God Suffers for Us!
Last time I spoke to you I was looking at the aspect of God’s nature that makes Him our Shepherd – our carer. Today I want to go further and look at just how much God Loves us and cares about us. Isaiah 53 is one of the great chapters in the Old Testament, and it is all about Jesus. It is echoed in 1 Peter 2: 21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. 22 “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” 23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to Him who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.
The Message starts the chapter with “Who believes what we have heard and seen? Who would have thought that God’s saving power would look like this!” Wiersebe in his Commentary says that when Jesus appeared the Israelite nation was barren and dry spiritually. They had a form of religion, but they had no life in the religion – it was all a matter of form – and so, because Jesus brought life, they rejected Him. I wonder if we can say that we have more than just a form of religion, a habit, a comfortable practice, a fellowship with fellow members that we enjoy, - or do we have a vibrant, living fellowship with Christ Himself, walking with Him every day?
Jesus was despised, looked down on, rejected, forsaken by His friends and disciples, His nation, His world. Yet He went about doing good and helping the helpless. This speaks mainly of the wickedness of the human heart, the utter self centeredness of the human ego, the thoughtlessness of the human mind. He was treated unjustly. He was arrested on a trumped up charge after being sold out by one of His close company. He faced two mockeries of trials, and even after being declared innocent by the Judge was condemned to death without appeal. He was scourged by the Roman soldiers who mocked Him as they whipped him with a leather and metal spikes cat-o-nine tails. He carried His own heavy cross through the crowded streets of Jerusalem until He collapsed. He was literally nailed to the cross and hung up to die. But these physical sufferings were as nothing compared to the spiritual sufferings as the sinless, perfect son of God, hung on the cross and took upon Himself the guilt, anguish and grief of all the world’s sins. He bore our transgressions, our rebellious and deliberate breaking of God’s law, the calamities and results of our sins, our griefs and sorrows, our deliberate separating of ourselves from fellowship with God. No wonder He cried out “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me!”
Yet through all of this He did not object or cry out. He said nothing in His own defence – His very life was the greatest defence possible against the false accusations, but no-one defended Him, and He said nothing, until on the cross itself He said “Father forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing.” Why should an innocent man such as Jesus die such a terrible death on the cross? The Message says “We looked down on him, thought he was scum. But the fact is, it was our pains he carried— our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us. We thought he brought it on himself, that God was punishing him for his own failures. But it was our sins that did that to him, that
ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins! He took the punishment, and that made us whole. Through his bruises we get healed.
But Hey you say, we aren’t criminals, we aren’t sinners like those Jews who crucified Jesus, we would never do anything like that! The fact remains that as the Bible says “All we like sheep have gone astray.” We have all followed the crowd, all done our own thing, followed our own whims, suited ourselves. Whether by thought, word or deed, we all sin far more than we care to admit – even to ourselves. John in his 1st letter says 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. 8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.
Some of us just ignore the fact – carry on as we are – “We’re all right Jack! I’m good enough,” we say. Some of us accept the fact and say, “I try my hardest, I’m doing my best, God will recognise that.” Neither of these actions cut the gravy – our best is not good enough! We are never good enough – we can’t be – we are human, not divine. John says that the only way is to accept the fact that we are sinners, and that we can’t change that, but God can. We must get down on our knees – not just once but daily – and confess to God, open up our secret places to Him and to ourselves, confess our sins and let Him deal with them.
This was the whole point of the Cross. No human sacrifice was good enough, certainly not any sacrifice of an animal, not even an unblemished lamb – but only the sacrifice of the perfect sinless man, the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, God’s own Son was good enough to pay the price of Sin. Do you truly open up every room of your life, every hidden cupboard filled with resentments, nasty thoughts about others, jealousies and covetousness, and confess to God that you can’t deal with them on your own but need Him to do it for you. When you do, then He will forgive you for those sins you confess, and remove the burden of guilt and shame from you, and place it on Jesus on the Cross. Remember the story of the Passover as the Israelites left Egypt? The final plague – the plague of death – hit every household except those houses which had been marked with the blood of the Passover Lamb. Jesus Christ is the Christian’s Passover. His death was an atonement for our sin. Only by accepting the love and Grace of God and allowing the Blood of Christ to wash away our sins can we escape the punishment of Sin which is spiritual death.
This is the Love of God, that seeing the terrible bind humankind had got itself into He planed to redeem the world by dying the Death of Sin Himself in the form of Jesus Christ. Now we do not have to die the death of the Spirit, but through Confession and forgiveness, and through Faith in Christ’s saving work on our behalf, and allowing Him into our lives to walk with us and keep us on the right track while serving Him we have Eternal Life. Paul believed this whole heartedly. Listen to his words from Ephesians 3:
16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses all knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
This is an all encompassing love that will not let us go – only we can let it go. Paul say how wide – all over the earth through all our experiences, - how long – through the whole length of our life and into eternity, - how high – it rise to the heights of our celebration and elation, - how deep – it keeps us still in the utter depths of our despair, and even in death. It is beyond human comprehension, we can only experience it and accept it by faith. Paul says again in Romans 8: 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,d neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
What an example Christ is to us as He submitted completely to the will of God His, and our, Father. When we meet hard times, when people scoff at us and treat us unjustly – as they will if we follow Christ and uphold His standards- then we must glorify Christ by being completely yielded to God’s will and plan for our life. Only then can we have full fellowship with God, and know the Grace and Blessing of being fully a child of His, Redeemed, Forgiven, Saved from this sinful world for the glories of His Eternity.
Let us pray –
Father God we marvel at your wonderful love and mercy. We thank you for your Grace and redeeming actions through Jesus Christ our Lord. We confess to you all our sins, sins of thoughts, words, actions, emotions and selfishness. We pray for your forgiveness and accept Jesus into our hearts today to live with us, to guide us, to protect us so that we might be truly Your children. Look into our hearts we pray, and know our innermost thoughts, cleanse us from all temptations and wrong doing. Keep us forever in Your wonderful love. Amen
d Or nor heavenly rulers