Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted

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The text for this message is Isaiah 53:4-6:  “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.  But He was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with 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.”  Here ends the text.
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Stricken, smitten, and afflicted,
See Him dying on the tree!
‘Tis the Christ by man rejected;
Yes, my soul, ‘tis He! ‘tis He!
‘Tis the long-expected Prophet,
David’s Son, yet David’s Lord;
Proofs I see sufficient of it:
Tis the true and faithful Word (LSB 451:1).

"Crucifixion" by Lucas Cranach the Younger
Do you see Him up there?  Doesn’t look like much of a Messiah, does He?  Can this be the Prophet who would be greater than Moses?  The God-Man—David’s Son, yet David’s Lord?  Not if you use only your eyes to judge.  Stricken, smitten, and afflicted is how the hymnist described Him some 1800 years after that Good Friday.  He echoes the prophet Isaiah who, inspired by the Holy Spirit, saw this scene some 700 years before the Incarnation of Christ.  But that description does not do justice (if we dare use such an ironic term in this context) to the devastating reality.  Jesus was truly a bloody, beaten mess.  A shameful spectacle that “good and decent people” should probably not dare even look upon. 
But you and I must.  For we are not all that good.  In fact, we are not at all good.  We are poor, miserable sinners.  So look up there.  See the One rejected and despised.  The One from whom men hide their faces.  The Suffering Servant.
His suffering was great, His torment heavy.  We cannot comprehend how many His stripes, how deep His wounds, or the bitterness and painfulness of His death.  How inexpressible is His love that reconciled us to His heavenly Father.  In great fear of death, He sweat blood on the Mount of Olives, drops of blood that fell upon the earth.  And there in dark Gethsemane, abandoned by all His disciples, Jesus willingly gave Himself into the hands of those who led Him mercilessly, bound hard and cruel from one unjust judge to another.  He was falsely accused and condemned, spit upon, scoffed at, and struck in the face with fists.  He was bruised with many blows of a rod, His flesh torn open by brutal lashes of a whip.  He was crowned with thorns, and treated wretchedly—like a worm and not a man.  He was despised and rejected by men, a Man of Sorrows, and acquainted with grief, so that even a heathen heart took pity and said, “Behold the man!”  For the sake of our sin He was counted a sinner and hung up between two evildoers as a curse.  He was pierced in hands and feet with nails, and in His highest thirst, He was given vinegar and gall to drink.  Finally, in great pain, He gave up His spirit so that He could pay our debt; by His wounds we are healed.    
Tell me, ye who hear Him groaning,
Was there ever grief like His?
Friends through fear His cause disowning,
Foes insulting His distress;
Many hands were raised to wound Him,
None would interpose to save;
But the deepest stroke that pierced Him
Was the stroke that Justice gave (LSB 451:2).
Yes, it is a bloody, God-aweful mess.  And many try to avoid the cross altogether.  But you must not.  You must look on this One who bore your griefs and sorrows, who was stricken, smitten, and afflicted in your place, whose wounds do justice to your sin, who was crushed by the Law’s condemnation that hung over your head, whose punishment brings you peace with the Father, and in whose wounds you will find your healing.  Look up there!  Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 
Nowhere and no time is this more true than with Jesus hanging naked and bloody and dead on the cross.  In that one solitary act in the darkness between noon and 3:00 p.m., on that Friday we call Good, the griefs and sorrows of our fallen humanity were borne by the Son of God, our sin was answered for, the just demands of the Law were paid, and we were reconciled to the Father.  The vicarious atonement.  The All-Sufficient Substitute Sacrifice for sin.  One time in history for all times.  One Man for all men.
Ye who think of sin but lightly
Nor suppose the evil great
Here may view its nature rightly,
Here its guilt may estimate.
Mark the Sacrifice appointed,
See who bears the awful load;
‘Tis the Word, the Lord’s Anointed,
Son of Man and Son of God (LSB 451:3).
Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.  Jesus was the Man of Sorrows, intimately acquainted with our suffering.  You, my friend are His burden.  He carries you, all your griefs, all your sorrows, all that death has done to you, all that others have done to you, all that you have done to yourself—Jesus bore all of that awful load in His own body and took it all the way to the cross.
When we see disaster, tragedy, senseless suffering, or large-scale loss of life we are prone to ask: “Where is God?  Why doesn’t He do something?”  Where was God during 9/11 when the buildings collapsed?  Where was God in the Newtown shooting?  Where was God when my loved one suffered and died?  And why didn’t He do something about it?  We ask those questions, don’t we?
