5th Wednesday in Lent

March 5, 2008


Text: Isaiah 53:7

Theme: The LORD’s Suffering Servant:

                        - The Uncomplaining Servant

Dear fellow redeemed in Christ, who once were far off have been brought near to God by the blood of Christ. (Eph 2:13)

            Some of you may know the story of Ruben “The Hurricane” Carter. Mr Ruben Carter was an African-American Middleweight Boxer in the early 1960's. In 1967 he was found guilty of murdering three people in Paterson, NJ. Mr. Carter continually professed his innocence and appealed his sentence - but lost his appeals. That was until 1985. After nearly 20 years in prison, the federal appeals court judge ruled that Carter’s conviction was "based on racism rather than reason and concealment rather than disclosure." At which time Ruben Carter was acquitted of his crimes and released. His complaints had been proven correct - he was an innocent man who had been wrongly imprisoned.

            If that had been you, how do you suppose you would have reacted? If the police had shown up on your doorstep and arrested you for murder, and you KNOW you did not murder any one, how would you react? You would fight! Maybe not physically, but you would fight using the legal system. You would hire the best legal team money could buy and have them prove your innocence. You would go to the media and complain of the injustice. You would shout for all to hear that you did no such crime and that they had the wrong man.

            Last week we considered how it did not seem “fair” or just that the robber, murderer, and insurrectionist Barabbas was freed while Jesus, whom both Pilate and Herod pronounced innocent, was beaten and given the death sentence. We remarked how “unfair” and “unjust” it was that the guilty one was let go while the innocent One was punished. Placing ourselves in Jesus’ sandals - how do you suppose we would have reacted? Knowing your innocence and having heard Pontius Pilate himself pronounce your innocence, how would you react? No doubt we would have at least verbally fought back and shouted from the mountain tops that what was happening was not “fair.”

            Let us tonight ponder with amazement the LORD’s suffering Servant Jesus Christ. Hear what Isaiah prophecies of the Servant:

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.

            May the Holy Spirit bless us that we may rightly know and consider what wonderful love this Servant had for the Father and for us as He goes uncomplaining forth. Amen.

            It is indeed amazing to think of the things which Isaiah has written of the LORD’s suffering Servant. We have considered how there was nothing particularly appealing about the appearance of this Servant. In fact, if anything, His appearance is so unattractive that we would much rather not look at Him. We considered how He was despised and rejected. We considered how even God afflicted Him. And last week we considered how He was a substitute Servant who was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities, and that the LORD laid on His Servant the iniquity of us all.

            Now if this was a job application do you suppose you would apply? Definitely not. Yet what do we find with Jesus? Does Jesus turn this down? We find out a great deal about Jesus’ attitude in the Garden of Gethsemane. As Jesus was about to face those most dark and difficult hours of Good Friday Mark records that He began to be troubled and deeply distressed. Then He said to them, "My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch." (Mk 14:33b-34) With the weight of the sin of the whole world pressing down on Jesus, it caused Him to be deeply distressed and exceedingly sorrowful. So intense was His sorrow that Jesus said He was to the point of death. So intense were these emotions for Jesus that as He prayed to His heavenly Father, Scripture records that His sweat became like great drops of blood.

            But what kind of prayer was it that Jesus brought to His Father? Was it, “Dear Father, this isn’t fair?” “Dear Father, I don’t think I should be punished for the sins of other people?” No. Instead Jesus prayed that if it were at all possible to take this cup of suffering from Him. But through it all, Jesus trusted the will of His heavenly Father. Never once did Jesus complain about what He was about to endure, but instead trusting the will of His Father He went out to meet His betrayer.

            What about when Jesus stood before the hypocritical and corrupt Jewish council? As they accused Him of sins which He never committed, did Jesus ever once complain? When false witnesses were brought forward, did Jesus complain that this was not fair? Unlike Ruben “Hurricane” Carter or any one of us would have done - Jesus never once complained. Instead as He stood trial before the Jewish council and false accusations were brought against Jesus we read, “Jesus kept silent.” It is true that when called upon by the high priest to testify Jesus did respond that He was the Christ the Son of God. Yet His attitude was continually one of silence, never once complaining about what was happening to Him because Jesus knew this was the Father’s will.

