In Silence He Suffered

(Please read Isaiah 53:1-8 and Matthew 26:57-68.)

Message = Jesus suffered His sorrows in silence; we should be as intent to fulfill the will of God, as gracious and others-oriented.

             Sometimes silence is golden in comparison with some very costly words.

During a trial in a small town, the local prosecuting attorney called his first witness to the stand. The witness was a proper, well-dressed, elderly lady, the Grandmotherly type, well spoken and poised. She was sworn in & then the prosecutor asked, “Mrs. Jones, do you know me?’”

She responded, “Why, yes I do know you, Mr. Williams. I’ve known you since you were a young boy and frankly, you’ve been a big disappointment to me. You lie, cheat on your wife, manipulate people and talk badly about them behind their backs. You think you’re a rising big shot when you haven’t the sense to realize you never will amount to anything more than a two-bit paper-pushing shyster. Yes, I know you quite well.”

The lawyer was stunned. Not knowing what else to do, he pointed across the room and asked, “Mrs. Jones, do you know the defense attorney?”

She again replied, “Why, yes, I do. I’ve known Mr. Bradley since he was a youngster, too. He’s lazy, bigoted, has a bad drinking problem. The man can’t build or keep a normal relationship with anyone and his law practice is one of the worst in the entire state. Not to mention he cheated on his wife with three different women. Yes, I know him.”

The defense attorney almost fainted. Laughter mixed with gasps, thundered throughout the courtroom and the audience was on the verge of chaos.

At this point, the judge brought the courtroom to silence, called both counselors to the bench, and in a very quiet voice said, “If either of you morons asks her if she knows me, you’re going to jail.”

(http://www.sermoncentral.com/illustrations/sermon-illustration-mark-eberly-humor-65479.asp)

Maturity is knowing what to say and when to say nothing at all.  Silence is our subject today!

 1. In silence He would be the sinners’ substitute. (ISH 53)

CONTEXT = after a chapter and a half of God’s promises to restore Israel, the means of restoration is revealed, starting in 52:13.  However, the Lord’s Servant is not at all the conqueror or charismatic figure one would expect.  Instead, it is by means of His suffering that the will of God is fulfilled.

Verse 1 asks a pair rhetorical questions to the effect of “Who knew?”  The obvious answer is “no one.”  No one has believed the Servant is God’s arm of salvation precisely because He is not what they expected. Still, no one should be shocked at God doing something unexpected – a truth addressed in Isaiah 55:8-9.

Verse 2 tells us that He became vulnerable for our sake. The TENDER SHOOT & ROOT OUT OF DRY GROUND reminds us of the SHOOT & BRANCH from last week’s reading.  The difference is that these images are vulnerable, not vigorous; the TENDER shoot and the root in DRY GROUND.  Also, the Servant is not a man of BEAUTY or MAJESTY; nothing in His APPEARANCE made Him desirable.  He will not be believed because He will not be a “movie star” or “championship athlete” or “conquering soldier.”

Verse 3 teaches that the Servant would be rejected was because of all He would suffer.  People sometimes cannot look upon the suffering of others.  It makes them uncomfortable so they turn away.

In verses 4-6, and 8 we are surprised to learn that His suffering was for our sake.  To our error, WE CONSIDERED HIM STRICKEN BY GOD, SMITTEN BY HIM, AND AFFLICTED.  It was assumed that people suffered because of sin and those who suffered the most were the worst violators of God’s will.

In the case, of the Servant, however, He would suffer for exactly the opposite reason: for OUR sins.  This point is made repeatedly by the prophet, bordering on ad nauseum:

– HE TOOK UP OUR INFIRMITIES.

– He CARRIED OUR SORROWS.

– HE WAS PIERCED FOR OUR TRANSGRESSIONS.

– HE WAS CRUSHED FOR OUR INIQUITIES.

– THE LORD LAID ON HIM THE INIQUITY OF US ALL.

– FOR THE TRANSGRESSION OF MY PEOPLE HE WAS STRICKEN.

This is no small thing.  It is the major chord in the song of human history.  The Servant’s suffering would be great, but greater still would be the effect it had upon the race.

– BY OPPRESSION AND JUDGMENT HE WAS TAKEN AWAY.

– He would be CUT OFF FROM THE LAND OF THE LIVING, dying too soon to have any DESCENDANTS.

What the Servant’s substitutionary suffering accomplished.

– His PUNISHMENT BROUGHT US PEACE. The Hebrew word for PEACE here is “Shalom.”  It conveys a depth of being at ease with the world and one’s self that ordinary experience cannot provide.  It is a gift from God.

– BY HIS WOUNDS WE ARE HEALED.  Healing here is the solution of the problem of sin.  “Healing” means our forgiveness and cleansing from guilt.

Verse 6 makes it clear that we do not deserve the Servant’s sacrifice.

– WE ALL, LIKE SHEEP, HAVE GONE ASTRAY.

– EACH OF US HAS TURNED TO HIS OWN WAY.

We are informed in verses 7-8 that He did not oppose his oppressors, but submitted Himself to them so they could all fulfill the will of God. Where verse 6 compared us to SHEEP because we have a tendency to wander aimlessly into sin, verse 7 compares the Servant to a SHEEP because of His innocence and meek submission to His persecutors.  (See Jeremiah 11:19, where the prophet uses the same phrase.)

