Text: Isaiah 53:4-6
Tonight we gather in repentance and somber faith to confess that this is the day our precious Lord was crucified for us. Today is the day that the weight of all God’s wrath against human sin came to bear against our Jesus, the only one in all creation without sin. In the midst of this pandemic we are enduring, we must also confess that it is our own sinfulness that led to that fateful night some 2,000 years ago, and which brings us here tonight. It is our iniquity that has brought us here; it is the Lord’s steadfast love that will bring us through. Because we were unable to pay for the iniquity of our sin, God the Father placed it upon our Lord, instead.
The prophet Isaiah sang of our Lord throughout his ministry. Our text this evening is the word of the Holy Spirit in Isaiah 53,
Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.Isaiah 53:4-6, English Standard Version
Yes, it is our sinfulness that brought upon that awful day 2,000 years ago, that led to what Isaiah said, “He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities.” But, what does it mean to transgress, commit iniquity, to sin? We confess from the Scriptures that our God, in His infinite wisdom and for the good of His creation, set the standard of what is good and right and what is evil and wrong. As the creator of all that exists, it was His right to do so. At Creation, He wrote this standard upon human hearts and spoke it to our first parents. On Mt. Sinai, He wrote it on tablets of stone. To sin is to disregard this Law. To transgress is to go beyond and outside of what God says is right. Iniquity is the condition we are all in. We have each – every one of us – disregarded God’s Commandments throughout our lives and lived as though we are God.
The Lord declares in His Word, “I am the Lord; that is My name; My glory I give to no other.” (Is. 42:8) That is to say, God is the only God. He does not allow pretenders, such as our sinful selves, to stand. Instead, He punishes in His righteous fury those who claim His glory for themselves. Our first parents were warned what would be the punishment of their sin – death and eternal separation from God in hell. This is not just the punishment of sin in general, but of each sin in particular. Every time we have sinned, we have incurred the punishment of death and condemnation.
At different times in our lives, we become aware of this fact. Unfortunately, we have resorted to our human wisdom to address this issue. Our nature is to always assume that we can make up for something we’ve done wrong; that we can do good to offset something bad. We carry this into the spiritual realm and figure that we can do something to make up for what we’ve done. St. Isaiah speaks the truth when he confesses, “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.” (64:6) Whatever we might think to do to bring ourselves back into God’s favor, whatever we might think are righteous deeds, are in fact wretched in God’s eyes. Not only can they not pay for our sins, but God sees our attempts at righteousness and spits them out of His mouth. Attempting to make ourselves righteous by our works is the same as sinning. Neither leads to a good end.
If left on our own, we would – without doubt – perish eternally. Our Lord, however, is not just a righteous judge, but a loving and kind father. Even before the foundation of the world, He saw our wretched state and determined, Himself, to rectify it. He turned to us a Father’s heart, and did not take the easy part. St. Paul wrote to the Galatians, “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the Law, to redeem those who were under the Law.” (Gal. 4:4-5) This, also, is what Isaiah prophesied. Rather than extract the punishment of our many sins from us – which would be just – He took another path. He sent His own Son, Jesus Christ, into the flesh for us.
Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. Jesus was born without original sin, and did not commit any sins. Isaiah said, “He [did] no violence, and there was no deceit in His mouth.” (53:9) Instead, He carried our griefs and bore our sorrows. The Lord placed upon our Lord the iniquity of our sin. The guilt of our sins, of the evil and perverse things that we have done, God the Father placed upon Jesus, who bore them willingly to the cross. On the cross, our Lord was forsaken by God and on Him was poured all of God’s wrath against our many sins. Jesus gladly did this, so that we might have peace.
As we said a moment ago, our sin is what has brought us here. Our sin is what introduced death into the world. Sin is why we are afflicted as we are now, and it is why we will die. Yet, our sin is also why our Lord died. Only, the death He died, He died as the payment for our sin and to change the outcome of our death. Isaiah said, “He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His wounds we are healed.” Jesus’ death means that our debt is paid. It means that we have peace with God. It means we are forgiven, but only at a great cost. So, we gather tonight in somber repentance and faith to confess our great sinfulness, but also our Lord’s great love and mercy. Lord have mercy. Amen.