Suffering Servant Sermon Lenten Series 2007

The Suffering Servant Is Satisfied

(Isaiah 53:10-11)   


Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him;

He has put Him to grief.

When You make His soul an offering for sin,

He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days,

And the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand.

He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied.

By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many,

For He shall bear their iniquities. 

I’ve scrubbed floors, picked weeds, and repaired pot holes.  That’s labor.  I have also seen labor that I could not do no matter how hard I set my mind and body to it.  I am talking about the labor I witnessed eleven times between September of 1976 and May of 1995.  My wife did it.  I watched.  She says there’s a reason they call it labor.  It’s hard work.  Bringing a baby into this world doesn’t require labor from any man, but it is hard labor for the woman. 

And then there is a baby.  Jesus, the only man who truly knows and understands a woman, put it this way: 

A woman, when she is in labor, has sorrow because her hour has come; but as soon as she has given birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. (John 16:21) 

She sees the end of her labor.  It brings her joy because the value of a human life is greater than the pain she endured. 

Our text tells us that the Suffering Servant would see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied.  He was the only One who could do the work.  His labor was not in vain.  His suffering bore fruit.  God bruised Him.  He put Him to grief.  He bore unbearable sorrow.  As he sweat drops of blood in the Garden of Gethsemane He said that His soul was sorrowful even to the point of death.  He was stricken, smitten, and afflicted by God.  And how does this Suffering Servant regard His suffering when it is all over?  He says it was worth it. 

Consider this, dear brothers and sisters in Christ.  The Suffering Servant is satisfied.  God made His soul or life an offering for sin.  No human being devised this or demanded this.  God did.  He decided to lay this burden on His dear Son.  And the burden was borne.  It was fully borne.  In fully bearing the burden He took it away.  He sees His seed and prolongs His days.  His seed is the Holy Christian Church, the Communion of Saints, the Christians, the believers, those who are justified by faith alone.  This is the treasure for which He labored mightily. 

Success is largely in the eye of the beholder.  If you value life more than property you will regard success as measured in terms of doing things that benefit other people, whether or not there’s any money in it.  God values us.  We aren’t worth the price we are willing to pay.  We are worth the price that God is willing to pay.  We cannot determine the value of a human being.  God alone can.  Our value is determined not only by God creating us in His image.  It is reaffirmed by God redeeming us by His blood.  Isaiah foresaw that the pleasure of the Lord would prosper in the Suffering Servant’s hand.  God takes pleasure in His children.  His eternal Son, the Suffering Servant, rejoices in those He has redeemed.  

The prophet writes: “By His knowledge my righteous servant shall justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities.”  Bearing iniquities was the hard labor Jesus endured.  Justifying those whose sins He bore is what brings Him satisfaction.  To justify means to forgive.  If you are justified you are forgiven.  If you are forgiven you are justified.  The two words mean the same thing from different sides.  The word “justify” means to declare that someone is righteous.  The word “forgive” means to declare that someone’s sins are gone.  If you are righteous, your sins are gone.  If your sins are gone, you are righteous.  So to justify and to forgive refer to the very same act.  God speaks.  He says that our sins are removed from us.  He says that we are righteous.  He says it and this makes it so.  

Jesus justifies those whose sins he bore.  This is why we must always look to Jesus as He suffers for us.  We mustn’t come up with a human requirement that will make forgiveness of sins a reality.  Jesus has met all the requirements that are necessary.  He justifies us on account of the fact that He has borne our iniquities, that is, our sins.  He doesn’t forgive us on account of something in us.   True, faith is necessary to receive the forgiveness of sins, but faith is not what brings forgiveness to us.  It can only receive.  It cannot contribute.  Faith didn’t put Jesus on the cross.  Faith doesn’t cause God to love us.  Faith is God’s gracious work within us so that we may receive the forgiveness that He gives.  Forgiveness comes from Christ’s suffering.  This is why we are not ashamed of Christ’s suffering for us.  We find our greatest joy in it.  It was not for naught that Jesus shed His blood.  The prophet’s words came true: “By His knowledge my righteous servant shall justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities.”  Now He can justify those for whom He died and this is what brings Him satisfaction.  For this is why He died.  He died to justify you, to forgive you, to find pleasure in restoring you to fellowship with God and granting to you everlasting life. 

“By His knowledge my righteous Servant shall justify many.”  When you know this righteous Servant you are righteous.  You are righteous with His righteousness.  This knowledge is beyond our ability.  Only God can give it.  And it isn’t like studying hard for a test and amassing lots of information.  It is knowledge of a person.  Knowing Jesus does entail knowing things about Him.  He is the eternal Son of the Father.  He is the virgin-born Son of Man.  He lived a holy life.  He went around doing good, healing the sick, raising the dead, and living a holy life.  He suffered patiently, silently, vicariously, and successfully.  When we know Jesus we know this.  But these are not mere facts to be memorized.  To know this righteous Servant is to know His righteousness.  It is to trust in Him, not in ourselves, not in our deeds, not in our decisions, not in our dedication, not in our holiness, not in our righteousness.  Knowing the righteous Servant is to know His success.  It becomes ours by faith.  We are righteous before Him. 

There is a joy in heaven when sinners here on earth find in Jesus the forgiveness of their sins.  What remains hidden here under weakness is revealed there in its true beauty.  The prophet says, “The pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand.”  All of heaven rejoices on account of the grace bestowed here on earth.  

But the glory of heaven is hidden from our sight.  We would do better to look at the shame of the cross than to the glories of heaven, for it is in the former that the latter is guaranteed to us.  When we face death, it is especially important that our eyes be fixed on Christ’s death for us.  Listen to the words of Paul Gerhardt: 

My Savior, be Thou near me
When death is at my door;
Then let Thy presence cheer me,
Forsake me nevermore!
When soul and body languish,
Oh, leave me not alone,
But take away mine anguish
By virtue of Thine own! 

Be Thou my Consolation,
My Shield when I must die;
Remind me of Thy Passion
When my last hour draws nigh.
Mine eyes shall then behold Thee,
Upon Thy cross shall dwell,
My heart by faith enfold Thee.
Who dieth thus dies well! 

The Suffering Servant has succeeded in what He set out to do.  He bore our sins and now He justifies us, He forgives us, He makes us fit for heaven.  He keeps us steadfast in the true faith.  Now we face the future with the confidence of those who have the success of Jesus Christ Himself.  And we can pray with confidence the words of Gerhardt’s hymn: 

And when Thy glory I shall see
And taste Thy kingdom's pleasure,
Thy blood my royal robe shall be,
My joy beyond all measure.
When I appear before Thy throne,
Thy righteousness shall be my crown,-
With these I need not hide me.
And there, in garments richly wrought
As Thine own bride, I shall be brought
To stand in joy beside Thee. 


Rev. Rolf D. Preus

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