Expository Sermon on Isaiah 53
by Maylan Schurch
Bellevue Seventh-day Adventist Church 1/11/2020
©2020 by Maylan Schurch
IMPORTANT NOTE about the YouTube link below. The first 8 minutes are so are AUDIO only. The picture finally comes on at the 8:03 mark. The sermon starts at the 57:16 mark. To watch the YouTube broadcast of this sermon, click the link just below.
Please open your Bibles to Isaiah 53.
This is still another sermon in a series I’ve been preaching called “Jesus’ Bible Footprints.” Jesus told His disciples that He was very present all through those Old Testament Bible books.
And Isaiah 53 has Jesus’ footprints all over it. I can find at least three messianic prophecies in this chapter, which were directly fulfilled in Jesus’ life, and you will recognize them when we get to them.
And this chapter not only predicts Jesus’ life, but it teaches some really challenging truths about the Savior. In fact, a keyword for this sermon could be “Pay attention!”
Let me show you what I mean.
I lived on a farm in South Dakota up to the age of about 26. During that time I was working the night shift full-time as well as going to college in the daytime.
But every once in a while I took a break from the grind and did something fun. Every since I was a kid I had listened to the radio broadcast of the Minnesota Twins baseball team. Back then, its announcers were Ray Scott and Herb Carneal, with occasional humorous commentary by Halsey Hall. I never saw the Twins on TV, but Ray and Herb did such a great job with the radio play-by-play that I could clearly picture what was happening.
So one summer when I was 20, I asked my brother and two sisters if they would like to drive together to Minneapolis, stay in a couple of motel rooms, and actually take in a Twins ballgame at Bloomington Stadium. They enthusiastically agreed, so that’s what we did.
As I say, none of us had been to a big league ballpark before, and I still remember the absolute delight I felt as I walked up the ramp and saw that glorious green field spread out below me. Since then, I have never felt a feeling exactly like that. For years I had been trying to picture the scene in my mind, and the reality was more beautiful than I thought.
We found our seats, and settled back to enjoy the game. But suddenly I discovered I wasn’t as ready as I thought I was. I would be sitting there, my eyes weanderingf over the field, glancing from player to player, watching the crowd, trying to figure out how to decipher the scoreboard, when suddenly the crowd would roar. A little later, they would boo. I would always look around at the players and try to figure out what happened, but I wasn’t quick enough.
Gradually, as the game went along, I learned where to keep my eyes. Watch the pitcher, watch the batter, watch where the ball goes. Pay attention.
You see, what had happened to me was that I had depended on Ray Scott to pay attention for me. Ray knew what to watch, where to look, and how to translate what was happening into the radio I was listening to. But when it was up to me to pay attention, it was kind of a learning curve before I figured it out. Because all those years, I had actually not been experiencing a Twins game – I’d been listening to Ray Scott’s interpretation of a Twins game.
You probably know several verses from Isaiah 53. If you’ve listened to Handel’s “The Messiah,” you’ve heard them. “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.” “All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned everyone to his own way.”
But as I studied this chapter this week for this sermon, the phrase popped into my mind, “Pay attention.” Sometimes I wonder if we really know Jesus the way we say we do, or sing that we do. “I’d rather have Jesus than anything this world affords today.” But who is it, really, who bears that name?
Well, let’s find out. And as we do, let’s pay attention.
Isaiah 53:1 – 2 [NKJV]: Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, And as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; And when we see Him, There is no beauty that we should desire Him.
If you’re taking sermon notes, here comes Sermon Point One.
Pay attention, because to a sinful heart, Jesus isn’t a natural celebrity.
Normally it’s the celebrities we play attention to. But these verses mean that we have to forget all of those movies in which a tall, handsome guy is chosen to play the part of the Savior. Jesus doesn’t seem to have had the kind of surface good looks that would cause movie directors to pick Him to play a part. In fact, He was so ordinary-looking that when the crowd came to capture Him that Thursday night in Gethsemane, Judas had to point him out with a fake-friend’s kiss. Otherwise, the mob might have gotten the wrong man.
Jesus had a certain amount of fame, of course, especially when He walked into a village and healed all the sick people, or He multiplied bread and fish on the side of a mountain.
But while the Bible isn’t shy about describing someone’s appearance, such as King Saul’s height, or David’s ruddy complexion and sparkling eyes, Jesus is not described that way. His appearance isn’t even mentioned in the Gospels, and the only clue we get about what He looked like while here on earth is here in Isaiah 53.
So why is this so important? Well, since Isaiah 53 made a point of describing Him this way, it must be important. Having a tall, handsome Jesus wasn’t what was important. When He came riding along on the donkey during the triumphal entry, it wasn’t His looks the people were shouting “Hosanna” about. It was that finally, heaven and earth had come close. The kingdom of God had arrived.
