Near Life or New Life?
April 5, 2015
Read Isa 53:6-10 – A cartoon depicts the living room of a retirement home. A man looking totally dejected sits facing the wall, window shade drawn, paper fallen in his lap. Others look equally dejected. One man says to another, “Last week, I think I had a near-life experience.” That vividly depicts the end all of us fear. We’re good now, but what happens when the end comes crashing in?
It happened to 2 disciples in Luke 24 on the Sunday after Jesus was killed. They’d pinned all their hopes for now and later on Him. Now, their expectations were dashed and their “near-life” experience was over they thought. Then Jesus arrives on the scene, unrecognized by them, He’s not very sympathetic. He kindly rebukes them. Why? Lu 24: 25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” He’s saying, “Guys, your hopes aren’t crushed. He was crushed so that your hopes wouldn’t be! Your own Bible told you He’d suffer and be resurrected. It was all there and you didn’t believe it.”
I used to think Jesus was a little hard on them. Finding death and resurrection of Messiah in the OT? Not easy! But I was just as wrong as they were. It’s there everywhere. It’s there in the Garden when God takes Adam and Eve’s fig leaves and replaces them with the skins of animals who died to illustrate this truth. It’s there in God’s demand to Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac only to provide a substitute lamb at the last minute. It’s there in the three days Jonah spent in the belly of a great fish. It’s there in the prophecies of Psa 22 and Isa 53 of a crucified Messiah who becomes the eternal Son of Man from Daniel 9. And it’s all there in a single verse in Isa 53:10. Amazing.
If I said, “Give me the gospel in a single verse,” you’d go the same place I would. Jn 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish by have eternal life.” The gospel in one verse! But Isa 53:10? Dave, are you sure? Yes, it’s there & it’s beautiful: “Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.” This verse has book ends – the will of God at the beginning; the will of God at the end. Salvation is all of God. But in the middle, it is about the Son—and us; it is about Jesus because He implemented the will of the Father. Remember how all thru His life, all Jesus ever talked about was doing the will of His Father?
This verse explains God’s will 700 years ahead of time. Jesus’ disciples should have known it. This verse tells us the price of salvation. It begins with inexplicable horror, but it ends with unimaginable glory. It begins with death, but ends with life. It is the gospel in miniature – in the OT. It shows us 5 ways God’s will prospered in His Son and why that was critical to every one of us.
I. It Was the Father’s Will He Be Crushed
“Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief.” Wow! What kind of Father would crush his own Son? The worst father we know wouldn’t do that. It’s unimaginable. Yet it says it was the Father’s will to crush his son. So there must have been some overwhelmingly, compelling reason, right? there must have been an unavoidable reason! And there was and we’ll get to it in a moment. But first, consider implications of this phrase.
First, it shows the death of Christ was the Father’s idea. It was not a tragic, avoidable accident of history. It was not primarily the plan of the Jewish leaders, altho they will be accountable. It was not the plan of the Romans, altho they will be accountable. It was not ultimately the result of 3-years of planning by jealous men. It was ultimately the result of the eternal plan of an infinite God. Note how God’s sovereignty and human choices meld together in Peter’s Pentecost sermon 7 weeks after Jesus’ death: Acts 2:23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” “God planned it, but you executed it. God’s blood is on your hands.” No wonder 3,000 of them turned to Christ that day alone. But Jesus’ death was purposeful and intentional.
And infinitely painful! Imagine asking your Son to die. Sure Jesus suffered – but so did the Father, Beloved. Remember how David’s son Absalom led a rebellion against David trying to seize the throne? And remember David’s reaction when news was brought that the rebellion had ended with the death of his son? II Sam 18:33 And the king was deeply moved and went up to the chamber over the gate and wept. And as he went, he said, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!” If David felt that way about the death of a rebellious, wayward son, imagine how the God the Father felt about the death of His absolutely perfect Son. Understand that your ability to have a broken heart reflects your Creator’s ability to feel that same way, and imagine what He felt. It could not have been for no reason, could it? So what reason?
