Don’t you wonder how Jesus could talk like that? I am not only referring to the seven words or sentences which Jesus spoke on the cross, like “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing,” but also to all the words and sentences Jesus spoke during those hours that led up to the cross. We heard many of them in those readings from John’s Gospel. Don’t you wonder how Jesus could talk like that? To calmly say to the detachment of soldiers and officials of the chief priests and Pharisees in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Who is it you want?” and then to not lie, even though he knew they wanted to kill him, but to straightforwardly say, “I am he.” Don’t you wonder how Jesus could talk like that? To confidently say to the man who told Jesus he had the power to free him or to crucify him – and rather than try to bribe Pontius Pilate or to try to make him feel sorry for him – to say instead, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.”
Brothers and sisters, How could Jesus talk like that? Could you or I ever talk like that? I pray that as I now read these words from the prophet Isaiah, we will all be able to figure out for ourselves and treasure in our hearts how he could talk like that. Before we talk about these words, though, I will give you one hint to keep in mind as I read them that I pray will also help you believe them and live them. They were written seven hundred years before Jesus lived. In other words, hundreds of years before these things happened to Jesus on Good Friday, both Jesus himself and God his Father spoke these words in prophecy about what was going to take place – long before this all actually happened. We read from Isaiah 52-53.
13 See, my servant will act wisely; he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted. 14Just as there were many who were appalled at him—his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being and his form marred beyond human likeness — 15 so he will sprinkle many nations, and kings will shut their mouths because of him. For what they were not told, they will see, and what they have not heard, they will understand. 1 Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
2 He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. 3 He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
4 Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. 6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. 8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away. Yet who of his generation protested? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was punished. 9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. 10 Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.
11 After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
The Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
So, do you have a guess from these words of Isaiah how our Savior Jesus could talk like that? There are different answers that could all likely be correct, but the thought that I would like to center on for a few moments is that Jesus could talk like that, because Jesus knew it would be like that. He knew what the result would be for him – and he knew what the result would be for us. Because what becomes clear from what happened to Jesus on Good Friday is that what God the Father and God the Son said through Isaiah hundreds of years before was going to take place is exactly what did take place: hard and horrible things — and great and wonderful things – all of the things which make this day such a holy and important day for every day of our lives – and all of the things that also let us see how because of Jesus we can also talk like that during the various things that go on in our life, too.
There is a Bible verse in the book called Hebrews that helps us think about this, because it tells us this about Jesus, “… who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame and sat down at the right hand of God” (Hbs 12:2). Isaiah’s prophecy certainly makes both points ring true. Jesus could scorn the present shame of that day as not worthy of his worry – “Out of my way, cross!” — because he knew the joy of all the days that would follow after.
Let’s just think about a couple of examples from what we just read: Isaiah says that many would be appalled at Jesus and his disfigured appearance, but the result would be he would sprinkle many nations with his blood in a way that would lead kings and people all over the world to be speechless as to how such a great miracle of salvation could be gained in such a tragic way. We are among those people who are speechless about how God this – and who he did it for – us! Me! Isaiah says that Jesus would be despised and rejected, and that so many then and now would consider him to be punished by God – stricken, smitten and afflicted – but the result would be that the punishment that was on him is the punishment that would bring us peace. God loves me! Jesus would be wounded, but through those wounds you and I would be healed. God has forgiven me! Isaiah says that it was the Father’s will to crush Jesus, to lead him as a lamb to the slaughter, to cut him off from the land of the living, but the result would be that the crushing of Jesus would crush Satan, that that slaughter of Jesus would be a sacrificial payment for our sins, since he was pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities, and that the removal from the land of the living and burial in a tomb would result in his days being prolonged and God’s will prospering in his hand, because he would not stay in that tomb, since he would not stay dead, but he would rise. Yes, as verse 11 said as a summary of all this, “After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied.” Or, again, as the letter to the Hebrews said, “… who, for the joy set before him, endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of God.”
Jesus could talk like that and go through suffering like that because he knew the joy that would result from that. We still agonize over the reason for the suffering, as we are doing today. It was our transgressions, our guilt, our iniquity that caused it. But we also rejoice over the result of that suffering, as we are doing today, as well. God considers us to be as pure and as holy as the Lamb of God who took away the sin of the world. And God then makes us people who through the Lamb of God can endure the suffering that goes on in our lives — and who therefore can also talk like that ourselves, because we know the joy that is to come, no matter how things may be right now. Just like Jesus, we know in advance that our lives won’t end in the grave. We know there is a time when heartache and suffering will be no more. We can talk like that and believe that and live that because of how Jesus talked and because of what Jesus did when he took our place and showed the love of the Father in the way we will sing about in a moment in our next hymn:
How deep the Father’s love for us,
how vast beyond all measure,
that he should give his only Son
to make a wretch his treasure.
How great the pain of searing loss,
The Father turns his face away
as wounds which mar the Chosen One
bring many sons to Glory.
Jesus could talk like that, because he knew it would be like that. Glory for all of us through what he was going through. Through Jesus – and because of Jesus — we can talk like that, too. Peace during heartache and suffering now. Joy and glory forever then. God promises it will be like that! Amen.