The Lamb of God
April 25th, 1976 @ 10:50 AM
THE LAMB OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-25-76 10:50 a.m.
And once again, we are your debtors glorious choir and orchestra. And once again, welcome to all who share this service on radio and television. On your television screen, you will see an address. It will bless our hearts beyond anything you could ever know if you would write to us. If the service and its message from God is a blessing to you, it would be a blessing to us if you would write and let us know.
This is the pastor bringing the sermon entitled The Lamb of God, or The Greatest Prophecy in the Bible. In our preaching through the Book of Isaiah, we have come to the high watermark of all description in the Word of God concerning the coming Lord Messiah.
It is almost impossible to realize that the prophet wrote these words seven hundred and fifty years before Christ was born into the earth, yet he describes Him as fully, as poignantly, as richly, as beautifully as though he were standing that day on Mount Calvary when Jesus was crucified [Isaiah 53:1-12]. And some of the richness of detail in the prophecy is even beyond what we could have thought for in reading the story in the Gospel itself. And the understanding of the prophet of the atonement of our Lord, dying for us, not for Himself, but for us, the understanding of that atonement is something revealed from heaven itself.
Last November, I was invited to preach for a week at our Southern Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, and while I was there I lectured to two of the classes in preaching, in homiletics. And the young men asked me some questions. And one of the questions they asked was this: "How do you preach?"
There are many ways of preaching. You can preach topically on a subject, a subject sermon. You can preach a problem sermon, something that the people wrestle with, a personal problem. You can preach textually. Take a text and preach from the text. You can preach expositionally. Take a passage, short or small, and expound what it means, what God has said in it, and what it means for us. And you can preach homiletically, a homily, that is, taking a verse at a time.
So the young men asked, "How do you preach?" And my reply was, "Almost always I will preach expositionally. I will take a passage, short or long, and I’ll try to say what God has said in the passage, and then what it means to us."
Then one of the young men asked me, "Do you ever preach homiletically?" A homily, verse by verse by verse; take a passage like a chapter and go through it verse by verse.
I said, "No, I cannot ever remember having done it." And I thought the best that I could over the years and the years of my pastorate, and I cannot remember preaching a homily, taking a chapter and just going through it a verse at a time.
Well, today, I’m going to do it. For the first time in forty-eight years of preaching, I’m going to preach a homily. I’m going to take the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah, and if you would like to turn to it and follow it as I follow the verses, it would bless your heart to do so. A homily, taking the chapter and speaking of it verse after verse.
The mighty prophet begins. I’m going to tell you a story, going to present a revelation from heaven that is so unbelievable, that you can hardly realize that God has said it. It is so marvelous that unless the Spirit of the Lord reveals it to a man, he could never encompass it. "Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?" [Isaiah 53:1]. Then he begins with his prophecy of the coming Christ Messiah, "He shall grow up before God as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground" [Isaiah 53:2].
The prophet is saying that there could never have been a less prospect of a glorious king arising than the background of the origin of the incarnate Son of God. When he refers to His growing up "as a tender plant" [Isaiah 53:2], he is speaking of the same prophecy that he mentioned in Isaiah 11:1, "There shall come forth a Rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots."
The prophet is describing the stump of the house of David. The kingdom has been destroyed and the king and his lineage is of the past, and there is nothing left but a stump. But the prophet says out of that stump of the cut down and destroyed house of David, there shall grow a little shoot, a little tender plant, and the root will give birth to new life. It will grow again. And it is as amazing that as the little shoot comes out of the stump, the destroyed cut down house of David, so it grows out of an unlikely place. It will be like a root out of a dry ground [Isaiah 53:2]. Who would ever have thought that such life should have been born of it?
How true in the fulfillment of that prophecy, Christ coming out of Israel when He did. The nation was in servitude. It was a festering sore in the life of the Roman Empire. Our Lord was crucified in 30 AD, and in 66 AD was the great rebellion against Rome that ensued in its destruction under the legions of Titus.
The national religion was a farce. It was led in the temple worship by the Sadducees, who, to me, were atheists. They were rationalists of the first order. And it was imposed upon by the formal and ritualistic Pharisees who fastened upon the people burdens that they could not bear. And yet out of that came the glorious incarnate Son of God. Out of a great king’s palace? No. Out of a mighty army or strength or victorious marching government? No. Out of a stable where the horses and the mules and the donkeys and the sheep and the goats and the chickens, in a stable, where the animals lived, He was born there [Luke 2:11-16]. And He grew up in a despised town called Nazareth, a town of such impure reputation that a godly man in Israel said, "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?" [John 1:46]
"He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground" [Isaiah 53:2].