II. It Was the Father’s Will He Be Guilty
“When his soul makes an offering for guilt.” We are rapidly going from bad to worse, here, aren’t we? But now at least we know the reason the Father would ask His Son to die – to make an offering for guilt. Whose guilt? Couldn’t have been His. He had none. Heb 4:15 assures us He was “without sin.” No guilt there. So where? In the life of every person who ever lived. Our guilt.
Where does guilt come from? Sin. And where did that come from? Adam and Eve. And what was the result? Death. Separation from God. You see it immediately in Eden. The sweet, daily fellowship with God that had been common was broken. Adam and Eve ran rather away from God rather than to Him. Fellowship broken. Separation, alienation, illustrated by the sword put at the gate as God expelled them from the garden. Sin has brought death God promised. And now there’s no way back except thru the sword, thru death.
So how did Jesus make an offering for guilt? You say, by dying. He was the fulfillment that millions of sacrificial lambs point toward. What the blood of bulls and goats could not do, He did! What their death only symbolized, His death accomplished. So, He made an offering for sin by dying. That’s true. But we need to go a little deeper to get the full story.
Men killed Jesus, right? The Jews condemned Him and Roman soldiers drove in the nails. Men killed Him. But note the phrase again: “Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief.” Men killed Him, but who crushed Him? Who put Him to grief? The Father did! The Father did. What is that all about? It is about this. Jesus didn’t just die physically. Notice “his soul makes an offering for guilt.” Soul, nephesh, breath, life principle -- the totality of the person – body, soul and spirit. It was the totality of Jesus’ person that paid sin’s price. And while men took his physical life, it was the Father who crushed His whole being by separating from Him. An infinite price paid in a moment of time by an infinite sacrifice when He cried, “My God (not Father this time), My God, why have you forsaken me?” Why? Because at that moment, Jesus had become sin – for us – and in the ultimate penalty for sin, God the Father separated from Him and crushed Him. It was the anticipation of this spiritual death that drove His anguish in Gethsemane. That’s how Jesus’ soul made an offering for your guilt and mine.
But one more point. The guilt offering is described in detail in Lev 5:1-6:7. Alec Motyer says, “The heart of its distinctiveness is its insistence on minute exactness between sin and remedy. It could well be called the ‘satisfaction-offering’.” This passage affirms Jesus suffered “exactly equivalent to what needed to be done.” Consider this! If my sin deserves an eternity of separation from God, and your sin deserves an eternity of separation from God as does everyone’s, that means Jesus suffered literally billions of eternities of separation from the Father in a moment of time in a way we can never begin to understand. When Paul says, “He made Him to be sin for us who knew no sin that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him,” it was no small thing! Something inexpressible happened on Calvary – Father and Son acting in harmony to take our guilt. One becoming sin for us, the other turning away from that sin for us. Separated in r; united in purpose. Given that imagine saying, “No thanks. I’m good enough on my own. Sorry you went to all that trouble for nothing.” Hell would hardly be good enough for such an attitude.
Believe me, God didn’t crush His Son for nothing any more than you would. That means – there was no other way. And when Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father except thru me” He meant it. He alone removed the sword from the Garden. No one else – not Buddha, not Vishnu, not Confucius, could do that. There is one way. That way is Jesus.
III. It Was the Father’s Will He Be Resurrected
What started in horror now turns to glory. Life out of death. Resurrection! Where do you see that? In the next phrase: “he shall see his offspring.” How can a dead man see his offspring? Resurrection!! He is risen! And to make sure we get the point, the prophet adds “he shall prolong his days.” Having been crushed by the Father, He is now raised again by the Father. It’s not blatant here; it’s subtle. But it’s sure! It’s matter of fact, but unmistakably here – and that’s why Jesus faulted those disciples for being slow of heart to believe all that the Scripture said. You’ll miss a lot if you don’t dive into the details. You might even miss the resurrection. You don’t want to miss that.
Everything hinges on the resurrection, doesn’t it? Paul says in I Cor 15:14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” This is the lynchpin for Christianity. If Christ was not raised bodily from the dead, there is no Christianity. It is all a lie. There is no redemption, no atonement, no forgiveness and no hope. All depends on the resurrection. This is the Father stamping “APPROVED” on all the Son has done. “Yes, the payment is made. Yes, it is adequate. Yes it is accepted, and Yes, there is redemption; there is atonement; there is forgiveness and there is hope. And here is the living, walking, talking proof.” Jesus Christ alive from the dead. This separates Christianity from every other religion. They have claims; we have proof. They have maybe; we have certainty. They have religion; we have relationship. They have men in the flesh; we have God in the flesh. They have dead founders; we have a live Savior. They have lies; we have the way, the truth and the life. They have rules; we have Jesus Christ – alive and well and coming again. The resurrection, Beloved, changes everything -- for all time!
