It would be a terrible thing to be falsely accused of a crime, tried by jury, found guilty, and sentenced to death. But it does happen; and if it happened to you, it would be your desire to have someone contend for your innocence. There is an organization called “The Innocence Project,” defined on their web page as “a national litigation and public policy organization dedicated to exonerating wrongfully convicted individuals through DNA testing and reforming the criminal justice system to prevent further injustice.” There have been 305 post-conviction DNA exonerations in the United States… 18 of whom were on death row. In about one-half of cases, the actual perpetrator of the crime has been identified.
It is one thing to be falsely accused and sentenced for someone else’s crime, but it would be even more incredible to willingly offer oneself as the substitute for the guilt and death sentence of another – and to do it in such a manner as to not murmur nor complain in any way. And that is what Jesus Christ has done for us as he has taken our place as our substitute – having our sin imputed to his account that he may make the substitutionary atonement for it – done willingly in love.
Throughout this series we have talked about the Old Testament / Old Covenant method of a lamb taking the place of the guilty sinner. We have seen this on the Day of Atonement and the Passover event and commemoration. As well, we recall to mind the Scripture that Christ is the Lamb of God and the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world. And today, we see this incredible passage from Isaiah – written by the prophet hundreds of years in advance of the substitutionary work of Christ on the cross.
We see Christ depicted as an ordinary man who had placed upon him the transgressions of mankind. The scene was terribly gruesome, the suffering too difficult to view. See the verbs deployed by Isaiah: punished, despised, stricken, afflicted, pierced, crushed, oppressed, cut off.
The passage abounds with sheep references as well, speaking of how we in our humanity resemble the stupid side of sheepdom – the capacity for wandering away and getting lost in the self-absorbed activity of eating and engaging in creature comforts.
The lamb illustration is also used of Christ’s work, though it is not a perfect picture. Only one aspect of a lamb is selected to make one point – that being the silence of the animal when not complaining about what is going to happen to it. But unlike the daft lamb, Christ knew what was to come in bearing the sufferings of the cross. He wrestled mightily with it in the Garden of Gethsemane, but having dealt with it there, in total submission and obedience to the Father, Jesus set his face to go to the cross willingly as our substitute.
Our sin – imputed to us from Adam, and then transferred from us to Christ’s account – has been judged and God has been propitiated. So why not receive the imputed righteousness of Christ that makes us adopted children of God? The ultimate Innocence Project guy has taken your place and the debt is fully paid. You can be free!
53:1 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 oppressionand 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 lifeand 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.
Cross Words for today:
Peace – Often the Scriptures speak of the new condition of peace that exists when the work of the cross has made and opened a restored condition of peace between God and man.
Torn – This word is used of the body of Christ upon the cross. It fits well with the verbs used in today’s Isaiah passage.
Pure – A state of innocence exists when something is pure – free from the stain, filth, and debt of sin.