Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Solus Christus: The Suffering Servant

Yesterday we saw that Jesus is the good Shepherd who is so good and who loved His sheep so much that He laid down His life for them. This was God’s plan for Him from foundation of the world (cf. Re. 13:8). That means that many of God’s prophecies about Jesus are not going to be happy prophecies because they will tell of His death. One of the saddest tells us that the Servant—the Messiah—will be a suffering servant:
1 Who has believed what he has heard from us?
    And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
2 For 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.
3 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.
4 Surely he has borne our griefs
    and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
    smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 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.
6 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.
7 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.
8 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?
9 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.
10 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.
11 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.
12 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. (Is. 53:1-12)
He was despised, rejected, pierced, bruised, and God laid on Him our iniquities. Indeed, it was “the will of the Lord to crush him.” That was the plan for the incarnation of Jesus. It was the plan when God the Father commissioned God the Son to take on the work of redemption (cf. Is. 49), and Jesus willingly took on that responsibility. He willingly came into the world knowing that God the Father’s wrath against the sin of believers would only be satisfied by the “anguish of his soul.”

The Westminster Shorter Catechism calls this the “humiliation” of Christ. It asks in question #27, “Wherein did Christ’s humiliation consist?” and it answers, “Christ’s humiliation consisted in His being born, and that in a low condition, made under the law, undergoing the miseries of this life, the wrath of God, and the cursed death of the cross; in being buried, and continuing under the power of death for a time.” Even becoming man was part of this suffering that Jesus was commissioned by God to take. Coming into this world was how he was “numbered with the transgressors” even though He Himself was perfect. The incarnation, the glorious event that we celebrate at Christmas, was a humiliation for Jesus, but it was one that He willingly accepted for the sake of His people. Paul tells us that Jesus “emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” He willingly gave up the glorious riches of heaven and became one of us. Indeed, not just one of us but a servant for us. He voluntarily subjected Himself to the miseries of this life by leaving the perfection of heaven and being born of Mary. Paul also calls this the grace of Jesus: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you by His poverty might become rich.” This is the true meaning of Christmas—that Jesus became poor and suffered so we, by His poverty and suffering, might become rich.

Today let Advent remind you of the suffering Jesus endured so that “we might become the righteousness of God.” Remember that even becoming human was a humiliation for Him and part of His suffering. Let Advent remind you of the intensity of and depth of the love that led Jesus to do this for His people. When you celebrate Christmas, do rejoice in the fact that our Lord became man, but also remember that in order to do so the King of the universe had to “[empty] himself, by taking the form of a servant.” Never forget that Jesus knows what it’s like to suffer in this world. (Indeed, He suffered in ways we could never imagine.) Never forget that “we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Ask Him to work these truths into your heart so that you want to show Him how thankful you are with every part of your life.

By His Grace,

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