The prophet next describes that in Himself there was no personal grandeur that we should desire Him, "He hath no form nor comeliness." He was a peasant, dressed like one, had the garb of one, lived like one. He walked like one. "He hath no form nor comeliness; and when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him" [Isaiah 53:2].
When He was brought before Herod Antipas, the tetrarch of Galilee, where the Lord lived, where He came from, when Herod Antipas sought to get Him even to speak, there was no reply [Luke 23:8-9]. And in contempt and disgust, Herod Antipas sent Him away and back to Pontius Pilate [Luke 23:6-11]. Can you imagine standing in the presence of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and looking upon Him in contempt and disgust? "He hath no form nor comeliness; and when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him" [Isaiah 53:2].
Any Roman courtier would have been insulted at the thought that he would be invited to bow before so humble a peasant as this Prophet from Nazareth. And when Pontius Pilate, examining the Lord Jesus before His crucifixion, when Pontius Pilate heard the report that He called Himself a king, incredulously, unbelieving, Pontius Pilate looked at that peasant crowned with thorns, buffeted and mocked and despised, and asked, "Art Thou a king?" [John 18:37].
O God, how our values are all turned around! How they are wrong! "You," said Pontius Pilate, "You, a king?" The King of the whole world, of the universe, of the hosts in heaven, and of the redeemed for mankind. But when Pilate saw Him and the Romans saw Him and Herod Antipas saw Him, "there was no form nor comeliness; no beauty that they should desire Him" [Isaiah 53:2].
Then the prophet in the next verse describes the reception of the Son of heaven. "He is despised and rejected of men; a Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from Him; He was despised, and we esteemed Him not" [Isaiah 53:3].
Did you ever hear words like this? "A Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief?" How poignant and how descriptive. "Acquainted with grief." He meant by that, he means by that, that the companion of our Lord was grief. When He walked, He walked alone, except one who accompanied Him, grief. "A Man of sorrows, despised and rejected" [Isaiah 53:3]. His own words were flung into His teeth. As they paraded up and down in front of His cross, they reminded Him of the words that He said, despising Him, mocking Him [Matthew 27:39-43]. "And we esteemed Him not" [Isaiah 53:3]. When our Lord turned in His hour of greatest need to those who should have befriended Him, the Book says all of His disciples forsook Him and fled [Matthew 26:56; Mark 14:50]. "Rejected of men."
Then the prophet writes in the next three verses an incomparable description of the vicarious death, the atoning death, of our Lord who is suffering in our stead and for our sins [2 Corinthians 5:21].
Surely, surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows . . .
He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: The chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
He didn’t deserve any stripes. Those stripes laid so heavily upon Him should have fallen upon us. We are the ones who sinned. We are the ones who deserve the punishment. But we don’t receive it. It fell upon Him. It is by His stripes that we are liberated and freed and made well and healed. It was not for His transgressions that He was bruised and nailed to the tree; it was our transgressions. "The chastisement of our peace," the peace that we enjoy and have so freely from God’s hand is bought for us by His suffering and His crucifixion [Isaiah 53:5].
And then the prophet mentions the mystery that no man can enter into, "The Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all" [Isaiah 53:6]. The summed-up mountain of the sins of the whole world were heaped upon His soul, and in some way that is known but to God, the Lord saw the travail of His soul and was satisfied [Isaiah 53:11]. For His sake, God forgives us [Ephesians 4:32]. It is not because we are lovely, or that we are righteous, or we are deserving that God is merciful to us. God is gracious to us and forgives us for His sake. "The Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all" [Isaiah 53:6].
Then in the next verse the prophet describes the attitude of the Suffering Servant. How did he bear Himself when He was cursed and spat upon and His beard plucked out [Isaiah 50:6], and He was castigated and reviled and blasphemed, and finally nailed to a tree? [Matthew 27:27-50]. How did He deport himself? Did He answer with bitter recrimination, with vitriolic words? "He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth." He did not say anything in return [Matthew 27:12-14; Luke 23:9]. "He was brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He openeth not His mouth" [Isaiah 53:7]. He didn’t say anything in return. Reviled, He never reviled again [1 Peter 2:23]. Cursed, He never cursed back. He was silent. Silent.