In the Old Testament Law, a SHEEP was offered as a sacrifice on the annual Day of Atonement.  The blood of the lamb was spilled to atone or provide forgiveness for the sins of the people.

TRANSITION: Acts 8:26-40 records the first non-Jewish convert to Christianity.  Philip lead an Ethiopian to Christ and their conversation started with this passage from Isaiah.  From the beginning, the Church understood that Jesus fulfilled this passage.

2. The only defense Jesus offered was the truth.

CONTEXT: We are at the point of Jesus’ story where He has been arrested and subjected to trial by the authorities.  They have rigged the process against Jesus to get the verdict they have already decided upon, but He is so submissive to the will of God it doesn’t matter.

COMMENT:

Our main point is to note Jesus’ fulfillment of t prophecy of Isaiah 53:7, how the Servant would not even open His mouth for self-defense, He was so committed to God’s will.

The first fulfillment is in His trial before the Sanhedrin, the supreme court of the Jews.  Matthew 27:63a = BUT JESUS REMAINED SILENT.  In the face of all their charges, He made no defense, offered no explanation, did not argue with them.  A person could argue that silence is the most logical answer to this set of accusations that were based on gossip, half-truths and outright lies.  “I won’t dignify that question with an answer,” we sometimes say, not wanting to lend legitimacy to a query that ought to be obvious.  There’s more to Jesus’ silence than outsmarting His accusers.

The second fulfillment came in His trial by the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate.  Matthew 27:13-14 = THEN PILATE ASKED HIM, “DON’T YOU HEAR THE TESTIMONY THEY ARE BRINGING AGAINST YOU?”  BUT JESUS MADE NO REPLY, NOT EVEN TO A SINGLE CHARGE – TO THE GREAT AMAZEMENT OF THE GOVERNOR.  In the Roman system of justice, the testimony of the defendant carried a lot of weight.  To say absolutely nothing was the same as a confession of guilt.  History tells us that Pilate was a poor ruler, a man who intended to beat the Jewish people into submission.  Pilate was capable of great savagery in putting down anything that smelled of rebellion.  So when Matthew wrote about Pilate’s GREAT AMAZEMENT, he was explaining why a cruel man like Pilate would attempt to secure Jesus’ acquittal and release.  But Jesus did, in the Gospel accounts, speak to Pilate.  He did identify Himself as the King of the Jews.  So what we’re really seeing is not complete silence.

The third fulfillment was in His trial by the Roman governor of Galilee, Herod Antipas. Luke 23:9 = [Herod] PLIED [Jesus] WITH MANY QUESTIONS, BUT JESUS GAVE HIM NO ANSWER.  Herod was merely conducting a “show trial;” he wanted Jesus to perform miracles.  Jesus did not speak to Herod at all.

Why did Jesus respond in this way?  His silence was not some tricky strategy.  It was not an avoidance of responsibility. He was silent in submission to the will of God and in order to fulfill this prophecy.  He wanted no defense because He wanted to be found guilty and condemned to death.  It was God’s plan.

A secondary point is to note that the situation was a little more complicated than that.  Jesus was not only silent, but did answer some questions and did use the opportunity given Him to tell the truth.  We won’t take time now to look specifically at Jesus’ responses, we will only note the fact that He did respond with both silence and telling the truth.

Though His focus was on the cross, Jesus did not flinch from telling the truth.  Think of it this way – telling His persecutors the truth made them more motivated to kill Him!  People who live with comfortable lies don’t like to be told the tr

Paul affirmed this understanding of Jesus as the fulfillment of the Servant passage in Isaiah 52-53 when he wrote Colossians 1:19-20 = FOR GOD WAS PLEASED TO HAVE ALL HIS FULLNESS DWELL IN HIM, AND TROUGH HIM TO RECONCILE TO HIMSELF ALL THINGS, WHETHER THINGS ON EARTH OR THINGS IN HEAVEN, BY MAKING PEACE THROUGH HIS BLOOD, SHED ON THE CROSS.

That’s the big lesson today.  Jesus is the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 52:13-53:12.  That is important to us not just because it is prophecy and fulfillment, but because of what the Servant does for us.  As our Substitute, Jesus poured out His life so that we might be forgiven our sins.  We can be saved because He faced suffering with a determination to do the will of God.  This is the Good News.

But there’s also truth for us in the way Jesus responded to His accusers.  Knowing what was best in each case, He had the wisdom to remain silent or to confront them with the truth.

Through the Holy Spirit, every believer has access to the mind of Christ.  You and I can have the same kind of wisdom in dealing with others.  We can be enlightened to know when it is best to keep silent or confront with t truth.

Notice one other thing.  Those are the only two options.  It is not given to us to argue, to complain, belittle, speak falsehood, or attack people who disagree with us.  Whether we are silent or speak the truth, we are avoiding the sins of the tongue that can cause so many problems.

Paul affirmed this wisdom when the Spirit inspired him to write these words; DO EVERYTHING WITHOUT COMPLAINING OR ARGUING (Philippians 2:14).  Imagine your life without complaining or arguing.  Think about the PEACE and HEALING that would occur in relationships if people followed this simple instruction!

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