The Lamb of God
April 25th, 1976 @ 8:15 AM
THE LAMB OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-25-76 8:15 a.m.
Therefore if you will turn in your Bible to Isaiah chapter 53, we are going to do a homily. That is, we are going to take a passage, verse at a time, and see what God has said. If I were to give a title to the sermon beside The Lamb of God, I would call it The Most Wonderful Prophecy in the World.
It is almost unthinkable and unbelievable that a man could stand in Jerusalem seven hundred fifty years before Christ and describe our Lord as intimately and in as much detail as Isaiah does here in the fifty-third chapter of his prophecy. So he begins, it is going to be a wonderful thing that he says:
And who can believe it? And to whom is the truth of the Lord revealed?
For this great coming Messiah, He shall grow up before God as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground.
When he refers to Him as a tender plant, he is following the prophecy that he made in the eleventh chapter. “There shall come forth a [rod] out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots” [Isaiah 11:1]. He is speaking of the house of David that is cut down, and there is nothing left but a stump, but out of that stump there shall grow a little tiny shoot, a little rod, a little branch, a little tender plant. And it shall come out of the root in a dry, dry ground [Isaiah 53:2]. There was nothing in the day of Christ to present the great King of glory to the earth. “He shall grow up as a little tender plant, as a root out of a dry ground” [Isaiah 53:2]. The nation was in slavery. It was a festering sore in the Roman Empire.
When the Lord was crucified in 30 AD, in 66 AD the nation rebelled that brought its destruction under the legions of Titus; “a root out of a dry ground.” The nation was as decadent religiously as any nation could ever become. It was led by the Sadducees who were rationalists. I’d call them atheists, and they were led by the formal Pharisees who fastened upon the people yokes that no man could bear.
He was born in a stable [Luke 2:10-16], and grew up in a little despised village called Nazareth [Matthew 2:23], of such impure reputation that a godly man said, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” [John 1:46]. Isaiah, describing Him seven hundred fifty years before, out of the stump of David, this little shoot, “a root out of a dry ground” [Isaiah 53:2]; then he speaks of His form. “He hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him” [Isaiah 53:2].
When Jesus stood before Herod Antipas, Antipas sent Him back to Pilate with contempt and infinite disgust [Luke 23:6-11]. Can you think of a man standing in the presence of the Son of God and sending Him away like that? “He hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him” [Isaiah 53:2]. There was nothing of the grandeur that, say, a Roman courtier would expect in a king.
And when Pilate looked upon Him, he said, “You? You, a king?” [John 18:37]. A peasant, poor among the poor, despised and outcast, delivered unto his hand, crying for His blood, and Pilate in amazement said, “You? You are a king?”
Now His reception:
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.
Did you ever hear a phrase like that? “A Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” [Isaiah 53:3]. Bearing the griefs of the whole world, and alone in them, acquainted with grief. Grief was His companion. And instead of looking upon Him in infinite love and acceptance, He was outcast [John 1:11], and even those to whom He turned for friendship in the hour of His greatest trial forsook Him, and fled [Matthew 26:56].
Then is described His vicarious suffering:
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 every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
There is no more beautiful passage descriptive of the sufferings of the Lord for us than this one in the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah. It was the stripes that we should have received for our sins with which He was beat [Isaiah 53:5]. It was for the peace that comes to us that He bore all of the judgment of God, the chastisement of our iniquity [Isaiah 53:5]. And the wounds that should have been afflicted upon us because of our unrighteousness He bore in His own body on the tree [Isaiah 53:5; 1 Peter 2:24]. And in an infinite mystery that we cannot understand, Isaiah says, “the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of the whole world” [Isaiah 53:6]; a vicarious atonement, suffering not for His sins, but suffering for ours [Romans 5:11].
Then he describes the attitude of this suffering Servant, the coming Lord, redeeming Messiah, when He was beaten for us, and when He was wounded for us, and when He was finally executed and crucified for us [Matthew 27:26-50]. Was He bitter? Did He reply in kind? Then he describes it:
He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth: He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He openeth not His mouth.
In all of that bitter scourging, and in all of those bitter trials, and in those castigations and accusations against Him, the Lord never said a word. He spoke but twice. Once when the high priest before the Sanhedrin placed Him on trial and said, “I adjure Thee by the living God, tell us whether Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Blessed” [Matthew 26:63; Mark 14:61]. And the Lord replied, because that was the great witness of His life before Israel and before its official body, and He said, “I am: and henceforth will you see the Son of Man coming in the glory of the Father with the angels of heaven” [Mark 14:61-62].
