there is no basis on which a person can be sent into eternal punishment. However, if Christ has borne our grief and carried our sorrow, if Christ has died for His own, then there is a just condemnation of the unrepentant. Every person in hell is the object of Divine wrath, and receives the fury which Christ endured for His beloved.
To emphasize the personal aspect, to focus on the extent of the atonement our passage declares that the Messiah was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities. In the original, two thoughts are associated with the word wounded. The first concept is that of being “pierced through”. The nails pierced through the hands of Jesus. The spike pierced through His feet. The crown of thorns pierced His Holy brow. But our sins pierced through His soul even unto death so that He cried in spiritual agony, “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me”?
The second concept is that of a violent death. There are some wounds that hardly hurt. There are other wounds that are violent. Like many others, I have watched the replay of the assassination of John F. Kennedy many times. It was a violent wound unto death when Camelot was killed.
Jesus Christ died a violent death at Calvary. Apart from the physical beatings, apart from the brutality of battle-hardened soldiers and enraged passions of the Sanhedrin, there was the pouring out to the full fury of the wrath of Almighty God.
When Isaiah foresaw the Messiah being wounded, it was a piercing wound and it was a violent wound administered not only to the body but to the soul as well. People who have experienced physical pain and mental pain know that the anguish of the soul is by far the greater pain to endure. No wonder Jesus sweat drops of blood. The reason for the wounds is said to be “our transgressions” and “our iniquities”. The sins we had committed by choice were borne by the Suffering Servant. But since sin is something immaterial, how can Jesus be said to bear it? “The answer is that sin involves not merely our inward corruption of the heart but also guilt before God. In saying that the Servant bore our sins, Isaiah is in reality declaring that He bore the guilt of our sins (Prof. E. Young).
Yet, even guilt is intangible. But guilt involves disbelief. Guilt involves accountability, and with this we come to the heart of the matter. When we say that the Messiah bore our guilt, we are ultimately saying He bore the punishment that was due us because of our sins. He became our substitute. Look at what Christ did for His own. “He bore our grief.” He carried our sorrows. “He was wounded for our transgressions. He was bruised for our iniquities.”
To further prove that the extent of the atonement was for those who will ultimately come to faith, there are the words of verse 11: “He shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied.” If there is one person in hell for whom Christ died, if there is one person in prison of Divine Discipline whose sins Jesus was a substitute for them, it could not be said, “He shall see of the travail of His soul and shall be satisfied.”
The reason why Christ is eternally happy is because His bride is safe. He has rescued His beloved from certain death. Jesus has accomplished what no one else could ever do. To think of some parts of the Church being in hell would be sorrow to the Savior, but He looks and He sees a completed Church, a healthy body not having any spot or wrinkle. The Church is composed of many members just as the body has many parts. Jesus shall justify the many (v. 10). He shall bear their iniquities.
Here then is the theme that will make the angels marvel, and the Church to sing. The Suffering Savior has accomplished a definite redemption and is now applying that substitutionary work to all that the Father has given to the Son. The question comes, “Have I been given to the Son? Has the Father written my name down in the Lamb’s Book of Life? Did Jesus die for me? Is He my substitute”?
These are the questions of eternity. The right answer will mean heaven or hell, joy or sorrow, peace or punishment. There is a very simple way to know if Christ has become your substitute. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved. He that believeth on Him is not condemned, but he that believeth not is condemned already because he hath not believed in the
name of the only begotten Son of God.
By looking at what Christ did for His own, by understanding the design and extent of the atonement, several things happen. First, all of humanity is classified according to Biblical terms as the saved and the lost, the sheep and the goats, the wheat and the tares, the elect and the non-elect, the redeemed and the unredeemed, the regenerated and the unregenerate, those who are in Christ and those who are not. Every person today is either covered by the blood of Christ or under the wrath of God. It is that dramatic and that distinct. And the invitation — the commandment — comes, flee to the Cross of Calvary.
Second, every person is able to judge themselves. Either Christ is my substitute or He is not. Either Christ died for me or He did not. By faith and by grace I can say with firm conviction and a quiet confidence, He has borne my grief. He has carried my sorrow. He was wounded for my transgressions. He was bruised for my iniquities. By His stripes, I am healed. I look and I see Christ died for me.
The concept of Christ acting on behalf of His own is not new to the Church. It is the very foundation of historic Protestant theology as per the Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 8, Section 3 and Section 4.
The Lord Jesus, in His human nature thus united to the divine, was sanctified, and anointed with the Holy Spirit, above measure, having in Him all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge; in whom it pleased the Father that all fullness should dwell; to the end that, being holy, harmless, undefiled, and full of grace and truth, He might be thoroughly furnished to execute the office of a Mediator and Surety. Which office He took not unto Himself, but was thereunto called by His Father, who put all power and judgment into His hand, and gave Him commandment to execute the same.
This office the Lord Jesus did most willingly undertake; which that He might discharge, He was made under the law, and did perfectly fulfil it; endured most grievous torments immediately in His soul, and most painful sufferings in His body; was crucified, and died, was buried, and remained under the power of death, yet saw no corruption. On the third day He arose from the dead, with the same body in which He suffered, with which also he ascended into heaven, and there sits at the right hand of His Father, making intercession, and shall return, to judge men and angels, at the end of the world.
Here is a marvelous truth. Christ is the substitute of all sinners who will come to faith. If Christ is to be your substitute, then embrace Him as Lord and Savior. This is not so hard to do if you will. Just look at what Christ did for His own.