The Light of Life

Rev. David Bast Uncategorized

READ : Isaiah 53:11

What would it take to satisfy you? The truth is, you can’t really be satisfied in life with anything less than what satisfied Jesus.

When would you be satisfied with your life? What if you had enough money to buy anything you wanted; would that do it? Or would you need to be important, attractive and popular as well as rich? How about having all those things at once; would that be enough to satisfy you? You might think so. But isn’t it funny how often people who seem to have absolutely everything can end up being so unhappy? If you think that being beautiful and famous, and marrying a prince, and having a lovely family, and living in a fabulous house, and getting lots of expensive clothes to wear, and traveling to all sorts of exciting and glamorous places – if you think having all this at once would make you happy, just ask Princess Diana if it does.

Is there anything that brings real and lasting satisfaction? Is there a kind of happiness we can have and hold and keep forever, one that will never disappoint, fail to live up to our expectations, or disappear after a while, leaving us aching and longing for its return? There is, and I would like to tell you about it.

THE SUFFERING SERVANT

We have been looking at the 53rd chapter of Isaiah, which could be called, “The Gospel According to Isaiah.” Verse by verse, line by line, phrase by phrase in this remarkable chapter, the prophet builds up a portrait of a unique person he calls “the servant of the Lord.” Look at the entire chapter:

Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the
Lord been revealed?
He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract
us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we
should desire him.
He was 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.
Surely he took up our infirmities
and carried our sorrows,
yet we considered him stricken by God,
smitten by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our
transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace
was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before her shearers is
silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was
taken away.
And who can speak of his
descendants?
For he was cut off from the land of the
living;
for the transgression of my people he
was stricken.
He was assigned a grave with the
wicked,
and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
nor was any deceit in his mouth.
Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him
and cause him to suffer,
and though the Lord makes his life
a guilt offering,
he will see his offspring and prolong
his days,
and the will of the Lord will prosper
in his hand.
After the suffering of his soul,
he will see the light of life and be
satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous
servant will justify many,
and he will bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will give him a portion
among the great,
and he will divide the spoils with the
strong,
because he poured out his life unto
death,
and was numbered with the
transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the
transgressors.

Notice all of the detailed information we are given about this mysterious figure whom God calls “my righteous servant.” Though chosen and approved by God, he will be despised and rejected by people. He will have no beauty or attractiveness about him, no advantages of birth or eye-catching attributes that will draw the world’s attention and admiration. His would not be a happy or carefree life; on the contrary, he will be a man of sorrows, familiar with suffering. His suffering will be both intensive and extensive, both deep and broad, both spiritual and physical. Finally, at the end of his life, a crisis of judgment will fall upon this servant of the Lord, leading to an unjust and untimely death. Although innocent of any wrong, he will be “cut off from the land of the living” at an early age, leaving no descendants behind. And at last, after dying a shameful death in the company of criminals, this man will be buried in a rich man’s grave.

But this is not the end of the story. The prophetic account of the Servant’s life continues. In some way that perhaps even Isaiah himself did not fully understand, there would follow a triumph for the Lord’s suffering servant after his death. Look closely at the closing sentences of the chapter:

. . . though the Lord makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days. . . . After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. Therefore I will give him a portion among the great. . . .

(vv. 10-12)

That’s odd. Just before, it said that the Lord’s servant was cut off without descendants. Now it says he will see his offspring after he has died. How can a man who died childless later see his own children? The answer must be that these are not literal but metaphorical descendants. The servant’s death in some way brings new creatures into being who owe their life to him. The place of the physical children he never had will be taken by others who somehow look back to him and specifically to his death as the thing that gave him life. “By his knowledge,” writes Isaiah, “my righteous servant will justify many.” Countless people will become righteous themselves before God through knowing him. They will have their sins forgiven and their guilt taken away because of this one man’s sacrifice. And the salvation of all these people will be a vindication for the Suffering Servant, a sort of satisfaction, a compensation and a reward for all that he had to endure.

But there is more. Not only will the Lord’s servant see his spiritual children after his death, he will “prolong his days” and “see the light of life.” That is to say, he must rise again from the dead. The Servant’s ultimate satisfaction will not be just the knowledge that his death made it possible for others to live, a martyr’s satisfaction. It will be to live himself and to enjoy firsthand the results of his obedient service to God. “After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life, and be satisfied.”

This is what makes the Servant more than simply a martyr. A martyr is someone who dies for a cause, or perhaps for another person. “It is a far, far better thing I do than I have ever done,” says Dickens’ hero Sidney Carlton, as he sacrificed his life to save his rival’s. But a martyr can take only a momentary satisfaction in the nobility of his act. After that, he’s dead and that’s the end of it. With the Lord’s servant, it is different. He passes from life to death and then to life again.

