Pentecost 17b

Preached: September 20, 2009

“I Have Endured All for You”
Isaiah 50:4-10

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Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The Word from God through which our Savior, Jesus Christ, speaks to us is Isaiah 50

The Lord God has given me a skilled tongue to know how to comfort the afflicted with words. Morning by morning he awakens -- he awakens my ear to skillfully hear. The Lord God has opened my ear, and I did not rebel. I did not turn back. I gave my back to the beaters, my cheek to those who tore out my beard. I did not hide my face from insults and spit. And the Lord God helps me, therefore I was not confounded. Therefore I set my face like flint, and I know that I will not be put to shame. The One who justifies me is near. Who can take me to court? Let us stand up together. Who is the prosecutor against me? Let him approach me. Behold, the Lord God helps me. Who is it that can condemn me? Behold, they all wear out like old clothing. Moths eat them away.

Whoever among you fears the Lord, listening to his Servant's voice, who walk in darkness without any light, let him trust in the name of the Lord and lean on his God. (Isaiah 50:4-10)

Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints washed clean in the blood of our risen Savior:

How the words of Psalm 23 echoed in their hearts! “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23:4 KJV). How dark that valley seemed as their tear-blurred eyes stared at the two caskets!

It had been summer vacation. A family camping trip. The two girls laughing down by the stream bed. Suddenly a violent rumbling and rushing. A flash flood. Then silence. No more laughter. Dead silence. What darkness for that mom and dad, losing their two children!

Darkness comes in many forms: death, disease, disability, depression, disappointment, doubt. In addition, loss of friends, financial woes, missed opportunities, unrewarded effort, the shallowness of life can leave us wallowing in darkness, not knowing which way to turn. Who of us hasn't experienced feelings of hopelessness, futility, and rejection? And what about the darkness when others attack the very source of our light, rejecting our Savior and ridiculing our efforts to follow him, or when our own weakness of faith makes the light seem so dim?

What darkness have you stumbled through? What darkness might unexpectedly flood over you in the days ahead? Maybe you came here this morning longing for some light in the darkness.

Take heart, dear friend, for the Savior's words shine out to you. He calls out into your darkness promising, “I have endured all for you.” Let's see how true those words are and how they shatter into our darkness.

A. How willingly your Savior suffered!

1. Describe the love that moved our Savior to such willing obedience.

In the text today, our Savior, Jesus Christ, speaks directly through the prophet Isaiah. Jesus is the Servant of the Lord who carries out the Lord God's saving will. It is your Savior, seven centuries before his birth, who says, “I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting” (Isaiah 50:6 NIV). Do these words not take us to Jesus' arrest, trial, and crucifixion? How great his love! For he suffered all this willingly. That's his promise that shines into your darkness: “I have endured all for you.” How willingly your Savior suffered such shame!

How great his love! For such willing obedience can only flow from love. A servant might obey his master out of fear of punishment or in the hope of some sort of gain. But neither of these is truly willing obedience, freely given. It's obedience enforced by either a threat or a reward. That servant is like an obstinate donkey driven on by either a stick or a carrot. Now obedience spurred on by a reward may seem more willing than obedience coerced by a threat. But neither comes close to the willingness of the obedience that freely flows from love. Only love could move our Savior to such willing obedience to endure all for us.

First, his love for his Father. Jesus says, “The Sovereign Lord has opened my ears, and I have not been rebellious; I have not drawn back” (Isaiah 50:5 NIV). Jesus listened willingly with open ears. Why? Because he loved the Father. He did not rebel or turn back. Rather he set his face like flint (Isaiah 50:7). His resolve was as solid as stone. He resolutely set out for Jerusalem, even though he knew that suffering that awaited him. That was the Father's will. Remember the Gospel today from Mark 8: “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again” (Mark 8:31 NIV). Jesus faced it all willingly, head on. He drank the cup of suffering and death. For he loved the Father, as he prayed in Gethsemane, “Not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42 NIV). He gave his back to the beatings, his face to the spitting, his hands to the nails. This wasn't taken from him, but he gave himself willingly. For this was the Father's saving will. The great hymn writer, Paul Gerhardt, expresses this willing obedience by having Jesus say, “Yes, Father, yes, most willingly I'll bear what you command me. My will conforms to your decree; I'll do what you have asked me.” (Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal, “A Lamb Goes Uncomplaining Forth” 100:3). What love for his Father! How willingly he suffers! He endures all.

And also, dear friends, do not forget his love for you. He endured all for you. How willingly he suffered for you! For you, dear friend, for you. For you see, he was innocent.