I think you and I need to enter 2020 resolving to get to know Jesus far more completely. We need to read the familiar gospel stories again, but we also need to read the unfamiliar ones. Read the puzzling ones, and let them be puzzling and disturbing. Read that hair-raising section in John chapter 6, 7, and 8 where you see Jesus speaking with almost white-lipped intensity, desperately pleading with the Pharisees and the scribes and other rulers to open their minds and realize that God was in their midst and that they needed His salvation.
We need to read the hard, tough sayings of Jesus. We won’t of course gouge out our evil eye, or cut off our evil hand, because people in the book of Acts didn’t do this. They recognized that those sayings were dramatic exaggerations to make very serious points. But let’s allow ourselves to be made uncomfortable by the one who would finally stretch out His own hands and wait for the nails.
So let’s get more deeply acquainted with Jesus. Maybe this would be a year to read through Ellen White’s great biography of Jesus, The Desire of Ages, again, or for the first time. That’s an amazing book, studded with Scripture.
Now let’s continue reading through Isaiah 53. Keep paying attention.
Verses 3 – 4: He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted.
Here comes what I would consider Sermon Point Two.
Pay attention, not only because to a sinful heart, Jesus isn’t a natural celebrity. Pay attention, also because to a sinful heart, Jesus inspires contempt.
Contempt, you see, is a step beyond indifference. Think of all the swearwords you heard that contain the name of Jesus, or those words that almost sounds like His name.
Think of the disciple Peter’s denial of Jesus. Out of fear for his life, he repeatedly claimed that he had nothing to do with Christ.
So what does this have to do with me? Could there be any way that I am showing contempt for Jesus? Since I’m here sitting in this room, listening to some Bible verses about Him, I probably mean very well.
But if I’m in the habit of trying to add drama to my speech by swearing by His name, or His Father’s name, that’s showing contempt. “OMG! is showing contempt. I think I’ve told the story of a farmer who lived just east of us in South Dakota. His name was George, and he had arrived as a young man in the United States not knowing a word of English. George went to work for a farmer, but unfortunately this farmer was somebody who uttered a profanity or an obscenity about every third word.
So George learned these words right along with the rest of the English language, and was startled and puzzled when young ladies he was getting acquainted with would give him shocked looks. So George had to consciously scrub his vocabulary of words he shouldn’t be using.
So if my vocal or online vocabulary needs to be scrubbed, like George’s, I need to get right to that. And if my denial of Jesus happens because I’m afraid what people might think of me, I need to change that as well. I’m not saying we need to go around preaching to people, or always quoting Bible verses to them, but we need to be serene and calm about being a Christ-follower.
At the end of the last Seahawks game, KIRO radio played its usual interviews with the players. And I can’t remember the player’s name, but there was someone who was relatively new to the Seahawks, and who made a dramatic move toward the end of the game. You probably know who I’m talking about, but I can’t remember his name, and I didn’t have time to go back and find.
Anyway, this player was interviewed after the game, and he humbly gave God credit for bringing him to the Seahawks. I actually don’t know what God thinks about football, but God loves people. And I’m sure He appreciates the way Russell Wilson doesn’t seem ashamed about his Christianity.
Maybe we should turn this over to the Lord. We could pray, “Lord, please help me to represent You in a way that would be most effective to Your reputation and Your agenda.”
Back to Isaiah 53 again, as we keep reading – and keep paying attention.
Verses 5 – 6: But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes 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.
Why pay attention to what these verses say?
Pay attention, not only because to a sinful heart, Jesus isn’t a natural celebrity. Pay attention, not only because to a sinful heart, Jesus inspires contempt. And pay attention because a sinful heart turns away from the Savior who suffered for our sins.
And the verse doesn’t say “Some of us like sheep have gone astray.” It says “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, everyone, to his own way.”
In other words, this is going a step beyond showing contempt for Jesus. It’s deliberately turning our backs on Him, and deciding that He means nothing to our life. We’ve simply stopped paying attention to Him.
But this is the heartbreaking love of Jesus – the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was wounded for our transgressions. He was bruised for our iniquities. By His stripes we are healed. And we need to take that seriously. We need to respond to our Savior before it’s too late.
Some kind and very hospitable friends invited us to spend the afternoon and evening of Christmas Day with them. We all shared a wonderful meal, and since part of what I’m trying to do to keep pre-diabetes at bay is taking a walk after every meal, I took a walk with one of the other guys for a few blocks.
We were about to turn back, when we spotted this glorious house which was dazzling with Christmas lights, top to bottom, side to side. I took a picture of it with my smart phone. I told my friend how Shelley likes Christmas lights, and he mentioned his wife did too. So we agreed that when we left the party, on our way home we would drive by that house again.
It was a pretty decent hour when we finally drove away, but as I went past that house I discovered that all its lights had been turned out. It was still relatively early in the evening, but we’d missed that display.