Just twice did He speak, when before the high priest and the Sanhedrin, the representative of God’s people said, "I adjure Thee by the living God, tell us whether Thou be Christ, the Son of the Blessed" [Mark 14:61]. And officially before the highest court of the people, He said, "I am the Son of God, and henceforth you will see the Son of Man coming in the power of the angels of heaven" [Mark 14:62]. And the only other place that He spoke was when Pilate asked Him officially, "Are you a king? You?" [John 18:37] And He said, "I am the King of glory and the King of truth" [John 18:37]. But other than that, He never spoke. And when He was nailed to the tree, the only sound that was heard was the sound of the ringing hammers, driving in the nails through His hands and through His feet.
One of the things I could never forget was my visit to the largest packing house in the world, the great Armour plant in Chicago, Illinois, since destroyed, but in the days of my youth, an enormous facility. I visited first the slaughterhouse for the cattle, and ah, the sound of the moaning and the lowing of those cattle as they were led to the slaughter. Then next I visited the slaughterhouse for the swine, and ah, the sounds of the squealing and the noise of the hogs as they were led to the slaughter.
Then I next visited the slaughterhouse for the sheep and the lambs. It was as silent as death. That man there with that long knife plunged it into the jugular vein and the sheep or the lamb would watch the life’s crimson pour out. Not a sound. Not a sound. The only sound I heard was the sound of the machinery as it pulled the carcass around.
"He opened not His mouth" [Isaiah 53:7]. And the only sound that was heard was the sound of the ringing of the hammers that drove in the nails through His hands and through His feet.
Then the prophet describes something that is amazing. If I could say it in my own words: there was not one in His generation who understood why "He was cut off out of the land of the living." There was not one who understood that it was "for the transgression of His people that He was stricken" [Isaiah 53:8]. Isn’t that an astonishing thing? There was not one, not one, there was not one who understood the meaning of the suffering and the death of our Lord when He died. Not one. There was not an apostle, there was not a disciple, there was not His mother or His brethren, there was not a scribe, there was not a doctor of the law, there was not one who understood why it is that He died. There was not one of His generation who understood why He died, namely, for the transgression of His people [Isaiah 53:8].
That’s why, when He was raised from the dead, He took the Scriptures and He taught His disciples that "Thus it is written, and thus it behooved the Christ to suffer . . . and that remission of sins should be preached in His name" [Luke 24:45-47]. But when He lived and when He died, there was not one in His generation who understood why it was that He died, the meaning of His death [Luke 18:34].
Then the prophet writes words that are enigmatic and seemingly meaningless, and certainly so until we understand them in their fulfillment, "He made His grave with the wicked, and with the rich in His death; although He had done no violence, neither was any deceit in His mouth" [Isaiah 53:9]. What in the world? For seven hundred fifty years, those words were enigmatic and meaningless. "He made His grave with the wicked, and with the rich in His death." What could such a thing mean?
In the days of the crucifixion, in the days of the Roman Empire, one who was crucified, a felon or a malefactor, a criminal, was left on the cross as a lesson to a would-be runaway slave or a would-be criminal. The body was left on the cross until it decayed and fell down to the ground of itself, in pieces. It was a cruel and awesome sight.
In the days of the Jewish nation, they had a law against leaving a body unburied. So in the days of the Lord in Judah, the criminal’s body was taken and buried in an unclean place. "He made His grave with the wicked, and with the rich in His death" [Isaiah 53:9], enigmatic words for seven hundred fifty years, when finally, it’s fulfilled.
His body wasn’t left on the cross to decay, nor was His body cast into an unclean place, but a rich man, Joseph of Arimathea, and his affluent friend, Nicodemus, carefully and tenderly took the body down and wrapped it in a winding sheet with a hundred pounds of aloes and myrrh spices, and lovingly, prayerfully laid it in the rich man’s tomb [John 19:38-41].
Who would ever have thought that such a detail could have been written by the prophet seven hundred fifty years before [Isaiah 53:9], but how beautifully does God reveal the things of His Son to us?
We must hasten. The rest of the chapter concerns the work of our Lord, and what an astonishing thing in itself! Would you have not supposed that when He comes to the end of His life, when He was buried, when He was in the grave, that’s it? The only thing that would remain would be the influence of His memory, or the progression of the principles and great truths He espoused in His life. Wouldn’t you have thought that? This is the end.
