Summary: Jesus was 1) A Willing Sacrifice, 2) A Substitionary Sacrifice, 3) An Innocent Sacrifice
• I don’t know if you recognize this face on the screen. This is Friedrich Nietszche. He was a German philosopher who is most famous for his claim that ‘God is dead.’ He has become a hero figure in atheist circles.
? Nietszche’s philosophy was all about human power. He said that the main driving force in human beings is a desire to dominate, to master others, and we shouldn’t quash that desire. We are at our best as humans, when we have the drive to achieve the highest possible position in life. And if we have to trample over other people in the process, then so be it. That’s who we are by nature.
o And not surprisingly, Nietszche hated everything to do with Jesus, and Christianity. His most famous book is subtlely entitled the ‘Anti Christ’. And Nietszche hated, in particular, the weakness of Jesus. His love for the poor and the destitute. And especially Jesus’ attitude to suffering.
o If we were all like Jesus, Nietszche said, the world would be horrific, and we would be quashing our true humanity. We need to promote power, not weakness.
• And Nietszche would have hated Isaiah 53, because it’s all about Jesus’ weakness, his sacrifice on the cross. (v.7-9) focus in especially on the abuse and mistreatment he faced, as he sacrificed himself.
• But Isaiah’s claim is the exact opposite of Nietszche. Isaiah claims that Jesus’ greatness, his power lies precisely in his weakness.
• Isaiah describes Jesus’ death as a glorious sacrifice. A sacrifice that has real power for everyone in this room today. And let’s remember that Isaiah is saying all this, 700 years before Jesus was even born. This passage is like a webcam taking us right to the trial of Jesus, 700 years before it happened.
? And Isaiah says 3 things about the nature of Christ’s sacrifice. Firstly it was
o A willing sacrifice (7)
o (v.7) the Servant ‘was oppressed and afflicted’, an apt description of the scourging Jesus endured as Roman soldiers ploughed up his back with a metal lined whip. The whip was designed to tear the back open, so it would have been excruciating.
• But during this intense suffering, we are told that the Servant ‘opened not his mouth.’ In fact the Gospels record that Jesus did not open his mouth during most of his trial, to defend himself, whether he was in front of the High Priest and being falsely accused.
o Or before Pilate at a time when Pilate wanted to release Jesus. In fact Pilate was shocked that Jesus didn’t say anything in his own defence.
Why was that? Why, when Jesus knew he was innocent of all charges, why did he keep his mouth closed? Why, when he was such a genius with words, and could confound his critics – why didn’t he use his genius to get out of crucifixion? And the answer is, because he didn’t intend to get out of it. He was a willing sacrifice.
He never intended to escape the beating and mocking, the unfair trial, or the cross itself.
(v.7) ‘like a lamb that is the led to the slaughter, and like a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.’
Jesus’ attitude was ‘lamb like’, gentle, not fighting against it, even though he knew he was going to the slaughter.
o Paul called Jesus ‘the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.’ Jesus could not have given himself for me more than he did.
o The very shape of the cross, with Jesus’ hands outstretched, his bleeding back rubbing against the rough wood, his entire body exposed on the tree, tells us that he gave himself fully for us.
• How do you feel about that this morning? And I use the word ‘feel’ because you can’t avoid the emotions of the cross.
? I had a Bible story picture book when I was growing up, and I remember rifling through it, not looking for the great stories of Jesus, like the Good Samaritan or the Prodigal Son, but feeling drawn to the man on the cross.
o Even as a 10 year old, I remember crying, looking at depictions of the cross. I know emotions can be fickle things.
o But you can’t avoid the emotion of the cross – the pathos of Jesus hanging naked and helpless at Calvary, while people mocked and jeered. ‘The Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me’.
How does that make you feel this morning? A lot of people approach Christianity on a purely logical basis. Do I accept the truth claims of Christianity?
But the Gospel isn’t just a set of truth claims that we either accept or reject like a doctor’s prescription. It is a man, hanging on a cross, with blood trickling down his battered face, saying ‘I gave myself for you.’ He loves you more than his own life!