And the other time that He spake was when, on His trial before Pontius Pilate, Pilate asked Him if He were a king, and the Lord replied, “I am. Thou sayest that I am a king.” The most emphatic way that it could be said in Greek, to repeat it, “Thou sayest, yes, I am a king” [John 18:37], the King of glory, the King of truth, the King of the souls of men.
But outside of those two avowals on His trials, He never uttered a word. When they beat Him, when they accused Him, when they denounced Him, when they castigated Him, when they delivered Him for crucifixion, when they drove the nails through His hands and through His feet, the only sound you could hear was the ringing of the hammer.
I thought of that poignantly one time, when as a youth I visited, went through the biggest, greatest packing plant in the world, the Armour company of Chicago. And I went first where they were slaughtering the cattle—and ah, the sound of the moaning and the lowing in that great place where the cattle were brought up those chutes and they were slaughtered. Then I next visited where they were slaughtering swine, and the sounds of the squealing of those hogs as they were brought up to the slaughter. And last I visited where they were slaughtering the lambs and the sheep. The only sound that I heard was the clanking of the machinery as it took the carcasses from here to there to there. Absolute silence; there was no sound when the Lord was crucified but the sounding of the instruments of nail and hammer. “He opened not His mouth” [Isaiah 53:7].
Then comes a description that you don’t see here in the King James Version:
He was taken from prison and from violence of the misappropriation of law; He was cut off out of the land of the living: and who of His generation understood that it was for the transgression of My people that He was stricken.
Not one. There was not one. There was not one when the Lord lived who understood the purpose of His death, not one. There was not a disciple. There was not an apostle. 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 single living individual in the generation to which Jesus belonged who understood the purpose of His death, not one. Isn’t that a remarkable thing?
It was only after He was raised from the dead that He took the Scriptures and made them understand how the Christ must suffer and remission of sins be preached in His name: that atonement for us, that forgiveness for us came through His death on the cross [Luke 24:25-27, 44-48].
Now these are the most enigmatic words that you could find in human literature, until we came to know what they meant. Isaiah writes seven hundred fifty years before. “He made His grave with the wicked, and with the rich in His death” [Isaiah 53:9]. They are meaningless in themselves. They have no pertinency whatsoever. And when that prophecy was read by the scribes and the doctors of the law they made no meaning at all.
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.
An enigmatic, meaningless jumble of words until we came to know what it meant; what did it mean? When a criminal was crucified, the Romans left the body on the cross to disintegrate, and to corrupt, and to decay. That was the purpose of the crucifixion—was to lift up the runaway slave, or the felon, or the malefactor that he might be a lesson for anyone else who might want to run away or who might want to transgress Roman law. So the cross was left there days, and weeks, and weeks. And the people passing by saw that body disintegrate and decay. It was an awesome sight!
According to Jewish law they took the body of a crucified criminal and they buried it because it was against Jewish custom to leave the body unburied. They took the body and they buried it in an unclean place. But these enigmatic words of our Lord, what did they mean?
When the Lord was crucified as a felon, as a criminal [Luke 23:32-33; John 19:16-30], there was one Joseph of Arimathea, a rich man, and there was one Nicodemus, a rich man. And they carefully and tenderly took the body down, and they wrapped it in a winding sheet with one hundred pounds of spices, and lovingly, prayerfully laid the body away in a rich man’s grave; in the tomb, newly hewn of Joseph of Arimathea [John 19:38-41]. Thus does prophecy pay attention to the smallest detail. Seven hundred fifty years before Christ Isaiah describes the burial, the entombment of our Lord [Isaiah 53:9].
And now the most amazing of all of the prophecies in time, we have come to the grave. We have come to the end of His life. That must close it, except for the influence of His life in memory or the ongoing of His principles that He espoused. But the close of this prophecy is just the opposite. In describing the suffering and the death of our Lord, the prophet never mentions His work until He has died. All that the prophet describes of the living Savior is His suffering, then begins the great ministry and the great achievements of this suffering, dying, and executed Lord.
God shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand…
By His righteousness He shall justify many…
He shall make intercession for the transgressors. And God will divide Him a portion with the great, and the spoil with the strong.
You look at that. Before His death nothing mentioned except His suffering, but after His death, look at the great work and ministry of the Lord. “God shall see His seed” [Isaiah 53:10]. Why, He was never married. He had no wife. He had no children. God shall see His seed, spiritual children by the millions, and the millions, and the millions. And thousands and thousands of us in this church today, we are the progeny, we are the offspring of the Son of God.