No! This is the beginning. For in this great prophecy by Isaiah, there is nothing that is spoken of the life of our Lord before His death except His suffering. The great work of our Lord according to the prophet Isaiah is done after His death. Look at it, hastily, "For Thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin, God shall see His seed" [Isaiah 53:10]. Why, the Man is not married! He doesn’t have a family. He doesn’t have any children. When God sees His seed, He has no seed! Oh! He has millions of children! He has hundreds of millions of these who look in faith and love to Him, who belong to the household of the faith. Look around you. There are children of Jesus all through this great auditorium and in this whole world. "God shall see His seed. He shall prolong His days" [Isaiah 53:10]. Prolong His days? Well, the man is dead. "He shall prolong His days." He is not a dead Christ, He is a living Lord! [Luke 24:4-8].
As He said to John, "I am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I . . . have the keys of Hell and of Death" [Revelation 1:18]. "And the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand" [Isaiah 53:10], shall prosper in His hand. The great mighty kingdom of God shall come to fruition and to the leadership of Jesus Christ, God’s Son.
"And by His knowledge shall My righteous Servant justify many" [Isaiah 53:11]. We are washed from our sins in the knowledge of the gracious gospel of the Son of God. He never came so much to preach the gospel as He came to die [Mark 10:45], that there might be a gospel to preach.
"And He makes intercession for the transgressors" [Isaiah 53:12]. That refers to the glorious intercessory ministry of our Lord in heaven. Romans 5:10 describes it magnificently, "For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, how much more, being reconciled, shall we be saved by His life" [Romans 5:10]. What life? The life of our Lord in the days of His flesh? No! By the life of our Lord in heaven [Hebrews 7:24-25]. We are forgiven by His atoning death [1 John 1:9]. We’re cleansed by the blood of the cross [1 John 1:7] and we are kept saved by His life in heaven [Romans 5:10]. Will the devil get us? No! Will we fall into hell? No! How do you know we will not fall into hell? Because no one is able it to pluck us out of our Lord’s hand [John 10:28], who lives and reigns in heaven [Ephesians 1:20-21].
Then he closes with the coming triumph of our Lord in earth, "I will," and this is God speaking, beginning at verse  to the end, "I will divide Him." Let me translate that. "I will ‘apportion’ Him, I will ‘apportion’ Him the great and He will apportion to Himself the strong" [Isaiah 53:12].
The kingdom of God is in the hands of the great, mighty Sovereign of the universe. Don’t you be ever discouraged by the clouds that lower and the darkness that covers the face of the earth, for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. And the day is coming and it hastens itself when He shall be King of the hosts in heaven and of His redeemed in earth [Matthew 25:31], and "the whole world shall be filled with the knowledge of our glorious Lord, like the waters cover the sea" [Habakkuk 2:14]; when men "beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruninghooks . . . and they do not learn war anymore" [Isaiah 2:4]; when the Prince of Peace is our wonderful God and we are the servants, His redeemed, who will love Him and call upon His name [Revelation 5:12-13]. Oh, oh! What a freedom, what a privilege, what an open door to belong to the household of faith, to be numbered among the children of God.
And that is our appeal to you this morning. On radio and on television, the uncounted thousands of you who have listened to the message from the prophet, today would you open your heart? "Lord Jesus, count me among those who believe in Thy name." And in the throng in this auditorium this morning, while we sing our song of invitation, a family you, a couple you, or just one somebody you, "Today, I take the Lord Jesus as my Savior." Or, "Today, we’re putting our lives in the fellowship of this dear church." Make the decision now in your heart, and in a moment when we stand to sing, stand walking down one of these stairways, walking down one of these aisles. God bless you, angels attend you as you come, while we stand and while we sing.
THE LAMB OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. Lowly origin and growth (Isaiah 53:2a)
A. The stump, the root, the ground (Isaiah 11:1)
II. Unattractive form (Isaiah 53:2b)
A. Herod Antipas in contempt and disgust
B. Roman courtiers insulted at invitation to bow before a peasant
C. Pontius Pilate incredulous and unbelieving (John 18:37)
III. Rejected by men (Isaiah 53:3)
A. His claims ridiculed
IV. His suffering (Isaiah 53:4-6)
A. Made others’ griefs His own
B. Actual bearing of consequences of our sins
V. Attitude of servant (Isaiah 53:7)
A. Humbled Himself and was silent (Matthew 26:63-64, Luke 23:3)
VI. No one understood (Isaiah 53:8)
A. After His resurrection, He taught the disciples (Luke 24:45-47)
VII. His grave (Isaiah 53:9)
A. With the wicked and the rich
VIII. His work after death
A. His seed (Isaiah 53:10, Revelation 1:18)
B. He saves (Isaiah 53:11)
C. He intercedes (Isaiah 53:12, Romans 5:10)