Kenny was a student years ago. It happened that he was sitting in an afternoon study hall with nothing to do. He was new in the program and did not want to be here.
Anticipating a check from the IRS in the near future, he was dreaming of all the things he could do and all the places he could go with the money when in hand.
Out of sheer boredom he opened his Bible. He turned to one of the Gospels and began reading the passion account of Christ. He read about Christ’s sufferings—the beatings, whippings and crucifixion—and his heart was strangely warmed.
He finally had to stop. He broke. There, without the aid of preacher or counselor, he asked Jesus to forgive him of his sins and be his Savior.
Something similar happened to another person. His story is recorded in Acts 8. We don’t know his name. What we do know is that he was an important official in charge of the treasury of Queen Candace of Ethiopia. He happened to be reading a certain passage of Scripture when, like Kenny, his heart was pricked. Philip the Evangelist “happened” to be standing nearby and explained the text to him. The official (better known as the Ethiopian eunuch) was immediately converted and water baptized.
That text was Isaiah 53—a passage which more clearly than any other in Scripture, unveils the passion of Christ. The Prophet Isaiah is given a sacred glimpse into the sufferings of Christ nearly 700 years before their actual occurrence. The picture he sees is bone chilling. Words cannot do justice to adequately convey the anguish and misery depicted.
“He was pierced for our transgressions, . . . crushed for our iniquities. . . . He was oppressed and afflicted” (vv. 5, 7). The word pierced (wounded, KJV) is the strongest term available used to describe an excruciating and violent death. Crushed (bruised, KJV) means to “break into pieces, grind into powder.” The word translated oppressed is most often used in the Old Testament to portray what taskmasters do to make the lives of their slaves miserable. They press them and drive them like animals. Afflicted means “to be put down, brought low” and implies humiliation and shame.
This is a death of unimaginable pain—physically, emotionally, and mentally.
Yet in this utterly dreadful place, there is something inexpressibly beautiful. Splendor of highest degree. Isaiah 53:10 states, “Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him” (KJV). It was not merely “the Lord’s will to crush him” as the NIV too softly states. The bruising of the Suffering Servant “pleased” the Father. He took delight and pleasure in it.
How can this be? Why did it “please” God to bruise his Son?
God’s pleasure is not in the suffering of Christ in and of itself but in what it reveals. On the cross, one message screams above all others: “The glory of God is of infinite value!”
Christ died because God-dishonoring sin could not be ignored. As author and pastor John Piper notes, “God will not act as though sin—which belittles His glory—doesn’t matter. It cannot simply be swept under the rug of the universe as though nothing awesome were at stake.”
The glory of God is great (infinite!), and sin against his glory, therefore, is great (infinite!) and so deserves punishment that is great (infinite!). The measure of God’s glory is revealed by the measure of Christ’s suffering. All the pain, shame, and humiliation Christ suffered showed how infinitely valuable God’s glory is.
When we see this, we are saved.
Is it any wonder then, that after the prophetic vision of the Suffering Messiah in Is. 53—in all its awfulness—the next chapter breaks out with “Sing . . . burst into song, shout for joy” (Is. 54:1)?
There is nothing more powerful to shatter the pride of the human heart than witnessing the wonder of Calvary. There is nothing like the sufferings of Christ to crush the spirit of self-sufficiency and self-centeredness. And there is nothing more capable of bringing peace, joy, and hope to anxious and weary men and women than the crucified Lord.
The glory of God revealed at the cross is the cure for a thousand ills of the soul!