“He shall prolong His days,” the living Christ [Isaiah 53:10]. As the Lord said to the apostle John in the first chapter of the Apocalypse, “I am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore” [Revelation 1:18]. “God shall prolong His days and forever, and the Lord’s pleasure shall prosper in His hands” [Isaiah 53:10]. The moving of the kingdom of Christ is inexorable.
We look in discouragement upon things that happen in the world today, but He is not discouraged! We look in fear for the morrow, but He is not afraid! We look in dread for what can happen, but He does not dread, for the times are in His hands, and the prosperous will of God shall come to a glorious achievement in our living Lord [Psalm 31:15].
“And by His knowledge shall My Servant justify many” [Isaiah 53:11], referring to the thousands and the millions who shall be justified, declared righteous in His blood and in His sufferings, “For He shall bear their iniquities” [Isaiah 53:11]. And look, “He shall make”—the Hebrew is present tense—“He makes intercession for the transgressors” [Isaiah 53:12]. Our Lord is in heaven pleading and mediating for us today, and tomorrow, and forever [Romans 8:34].
Romans 5:10 is one of the greatest verses in the Bible, and yet ninety-nine percent of the people when they read it, read it wrong. I listened to a sermon that a gifted man delivered, and he delivered it exactly wrong. Romans 5:10, “For when we were yet enemies”—God made Him to be righteousness for us—“for when we were yet enemies, we were reconciled to God by His death, therefore being reconciled, how much more shall we be saved by His life.”
You know when people read that, “we shall be saved by His life,” all the people who read that think of the life of our Lord here in this earth, saved by the life of our Lord, saved by the beautiful example of our Lord, saved by the glorious ministries of our Lord.
Why, it doesn’t refer to that at all. “If, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by His death, much more, being reconciled, shall we be saved by His life” [Romans 5:10]. What life? The life of our Lord in heaven, the great intercessory ministry of Jesus today!
He made the great atoning sacrifice for us on the cross [Hebrews 2:17], and now all of us who have looked in faith to Jesus and received the forgiveness of our sins in the death of our Lord [Ephesians 1:7], how much more shall we be saved by His life, that is, the Lord keeps us in His hands. He keeps us. No one is able to pluck them out of the Father’s hand. No one is able to pluck us out of His hand, and He and the Father are one [John 10:27-30].
How do I know but that the devil will yet get me? How do I know but that I’ll yet stumble into hell? How do I know that finally I’ll be saved? How do I know? Because I am saved by the intercessory ministry of our Lord in heaven [Hebrews 7:25], reconciled by the death of His cross [2 Corinthians 5:19], saved by His intercessory life, kept by the intercessory appeal of our Lord in heaven.
Now he concludes with a glorious and triumphant victory. Therefore, beginning with the second part of the eleventh verse, it is God that Isaiah is quoting. “By His knowledge shall My righteous Servant justify many; for He shall bear their iniquities. Therefore, therefore will I divide Him”—let me translate that in a little more perfect word—“therefore will I apportion Him the great. I am going to apportion Him the great” [Isaiah 53:11-12]. Give Jesus a name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow [Philippians 2:9-10]. “I will apportion Him the great, and He will”—let’s translate that word divide, apportion again—“and He will apportion to Himself the strong” [Isaiah 53:12].
The future lies with Jesus. The kingdoms of the world are His [Revelation 11:15], and He is just waiting until the earth be made His footstool [Isaiah 66:1], and His enemies be bowed in acquiescence and in confession before Him [Philippians 2:10]. Can you imagine? A man seven hundred fifty years before Christ, describing the life, and ministry, and coming victory of our Lord, as Isaiah has done in this fifty-third chapter [Isaiah 53:1-12].
It’s a beautiful thing to see a man bow in the presence of the Lord Jesus. We shall all bow someday. How preciously wonderful to see a man do it when there is time that he be saved, that he can serve Jesus, that he can give his life to the Lord Jesus, that he can follow Him in the days of this pilgrimage. And when you see Him, look upon Him as a friend and as a Savior, not as a judge condemning us in our own unrighteousness, but saving us in His atoning grace [Ephesians 2:8-9].
And that’s our appeal to your heart today. When we stand and sing our appeal, a family you, a couple you, or just one somebody you, coming to the Lord and to us, make the decision now in your heart. And on the first note of the first stanza, come. Do it now. Make it now, while we stand and while we sing.