            As the injustices against Jesus continued so did His silence. When the Jews wanted to destroy Jesus but were unable because of Roman rule, they brought Him to the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate. There they leveled accusations and lies against Jesus. And how did Jesus respond? Matthew records in His Gospel account, And while He was being accused by the chief priests and elders, He answered nothing. Then Pilate said to Him, "Do You not hear how many things they testify against You?" But He answered him not one word, so that the governor marveled greatly. (Mt 27:12-14) As governor and basically judge of the region, Pilate had come to expect certain things of people on trial. As is the case today there is pleading and complaining. Just about everyone - whether guilty or truly innocent - claims that they didn’t do it. But Jesus is different. Pilate marvels greatly that not only does Jesus not complain, but He does not even respond to the lies leveled against Him.

            When Pilate heard that Jesus was from Galilee, he was more than eager to pass this problem along to Herod and Herod was more than glad to receive Jesus. Herod was excited to see Jesus and hoped Jesus would entertain him by preforming miracles. Luke records, Then he (that is, Herod) questioned Him with many words, but He answered him nothing. (Lk 23:9) Even as Jesus is mocked and beaten, never once did the LORD’s suffering Servant open His mouth to complain.

            Jesus was the LORD’s suffering Servant of whom Isaiah prophesied. Jesus was, as Isaiah writes, oppressed and He was afflicted. And though these things happened to Him and they were more unfair and unjust than anything that has ever happened to us, “Yet He opened not His mouth.” It is true that on Good Friday Jesus did open His mouth to speak to the Jewish Council and He did open His mouth to speak to Pilate. Yet that does not negate what Isaiah writes in our text. Jesus did not open His mouth to complain. He did not protest the injustice which He was receiving.

            How was Jesus able to control and contain Himself in such a way? Peter clarifies the attitude of the Servant when He writes in his first epistle, “Who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously.” (1Pt 2:23) Why did Jesus not complain? Why did He remain silent as hate-filled lies were leveled against Him? One word - TRUST. Jesus had already prayed to His Father and received His answer. There was no other way for man to be saved - Jesus had to drink this cup, it was the Father’s will. So amidst all the injustice He was facing at the hands of sinful men, He committed or entrusted Himself to the hands of the Righteous Judge - God the Father. He knew it was the Father’s will and He willingly went forward.

            “He was led as a lamb to the slaughter,” Isaiah writes in our text, “and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth.” It is difficult to express the tenderness found in this description of Jesus. Think of a little lamb who was raised at the hand of his shepherd. That lamb knew his masters smell, his voice, and had perfect trust in him. Now as it is time for the lamb to be butchered, he follows his masters voice - listening and trusting him the whole way. That lamb only knows its masters voice and follows not knowing whether he will be sheared or killed. Simply trusting in silence.

            That is how the attitude of Christ is described. However, unlike the lamb who didn’t have a clue as to what in store for him, Jesus knew what awaited Him on Good Friday. And though Jesus knew His attitude did not change from that of a lamb. He followed the voice of His Father, trusting in Him all along. He knew that His betrayal, trial, beating, flogging, crucifixion, and death were all part of God’s will. He knew there was no other way for us to be saved. And so He remained silent, opening not His mouth. It was Jesus who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Heb 12:2)

            In Psalm 73 the psalmist writes of how unfair life seems sometimes. He considers how the unrighteous heathen always seem to prosper, while the righteous believers suffer. To the psalmist this does not seem fair of God. The psalmist writes, When I thought how to understand this, It was too painful for me -- Until I went into the sanctuary of God; Then I understood their end. (Ps 73:15-16) It all changed when he went to the house of the LORD. Then he understood and learned that which the Servant of the LORD knew well, It is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, That I may declare all Your works. (Ps 73:28)

            What is there that we have to complain about? Our finances? Our health? Our government? Our weather? Our loved ones? There are many times when it feels to the Christian that life is unfair and we have a reason to complain. Remember then, with trusting hearts, the Servant of the LORD. Nothing we may experience in this life can come close to the injustice that the spotless Lamb of God endured for us. He endured all that hostility trusting the will of God, knowing that God would cause this to turn out for good. And how good it did turn out!! Thought He suffered and died on that cruel cross, God raised His servant to life on the third day! It turned out for our good as well. Now by His wounds we are healed! Thanks be to God for His uncomplaining Servant who went forth for our salvation! Amen.