A PORTRAIT OF CHRIST

Let’s stop here for just a moment and ask a simple question: Do these details match the life of anyone you can think of? Can you name a person in history who has actually experienced all these things (remember, Isaiah is writing during the Old Testament), someone who knew mistreatment and persecution leading to an untimely death, followed by a triumphant restoration to a life in which he sees and knows and has fellowship with those who have also come to life through him?

If you said “Jesus Christ,” you gave the right answer. The amazing correspondence between the life and death and especially the resurrection of Jesus, and this verbal portrait written by Isaiah centuries before his birth is a wonderful confirmation both of Jesus’ identity as the promised Messiah, and of the Bible’s inspiration as the very Word of God.

This correspondence can hardly be a coincidence. It certainly did not seem so to the writers of the New Testament. This is what made the apostle Paul insist that Christ died for our sins and rose again according to the scriptures (1 Cor. 15:3). This is why, when Philip was asked by an Ethiopian eunuch whether Isaiah 53 was talking about the prophet himself or someone else, he climbed up into his chariot and told him about Jesus (Acts 8:34-35). This is what led Jesus himself to repeatedly tell his disciples that he had to die, but also that he would rise again (Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:33-34). Jesus did not predict his own death and resurrection merely because he had a premonition about what was about to happen, or because he had a bad feeling about going to Jerusalem, or even because he had a special divine revelation about his own future. No, he spoke of these things because he knew of them from the scriptures. Jesus knew he was the Messiah. He knew from the Old Testament, and in particular from this very passage in Isaiah, what would happen to the Messiah. Therefore, he knew what would happen to him. When he was on earth Jesus drew his own knowledge of his role and mission from the Word of God, and after his resurrection he taught his disciples to do the same (Luke 24:26-27, 44-46).

Now the key element in the whole portrait is the prophecy of resurrection. This is the thing that makes Isaiah’s description unique, this is what proves that Jesus is the one about whom the prophet was writing. There have been others who have suffered, others who have given their lives in some way for their fellow men and women, others who have attracted admirers and followers. But there is only one who has done all of this – and also risen from the dead! His name is Jesus.

YOUR ULTIMATE SATISFACTION

So let’s go back for just a moment more to my original question. What is it that would satisfy you in life? Well, what was it that satisfied Jesus? The answer is: life itself, nothing less than life and life that lasts forever. Someone once asked a famous American film maker how it felt to have produced works that would make his name immortal, “I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work,” he replied. “I want to achieve immortality by not dying.” He certainly has a point. What good does it do to gain fame or amass money or perform great accomplishments or experience much happiness if in the end you’re not alive to enjoy it? We might be able to derive a temporary satisfaction from some of these things, but not if we have to lose them or leave them all eventually. That fact turns all earthly pleasure bittersweet. It robs us of lasting joy, of permanent satisfaction.

What ultimately satisfied Jesus, though, was something more than just having life, even having eternal life. It was even more than his own vindication and triumph over his enemies. The Bible says that he endured the cross “for the joy that was set before him” (Heb. 12:2), and that joy was his personal knowledge of every last human being whom his cross and resurrection would save. Further, his joy was found in how much God would be glorified by the salvation of those people. Jesus found his ultimate satisfaction in the glory of God through the salvation of those who are redeemed by his own obedience unto death. And because of his obedience, at his resurrection Jesus received the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that he is Lord to the glory of God the Father (Phil. 2:11).

Do you know the only thing that will ultimately satisfy you? Only one thing can. It isn’t getting everything you want in life, for even then, even if you got everything on earth you possibly desired, you would discover that there is still something more to want. Your ultimate satisfaction won’t be going to heaven some day, although that’s part of it. Because you and I are creatures of God, made by him, like him and for him, we can be satisfied ourselves only when he is fully satisfied, when God’s purposes and plans have at last all been accomplished. Nothing less than the glory of God – witnessing it, contributing to it, enjoying it – can finally satisfy us. We can be fulfilled perfectly only when we see Jesus Christ crowned with glory, with all things in submission to him, and when we too join the throng and bow the knee before him, adding our voices to the mighty chorus declaring, “Jesus Christ is Lord!” When the final voice has joined that song and the last enemy has been destroyed, then the whole creation will be made new once more, and God will be all in all. And then, those who are a part of it will see the light of life and be satisfied.

If you settle for anything less than that, you’re being terribly cheated.