Summary: The message of Isaiah 53 is so powerful it changes the lives of those who hear it. What is its message and what gives it the power to change our lives?
OPEN: A few weeks from now we’re going to have the “Holy Hands For Christ” Sign Corp perform here at church. It’s a group dedicated to ministering to the deaf and the hearing impaired. They’ll put on their concerts, not so much to entertain as to raise money to buy hearing aides and other helpful items for those who have difficulty hearing. They don’t sing. Instead, they use American Sign Language to communicate the words of various styles of Christian music.
When I first saw them practice, I was intrigued by the sign they used when referring to Jesus. Does anybody know what hand gestures they use for the name of Jesus?
(They touch the palm of each hand… indicating the nail prints in His hands).
APPLY: That symbolism is used in American Sign language because that is how Jesus is identified: crucified for our sins.
ILLUS: The Washington Post has is a section of their files called the “biographical morgue”. In that “morgue” they keep “biographical” info on various famous people and they identify each person with a single vocational notice, such as "home run king" or "motion picture star” or “politician”. According to a former reporter, one of these files is marked, "Jesus Christ (martyr)."
Now, for a secular paper - that’s a fairly accurate depiction of who Jesus was.
He sacrificed Himself for what He believed in
He died a martyr.
He died for a cause
And what cause did Jesus die for???
He died to obtain forgiveness for our sins.
There are people who have a problem with that.
ILLUS: A popular musician that I personally like - Billy Joel – said this:
"I wasn’t raised Catholic, but I used to go to mass with my friends and I viewed the whole business as a lot of very enthralling hocus pocus. There’s a guy... nailed to a cross and dripping blood and everyone’s blaming themselves for that man’s torment.
But I said to myself, ’Forget it. I had no hand in that evil. I have no original sin. There’s no blood of any sacred martyr on my hands. I pass on all of this.’"
Why would he say that?
What was it about the message of Jesus that bothered him so?
Well, I believe he’s bothered because he misunderstood a couple of things.
First I believe he misunderstood who Jesus was.
He thought Jesus was simply a great moral teacher.
A man who died at some point in history because of what He taught.
Actually, that’s why a lot of people reject Jesus.
They think that Jesus was simply another religious leader who meant well - but whose teachings were all there was to Him.
I had an e-mail correspondence with an atheist a few years back and he asked me:
“Why should I believe that Jesus has any advantage over the founders of other world religions?”
Now, there’s a lot of reasons Jesus that I could have given to prove Jesus was superior to the founders of other religious, but one of the most significant was this: Jesus had been predicted.
About 500 years before Jesus was born a man came along that we know of as Buddha. Buddha came up with what he thought was a “good idea” and drew followers to him who agreed that his teachings seemed like a “good idea.”
When he died, his followers created a religion around those ideas and it exists to this day. (Buddhism) But Buddha arose from relative obscurity and no one had predicted his coming. There had been no prophetic declaration that such a leader would be born to fulfill the expectations of his people.
And about 500 yrs after Christ was born, another man was came along that we know as Mohammed. Mohammed came up with what he thought was a “good idea” and drew followers to him who agreed that his teachings seemed like a “good idea.”
When he died, his followers created a religion around those ideas and it exists to this day. (Islam) But Mohammed arose from relative obscurity and no one had predicted his coming.
There had been no prophetic declaration that such a leader would be born to fulfill the expectations of his people.
By contrast, when Jesus was born, His coming had been preceded by 2000 years of prophecies. Prophecies that declared where He would be born, how He would live, and how He would die.
There are at least 300 of these kinds of prophecies.
And one of the most powerful of those prophecies is found in Isaiah 53.
Isaiah is often called the “messianic” prophet because so much of his book was dedicated to giving detailed information about what the coming Messiah would be like (written 700 years before Jesus was born).
For example: Isaiah declared that this Messiah would be “despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not." Isaiah 53:3