Isaiah’s Prophecy of a Suffering Servant

The Lord God, the creator of the Universe, knows all things that will happen. He exists outside of time. To prove that He alone is God, He spoke of specific things that He was going to do, ahead of time. Let’s look at one today. The prophet Isaiah ministered for over forty years (740-697 B.C.) and spoke about a time when God would send a suffering servant to the nation of Israel. This servant of God would be humiliated, persecuted, spat upon, mocked, the hair from His beard would be pulled out, and His back would be whipped:

I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; 
I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting (Isaiah 50:6)

Isaiah went on to prophesy about this suffering servant, that He would be despised and rejected, but in this act of suffering He would carry our transgressions, sorrows and our infirmities (physical or mental weaknesses):

3He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. 4Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, 
yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted.
5But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.
6We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way;
and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:4-6).

The prophet Isaiah, five hundred or so years before Christ, spoke in detail about the suffering of the Lord Jesus Christ, sharing that One sent from God would make His life an offering for sin. Jesus fulfilled all of these things and much more. He was brutally whipped on His back, beaten by the company of soldiers about His head, humiliated and mocked as they impaled Him with a crown of thorns, before leading Him off to one of the worst tortures that man has devised—crucifixion. He would come as a substitute and take the guilt that we have incurred by our lives of sin and animosity toward God, and pay the penalty that our sins deserve. Because of this one act of love by the suffering servant, Jesus, God can deal with us in grace and mercy. This suffering servant would be God Himself. He Himself would show us how much He loves us and desires us to enjoy relationship with Him.

This plan to buy us back from Satan’s slave market of sin, was put into operation thousands of years ago when man decided that he would listen and obey Satan rather than God in the Garden of Eden. The just penalty that God had to place on this rebellion was death and separation from God (Genesis 2:17). But because of God’s love and mercy He did not leave us in this state—He would come and take the just penalty on Himself for sin. This act of love would be a covenant in blood, a solemn agreement by two people—you and God. For all those who agree to the terms of this solemn covenant or agreement, He will take your sin and count it paid for by the substitutionary death of Christ in this one amazing act of love by the Suffering Servant. What about you, dear reader, will you agree to the terms of this covenant? Your sin has been paid for two thousand years ago by One who came to die in your place. To agree to the terms of the covenant, you must repent (turn from your sin towards God in obedience to Him) and believe (trust in Christ as your Savior from sin) the gospel (the good news that God loves you and has taken the initiative to cancel out your guilt and everything that keeps you from enjoying eternal life with Him). If you will call upon the name of the Lord in this way, the promise is that you will enjoy eternal life:

16For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son (John 3:16-18).

He is only a prayer away. No matter what sin you have done, He will forgive you on the basis of the substitutionary death in your place of His Son Jesus. He hears every heart cry. Let this be your day. Eternity is a long time—there is no time like the present. Turn to the lover of your soul. Keith Thomas

The Seven Last Sayings of Christ on the Cross

The last things a person speaks before he dies are usually very important things that they want to convey. There are seven last sayings of Christ while He was on the cross. We will examine these sayings in order:

1) “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

Who was Jesus forgiving because of their ignorance? This first saying is directed to the soldiers guarding Him as they divided His clothing among themselves. John writes that the four soldiers guarding Him cast lots for his clothing in fulfillment of another prophecy (John 19:23-24; Psalm 22:8). Most pictures of Christ on the cross usually show an undergarment over his loins, but in reality crucified criminals were usually hung naked for reason of humiliation and to dissuade others from criminal paths. It seems that as soon as the cross had settled into its socket, the chief priest and elders mocked Him. He did not retaliate or curse or wail. In the midst of His pain, He did the opposite. Amazingly, He forgave the soldiers, even as they were casting lots for His clothing. It was not their business to question their leaders. They were given a job to do, and they were doing it in ignorance of Christ’s identity. They did not see the enormity of what they had just done, i.e. that God was the One being crucified. There was also His critics and enemies that were gathered around His cross, breathing out their curses and scorn against Him.

39Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads 40and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” 41In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. 42“He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God’” (Matthew 27:39-43).