The answer comes from the cross.  There, God is doing something.  He’s going to the heart of why there is suffering in the world.  He’s dealing with the disease, providing a cure, not just dispensing a pill that will mask the symptoms for a moment or two.  Administering an antidote that completely restores health and vitality for eternity, not just applying an analgesic that numbs the pain a little bit.    
It’s tempting to desire an interventionist God, a God who will deflect bullets before they hit innocent bystanders.  A God who will eliminate cancer cells before they become tumors.  A God who will heal every sickness, cast out every demon, restore every blind eye and faulty limb, and do it immediately, if not sooner.  But in a world like that, where God micromanages and intervenes in every little thing, there would be no laws of physics, no ordered universe, nothing but randomness.
God does something entirely different.  Instead of micromanaging, He macro-manages.  Instead of doing rehab on a terminally ill cosmos, He does a death and resurrection job on it.  He embodies everything in the body of His Incarnate Son together with all the brokenness, the tragedy, the disasters great and small, and He reconciles all things in the one perfect death of Jesus on the cross with one word—tetelesthai, “It is finished!” 
Jesus has borne our griefs, your griefs, the collected griefs of mankind, of every death and loss.  It is all accounted for in His death, and it’s made good as only God can do.  He has carried our sorrows, your sorrows, every tear shed by humanity in its suffering—Jesus has taken them all to Himself in His death.  Our griefs and sorrows find their end and meaning in His grief and sorrow.
Look up there!  Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!  You wouldn’t know it by looking at Him.  Jesus looks like One despised by men and rejected by God.  A loser.  Someone who ran afoul of Religion and the State, and God didn’t intervene to rescue Him.  Stricken, smitten, and afflicted.  Not us, but Him.  There by the grace of God goes He—for us and in our place. 
As Luther reminds us, when you look at the beatings and suffering of Jesus on Good Friday, don’t blame the Roman government or the Jewish religious leaders.  They are but the instruments.  The cause is sin—your thoughts, your words, your actions.  Your sin is why Jesus had to suffer as He did.  The world is a mess, to be sure.  But even if you were the only human being on this earth, Jesus would still have had to suffer and die to save you.  That’s what the Law of God calls for: the wages of sin is death.  And without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. 
Don’t ever think of sin too lightly!  Don’t ever think of your sin as simply a weakness, a “mistake,” as so many public confessions like to say.  “I made a mistake.  I had a temporary lapse in judgment.  That is not the real me.”  Sin is more than a mistake.  It is a spitting in God’s face kind of thing.  It is the embrace of death instead of life, of self instead of God, of the devil’s lie instead of God’s Word.  All sin, each sin, has a terrible price attached to it.
He was wounded for our transgressions.  Your transgressions, my transgressions.  He was crushed for our iniquities.  Your iniquities, my iniquities.  We esteemed Him stricken, smitten, and afflicted by God.  But really it was you and me.  Your sin, my sin.  Those were your hands beating Jesus as they lash out against your fellow man.  Those were your words uttered in scorn.  The lashes Christ endured were yours.  The death He died was yours.  And what’s so amazingly graceful is that in this, this gross miscarriage of justice, Justice is served.  God is reconciled to His enemies.  Repent and believe the Good News!
God had promised in the form of a curse to the devil that He would make enmity, that through the heel bruised Seed of the woman God would crush the head of the serpent.  It’s the foundational promise of the Bible, made way back at the Fall in the Garden.  And it finds its goal and fulfillment here with Jesus on the cross.  He who by a tree once overcame, is now by a tree overcome. 
The Second Adam stands in for the first.  “As one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.  For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous” (Romans 5:18-19).
Here we have a firm foundation;
Here the refuge of the lost;
Christ’s the Rock of our salvation,
His the name of which we boast.
Lamb of God, for sinners wounded,
Sacrifice to cancel guilt!
None shall ever be confounded
Who on Him their hope have built (LSB 451:4).
Look up there!  See Him stricken, smitten, and afflicted.  Burdened with your griefs and sorrows.  Wounded for your transgressions.  Crushed for your iniquities.  Chastised with your stripes.  The violence of the cross is your peace.  Again, every act of violence, every inhumanity, genocide, homicide, and injustice is answered once and for all in the death of Jesus.  All of your sin has been paid for and you have been washed in the Blood of the Lamb of God. 
Where is God when bad things happen?  He is there in the crucified Christ to make all things new.  Why doesn’t He do something?  He has.  “It is finished.”  There is peace with God.  You are forgiven for all of your sins. 
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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