Years ago there was a devastating earthquake in China. It dislodged a huge boulder from a mountain thus exposing a great cache of wonderful artifacts from a thousand years ago. A whole new world opened up when the boulder was dislodged. And that’s just what happened when the stone was rolled away from Jesus’ tomb on Easter morning. Mankind got its first glimpse of a new world – a world where death does not have the last word, where injustice is made right, and where perfection reigns supreme. Want in on that? The angel told the women, “Don’t be afraid. You are looking for Jesus? He isn’t here. He’s arisen. You will find Him not among the dead but among the living. It’s a new day and a new world.” And that angel might have told the soldiers, “You should be afraid. Everything your world is based on has been shaken to the core.” No one went away from that empty tomb the same way they came – and neither can we. That tomb says it is decision time!
IV. It Was the Father’s Will He Have Offspring
That’s the point of the whole thing, isn’t it? To save sinners. To produce offspring. The Son of God died and rose again to bring other sons and daughters to God. John 1:12: “12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” And how do we receive Him? By faith. By believing in what He has done and submitting to His authority. Rom 10:9, “9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” He’s defeated death for you! It just remains for you to accept the gift of eternal life by faith. You die to self to come alive to Him. Are you His child? Or are you still on the outside looking in?
Philip Ryken tells of a young woman with an immoral past who came to faith in Christ. But she found it hard to forget her past. She believed Jesus died to forgive her sins, yet continued to condemn herself. But one day someone advised: “Understand, Kay, that when God looks at you He doesn’t say, ‘There goes that slut,’ He says, “There goes my beloved daughter.’” That’s what it means to be part of the family, Beloved. That’s what it means to be forgiven. That’s why it was the Father’s will to crush His own Son – so that we need not be crushed! You can’t put Jesus’ death aside and try to earn that. But you can accept His death in your place and receive it!
V. It Was the Father’s Will They Live Forever
“He shall prolong his days.” There’s eternal life! It’s hinted at in the previous phrase: “he shall see his offspring.” That implies resurrection, but it also implies eternal life. How many of your offspring will you see? Kids? Grandkids? Maybe greats if you are very fortunate. But in 100 years, your own offspring won’t even know your name. I didn’t know beyond my own grandparents until I did a genealogy study. That’s how fleeting life is.
But Jesus? He’ll see them all. He is alive to live forever, and so are those He brings with Him. Paul says this of God in II Tim 1:9-10: “[God] saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, 10 and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” Imagine that. Eternal life with God for all believers. And Isaiah saw it all 700 years before Jesus came.
Conc – The will of the Father was not easy for Jesus, was it? But look at the last phrase of the verse: “the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand”, and, it did! It all happened just as God thru Isaiah said it would. That just leaves one unanswered question: How is the will of the Father doing in your hands? Prospering, or ignored. What is His will? Easy. He wants you for His offspring. II Pet 3:9: He is “not wishing (literally, willing) that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” Have you come to repentance?
At the close of a church service a gentleman approached Dr. D. M. Stearns with a criticism; “I don’t like your way of preaching. I don’t care for the idea of Christ dying for the lost. You’re out of date! Preach Jesus as a teacher and example.” Dr. Stearns replied, “Would you then be willing to follow Him if I preached Christ as the great example?” “I would.” Dr. Stearns said, “Well then, let’s take the first step. According to I Peter 2:22 Jesus did no sin. Are you ready to take this step?” The man replied, “Well, of course I can’t. I do sin. I admit that.” Dr. Stearns said, “Well, then, your most pressing need of Jesus is not as example, but as Savior. You need a Savior.” As do we all need a Savior – someone who has made offering for our guilt. So accept Him. It’s Easter. Don’t settle for near life. Get a new life in Him. He’s done His part. Now, it’s up to you. Let’s pray.