The Bible contains several stories about how important it is to respond to God’s call right away. John the Baptist came preaching that everyone should repent. Jesus picked up on that same message. Once John the Baptist had been put in prison, Matthew 4:17 says, “From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’”
Notice that “repent” wasn’t just a John the Baptist message. It was a Jesus message. Jesus knew very well that all humanity, like sheep, had gone astray, and since He was the good Shepherd, He lays out His plan in John 10: “I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.” (John 10:14 – 16)
This past Monday and Tuesday I attended a pastoral seminar at Sunset Lake Camp. The main speaker was Dr. Joseph Kidder, who is professor of Christian Ministry at Andrews University. Since he was talking to a group of pastors, his focus was how important it is for pastors to come close to the Lord. Part of his presentations were about prayer, and he concluded his talk with a dramatic story which it happened to him. I’m going to summarize that story for you now.
It happened when he was a pastor. He was responsible for at least a couple of other churches, maybe three, but the conference asked if he would add to his responsibility the care of a church had been very active but which over the years had shrunk to about nine members.
So, he agreed, and arrived at that church with some ideas about how to help it grow. He preached a series of sermons on intercessory prayer, and one of the nine members, an 81-year-old lady named Edna, started to pray for her neighbor, a 25 year old woman named Michelle who broke many of the 10 Commandments every day. She slept with a different man every night. She was an alcoholic, a smoker, and was frequently high on drugs.
The Lord gave Edna a love for Michelle, and the two of them would get together and visit. They spent many hours with each other, and Edna became her mentor.
Meanwhile, Pastor Kidder finally convinced the church to let him preach an evangelistic series. He knew this was an important series, because the church would even be more discouraged if nothing came of it. So he called all of the people in the church and asked them to pray, all nine of them. The evangelistic meetings were going to start on Friday night, but on that Tuesday, Michelle, Edna’s neighbor, went deer hunting with her mother. Michelle was so drunk that she shot her mother in the arm. Her mom survived, but this really shook Michelle up. She went to Edna’s house for comfort.
On Friday night, Pastor Kidder went to the church two hours early, and prayed earnestly for that first night of the evangelistic series. At 7 o’clock, he came out to preach, and his heart sank. In spite of all the heavy advertising, no one showed up except the nine church members – and Michelle. Edna had brought her to the meetings.
Something very interesting happened at that point. Pastor Kidder opened his mouth to start preaching a usual opening-night topic, the second coming of Jesus, but nothing came out. He was silent for about two or three minutes. Suddenly he heard the voice of God in his heart saying, “Don’t preach about the second coming tonight. Preach about My love.”
So for 45 minutes, Pastor Kidder went from story to story in the Bible, and told personal experiences, about how if you were the only person on planet Earth, Jesus would still have died for you. That’s how much He loves you. He quoted Jeremiah 21:11: “I know the plans I have for you . . . Plans to give you a hope and a future.”
Then he gave an altar call, and Edna dragged Michelle to the front. Pastor Kidder had closing prayer and everybody left except Michelle, Edna, and him. They spent several hours there, the three of them. Around two in the morning, Michelle suddenly said, “I don’t have to sleep with a different guy every night in order to be loved. Jesus loves me. I don’t have to do drugs to feel good about myself. Jesus loves me.”
Pastor Kidder looked at her and said, “Would you like to give your heart to Jesus?” She said yes. And they prayed together, and she accepted Jesus as her Savior. Then he reached into one of the pews and took out a Bible and opened it to the first chapter of John. He said, “This Bible is our gift to you. I would like you to go home and read the first chapter of John and come back this evening.”
So Michelle went home, didn’t go to sleep, and started reading John. She read John 1, but didn’t stop. She went on to John 2, and then John 3, getting more excited all the time. Then she read John 4, which talks about the woman of Samaria and her conversation with Jesus at the well.
Michelle said, “If this woman could bring her village to Jesus, I can bring all of my friends and relatives to hear about Jesus.” So she spent Sabbath morning inviting all of her friends and relatives to the evening meeting. 54 of them showed up that Saturday night. At the end of the evangelistic series, Michelle and 11 of her family members were baptized.
You see, thanks to the Holy Spirit, Michelle finally paid attention to her Savior. Even though she’d had a sinful heart, even though she had previously paid no attention to Jesus, and even though she had no interest in Him, He didn’t give up on her. And four years later, when Pastor Kidder left that church, the Lord had grown it from 9 people to 180.
The last part of Isaiah 53 tells the good news that Jesus will triumph in the end. Let’s start with verse 7:
Verses 7 – 12: He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So He opened not His mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment, And who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; For the transgressions of My people He was stricken. And they made His grave with the wicked— But with the rich at His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was any deceit in His mouth. Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, And the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand. He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, For He shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, And He shall divide the spoil with the strong, Because He poured out His soul unto death, And He was numbered with the transgressors, And He bore the sin of many, And made intercession for the transgressors.
And ever since then, through His Holy Spirit, and His disciples, and through the pages of the Bible, Jesus has been calling to everyone to come to Him for rest.
That’s what Michelle needed, that’s what I have needed, and maybe that’s what you need as this new year begins. Would you like to turn your life over to your Savior again this morning, or for the first time? Raise your hand if that’s your desire.