B. How innocent he is!

1. What does Jesus innocence prove about our sins?

Jesus had done nothing wrong, nothing at all -- not only as far as men can judge, but even in the eyes of the holy One, who sees all. How innocent Jesus was! Even lying witnesses couldn't make their testimonies agree. So great was his innocence!

That's why Jesus calls out here with defiant confidence, challenging anyone to take him to court and prove him guilty. “Who then will bring charges against me? Let us face each other! Who is my accuser? Let him confront me! It is the Sovereign Lord who helps me. Who is he that will condemn me?” (Isaiah 50:8, 9 NIV). To the contrary, those accusers and their accusations will wear out like old moth-eaten clothing. How innocent Jesus is!

Then why did he endure such injustice? He did it for you and for me. “I have endured all for you,” he promises. So great is his love for you! But how astounding, even shocking, that he would love us! There is nothing in us to attract his love. Just the opposite! Everything about our natural condition repulses his love and rightly earns us his hatred. Even as a cute, cuddly newborn, our inherited filth was a stench in his holy nostrils and we've only piled up more garbage since then.

Yet despite what you and I are, he loved you and me so much that he innocently endured all for you. What grace! For though innocent, he suffered in our place. What grace! The innocent Lamb of God without blemish, spot, or stain was slaughtered for disobedient sheep. Isaiah writes in chapter 53 “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” (Isaiah 53:6 NIV). Though innocent, he endured it all for you. He carried your sins and paid for your failures. Paul Gerhardt expressed this in that same hymn as before: “A Lamb goes uncomplaining forth, Our guilt and evil bearing And, laden with the sins of earth, None else the burden sharing.” (Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal, “A Lamb Goes Uncomplaining Forth” 100:1). That innocent Lamb is Jesus Christ, your Savior. “I have endured all for you,” he promises.

Believe, dear friends, believe and do not doubt. For the Father has proven Jesus innocent. “He who vindicates me is near” (Isaiah 50:8 NIV), Jesus says in the text. How did the Father vindicate Jesus? How did he show that Jesus was innocent and right even though condemned and crucified? He raised Jesus from the dead. That's how the Father proved Jesus right. That's how he vindicated or justified Jesus. The empty tomb is the divine verdict: “Jesus has suffered innocently, for he has suffered for the sins of others, for the sins of the entire world.” Yes, dear friend, for your sins and mine. Jesus has endured all for you.

C. Lean on him in the darkness

1. How does Jesus bring you comfort when you're in the darkness?

So lean on him in the darkness. Whatever that darkness is, whenever it enshrouds you, lean on him. For the prophet calls out to you, “Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God” (Isaiah 50:10 NIV). Lean on Jesus, for what he did counts for you.

For you see, when the Lord God vindicated Jesus, when he showed that Jesus was just and right by raising him from the dead, that counts for you, dear friend. He endured all for you. Just as your sins were counted against him so that he innocently suffered, so also his vindication, his justification, counts for you. Just as surely as the resurrection proves that Jesus was innocent, so it also proves that God declares sinners, you and me, not guilty because Jesus took our place. He endured all for you. He took our sin and gave us his righteousness so that through faith in him we are forgiven. God has erased your record of wrongs and justified you as if you had never sinned. For Jesus promises, “I have endured all for you.”

So lean on him, since all that he did counts for you. In Baptism you died with Christ and were raised to life with him. So his accomplishments become yours. By faith you remain united with Jesus. His vindication or justification is yours. So even in the darkest time when Satan tempts you with the greatest doubt and holds your sins before you accusing you, saying, “How could God forgive someone like you,” -- even then, say with Jesus “He who vindicates me is near. Who then will bring charges against me?” (Isaiah 50:8 NIV). For you have been baptized into Christ. He counts for you. In faith call out with the Apostle Paul, “Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies” (Romans 8:33 NIV). Satan cannot charge you or condemn you when you show him Jesus.

So lean on Jesus when you walk in the dark. Lean on him by listening to his word. For Jesus declares, “The Sovereign Lord has given me an instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary” (Isaiah 50:4 NIV). Jesus speaks that word to strengthen and sustain you. Lean on him. That word shines out to you through the Scriptures and the Sacraments. For only in the Scriptures and the Sacraments can you be sure that it is Jesus' voice that you are hearing. He says to you, “I have endured all for you. Lean on me, for I have walked the paths of uttermost darkness ahead of you. I have done it for you, yes for you, dear lamb, since it is even to you that I give my body to eat and my blood to drink. Believe I have done it for you. And follow me even through the deepest shadows, even through the valley of the shadow of death. Lean on me and you will not fall. Listen to my voice. For my word of promise shatter your darkness -- my promise: I have endured all for you.” Amen.

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Pastor Gregg Bitter

St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
859 5th Street
Hancock, MN 56244
(320) 392-5313