Man of Sorrows

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Isaiah 53:1-6 (Good Friday)

INTRODUCTION: This is Holy Week, and we come now to the perhaps the holiest day of all. Today is Good Friday. This is the day when we especially remember our Lord and Savior nailed to the cross for our sins. The cross stands at the very center of the Christian faith, indeed the very center of human history. As we approach the cross on Good Friday, we are standing on holy ground. We should tread carefully.

The verses we just read from the prophet Isaiah were written centuries before Christ was born, and yet the New Testament confirms that Isaiah wrote these words about Jesus. There is a phrase in these verses I would like us to reflect on tonight, and that is the description of Jesus in verse 3 as a “man of sorrows.” Why would the Son of God who came from heaven become a “man of sorrows?” How could that be?

I. Jesus became a man – Christ’s incarnation (verses 1-2)
   – John 1:10; Philippians 2:6-7

I want you to focus first of all on just the word “man.” The Son of God became a man. The second Person of the Trinity who lived eternally with God in heaven; he who was with God in the beginning and who was God; he through whom all things were made and without whom nothing was made that has been made; this majestic, glorious, eternal, divine being became a man. Or as Paul put it in his letter to the Philippians, “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” (Philippians 2:6-7)

We call this the incarnation. It is the mystery that we celebrate each Christmas. Isaiah speaks of the incarnation here in verses 1 and 2. He writes: “Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? 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.” (Isaiah 53:1-2)

Isaiah speaks here of Christ’s humble birth and surroundings. There was nothing about Christ’s physical appearance that indicated his true origins. As a child, he looked like a child. As a teen, he looked like a teen. And as a man, he looked like a man. And so Isaiah says, “Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”

God’s arm is symbolic of his strength. Think for a moment of a weight lifter with massive, muscular arms. (Don’t think of me here – that won’t work!) And yet he is wearing a sweatshirt with long, baggy sleeves. You have no idea of the power of those arms until he rolls up the sleeves and his arm is revealed for what it is. That’s what Jesus was like in the world. The power and majesty of God was concealed in human flesh. “He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.” (John 1:10)

II. Jesus became a man of sorrows – Christ’s sufferings (verses 3-4)
   – Matthew 8:20, 26:68; Hebrews 4:15

But God’s Son not only became a man. Isaiah says he was “a man of sorrows.” Look at verses 3-4 now: “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.”

Jesus could have entered our world as some type of super-man: untouched by human weakness; invulnerable to tiredness, hunger and thirst; immune to the trials and temptations of man. But Jesus was a man of sorrows. He knew what it was like to be tired and hungry. He felt the pain of rejection by family and friends. He experienced temptation firsthand in the wilderness. That’s why the book of Hebrews says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet was without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15)

Jesus was a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering. His sufferings began at his birth when there was no room for him in the inn. His sufferings continued as a man. As he told one would-be follower: “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” (Matthew 8:20)

But none of those sufferings even begin to compare to what Jesus suffered on the Friday of his death. His final sufferings began in earnest sometime after sundown on Thursday as he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane where he was in such agony that he sweat as great drops of blood. He asked his best friends to watch and pray with him, but they fell asleep. Then the soldiers came, led by another friend, Judas, who betrayed him with a kiss. The disciples all scattered and fled into the night as Jesus was arrested and taken away by force.

He endured further humiliation and suffering at the hands of the soldiers who beat him and spit upon him and mocked him. They blindfolded him, and as they slapped him in the face and struck him in the head, they said, “Prophesy to us, Christ. Who hit you?” (Matthew 26:68) They brought him before the high priest and Pilate and Herod where false witnesses accused him. He was flogged and stripped of his clothes. He had a crown of thorns pushed deep into his skull.

They made him carry his own cross to his place of execution until he collapsed from exhaustion along the way. Then they nailed him to the wood and set the cross upright on Calvary where he endured further mocking and insults. He grew thirsty, and the weight of his body hanging from the cross-beams restricted his breath until at last he cried out, “It is finished!” and gave up his spirit.

That the Son of God should become a man is mystery enough, but that he should become a man of sorrows, familiar with suffering, should drive us to our knees in holy wonder and awe. And yet, Isaiah says, “We esteemed him not . . . we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.” (Isaiah 53:3-4)

III. Jesus was pierced for our transgressions – Christ’s sacrifice for our sins (verses 5-6)
   – Matthew 27:46; John 3:16

And so let us return to our original question. Why? Why would the Son of God become a man of sorrows and die a criminal’s death upon a tree? Look at verses 5-6 where Isaiah reveals the mystery: “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

Why did Jesus become a man of sorrows? He was pierced for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities. God took the punishment and weight of your sins and mine and laid them upon his only Son at the cross. Jesus wasn’t a sinner. He lived a perfect life. We are like sheep that have gone astray. Each of us has turned to his own way, and God laid upon Jesus the iniquity of us all.

The other sufferings Jesus experienced were bad enough. But this was by far the worst suffering of all. As Jesus hung nailed to the cross in the center of the thieves, in the center of the crowd, in the center of history, Jesus suffered the full wrath of God for the sins of mankind. It was your sin and mine that sent Jesus to the cross and caused him to cry out that most terrible cry of all: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46) The man of sorrows was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.

CONCLUSION: Why did the Son of God become the man of sorrows? He did it for you and for me. The Bible says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

Jesus died for sinners. Are you a sinner? Then come near to the cross of Jesus. Look upon the Savior. See his arms outstretched in love for you. Look, and believe, and receive the free gift of eternal life.

Man of sorrows, what a name,
For the Son of God who came,
Ruined sinners to reclaim,
Hallelujah! What a Savior!
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

© Ray Fowler

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