Again, this was something that God had foretold through the prophet, king David. The Lord had shown David that one of his descendants, the One who would one day become king and heir of all things, would be despised and scorned by men. This is evidence to us of the genuineness of the Holy Scriptures, that these things were foretold hundreds of years before they happened so that, when it did happen, we might realize the truth of the Scriptures and place our faith in God and in His Messiah, Jesus. Here’s David’s prophecy as it relates to those who scorned Christ while He suffered:

7All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads.
8“He trusts in the LORD,” they say, “let the LORD rescue him.
Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.” 12Many bulls surround me; strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.
13Roaring lions that tear their prey open their mouths wide against me. 16Dogs surround me, a pack of villains encircles me; they pierce my hands and my feet (Psalm 22:7-8; 12-13; 16).

Just because Jesus prayed for His Father to forgive the soldiers and those who were in ignorance, does not mean that they would be forgiven without repentance and faith in God. Forgiveness was the very reason Christ was dying. What this passage shows is that God is willing to forgive those who have sinned against Him, but this forgiveness is only received when one repents (changes their mind and direction towards God), and believes in the good news of the substitutionary blood covenant that was made for us and as us by Christ.

Taken from the series on the Gospel of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. Click on study 63 at this link, The Crucifixion of Christ (Luke 23:26-49). Keith Thomas

The Via Dolorosa, (The Way of Suffering)

We are meditating on the drama that led up to the crucifixion of Christ (Scroll down for yesterday’s meditation). In the scene presented to us in the gospels, we see a picture of man behaving at his worst to the Creator of the Universe. After Pontius Pilate had washed his hands of the whole affair, the religious elite were allowed to have their way. The whole company of soldiers were laughing and jeering at the humiliation of the One Who is the true King. They clothed Him in a scarlet or purple cloak, the color of a king, and put a reed into His right hand instead of a scepter. They then kneeled before Him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews,” mimicking the “Hail, Caesar!” that was spoken to declare allegiance to the Roman emperor, while at the same time spitting upon Him. With all the open wounds in His back, they then pulled the purple robe away, causing further blood loss, before putting His own clothes back on Him (Matthew 27:27-31).

Typically, the Roman soldiers would then tie the cross beam, the Patibulum, usually weighing at least one hundred pounds, to the victim’s shoulders. At the front of the procession to the place of crucifixion, one carried a sign that was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews” (John 19:20). This would give an indication of His “crime.” The chief priests objected to this statement, demanding that it be changed to read, “He said He was the king of the Jews,” but by this time, Pilate was so disgusted with them, he answered, “What I have written I have written” (John 19:22). A guard of four soldiers led by a centurion would lead Christ out to the public place where He would be crucified. They would part the garments of Jesus among themselves as a “benefit of the job.”

The route that day was a circuitous route, for Rome wanted as many people as possible to see an example of those that stood again the Roman empire. John tells us that Christ was taken to the Place of a Skull, which was called Calvary, or Golgotha in Aramaic (John 19:17). Some say that the place was so called because of skulls of other victims were left lying there, but this is unreasonable when one considers the Jewish passion for cleanliness and holiness of the land. It was more than likely a hillside that was shaped like a skull. Crucifixions took place on major thoroughfares and outside city gates so that many people would see and fear the same fate. The Lord was severely weakened by having no sleep, scourged, beaten in the face by the whole company of Roman soldiers, humiliated, spat upon, and hit about the head with a staff. Jesus needed help to carry the cross as His body was already weakened by the loss of blood. Victims of crucifixion would not usually undergo other punishment prior to their execution.

26As they led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus. 27A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. 28Jesus turned and said to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. 29For the time will come when you will say, ‘Blessed are the barren women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ 30Then ” ‘they will say to the mountains, “Fall on us!” and to the hills, “Cover us!” ‘31For if men do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?” 32Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. 33When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left (Luke 23:26-33).

In His weakened condition, the one-hundred-pound crossbeam, i.e. the patibulum, was too much for Jesus to carry, so the Roman centurion compelled a traveler just arriving into Jerusalem for Passover, Simon from Cyrene, North Africa, to carry it. On the Via Dolorosa, the Way of Sorrows, Jesus was concerned for the women who were crying and wailing for Him. Christ told the mourners to wail for themselves and for the judgment that will follow. In a proverb (vs. 30-31), He compared Himself to a tree that is green and full of life. Righteous green Jesus was not a natural object to be burned in the fire of judgment, but the dry, lifeless nation of Israel that had rejected mercy and grace, would have to face the fires of judgment by the Roman government in 70 A.D.

Taken from the series on the Gospel of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. Click on study 63 at this link, The Crucifixion of Christ (Luke 23:26-49). Keith Thomas