Behold, My Servant ... Died!
Lord God, our dear heavenly Father, as we gather during this Lenten Season, send Your Spirit to guide us in worship. As we ponder the willing sacrifice of Jesus, who came into this world as Your Servant and our Substitute, impress upon us His divine image. Move us, O Lord, to repent of our sins, to believe in Jesus, to heed Your words, and to live in accordance with Your gracious and good will. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, “I thirst!” Now a vessel full of sour wine was sitting there; and they filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on hyssop, and put it to His mouth. So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His Spirit.
In Christ Jesus, God’s chosen Servant who died in order to give us life, dear fellow redeemed:
A good many of us love mysteries. We like mystery books that you cannot set down, because you get so involved with all the twists and turns as the plot thickens, that you have to know how the author will resolve everything in the end. We love mystery movies that put you on the edge of your seat, and keep you guessing all the way to the final scene.
In a very real sense, the gospel is a mystery. The Bible calls it such. Near the end of his letter to the Ephesians, for instance, the apostle Paul requests that the Ephesians would pray for him, so that he might open his mouth boldly “to make known the mystery of the gospel” (6:19). The gospel is a mystery is this sense that it is something that by nature we do not know and cannot understand. It is something that God must reveal to us and has indeed chosen to reveal to us through His Word. It is something that the Holy Spirit must make clear to us, as He opens our eyes spiritually and gives us faith.
Even with God’s revelation, however, and the Spirit’ assistance we cannot fully understand the mystery of the gospel. Yet, our God still urges us to BEHOLD, MY SERVANT—My Servant whodied! Yes, He died on our behalf having been forsaken by God the Father! He died on our behalf having finished everything He had been ordained to do!
On that first Good Friday Jesus died on our behalf. How Jesus could die as the Son of God remains a mystery. We cannot fully explain it, nor can we truly comprehend it. After all, how can God, who by definition is eternal ever die? Some religions, like Islam, try to solve the problem by denying that Jesus was crucified. The biblical and extra-biblical historical evidence of Jesus’ death and crucifixion, however, demonstrate that such a denial contradicts the clear facts. Other religious groups, such as the Jehovah Witnesses, claim that when Jesus died, he was only a man and not God at all. Yet, the Bible clearly testifies that “in Him (that is, in Jesus Christ) dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:9). The apostle Peter assures us that Jesus “Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree” (1 Peter 2:24), and the apostle Paul reminds us that God “purchased (the church) with His own blood” (Acts 20:28). Clearly, Jesus—the Son of God, His Father’s Servant died, and we simply cannot truly understand that mystery.
At the same time, however, God does reveal why this mystery occurred, for when Jesus was forsaken by God on the cross, He was forsaken on our behalf. Isaiah emphasizes the “why” of the gospel mystery when he spoke prophetically of Jesus’ death and said, “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (53:4-6). Isaiah speaks directly to the substitutionary nature of Jesus’ sufferings and death. The Bible clearly reveals that sin leads to death (cf. Ezekiel 18:4). The Bible also clearly states that each sinner is responsible for his or her own sin (cf. Ezekiel 18:20). Yet, God in view of His own grace and mercy places the burden of our sins upon the shoulders of His own Son, Jesus Christ. In His love for us, He made the supreme sacrifice by giving up His beloved Son to die in our place, so that we being led by the Spirit to place our faith and confidence in Jesus might live (cf. John 3:16).
What exactly, however, did Jesus mean when He cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” To be forsaken by God is to exist in a state of hopelessness. Hell is described in the Bible as a place of endless suffering and punishment, of weeping and gnashing of teeth, of fire and brimstone—of hopeless separation from God (cf. Matthew 25:46; 24:51; Revelation 19:20). This is exactly what we sinners deserve in view of our personal rebellion against God. This is exactly what Jesus suffered on the cross on our behalf when He was forsaken by God! Again, we must confess that we cannot truly understand the mystery. How could God the Father forsake and abandon God the Son, when they are of one essence? This we simply cannot comprehend and perhaps never will. Yet, we have been led by the Spirit to understand why—He died on our behalf having been forsaken by God the Father, so that we might never be forsaken! “Glory be to Jesus!≵ (TLH 158:1)
Yes, our heavenly Father urges us BEHOLD, MY SERVANT—My Servant who died! He died on our behalf having finished everything He was ordained to do! When Jesus cried out, “It is finished,” He was not resigning Himself to failure, as the members of the Unification Church suggest. He was not suggesting that His cause was lost, that He was giving up, or that his sufferings were finally nearing their end. Rather, those words were Jesus’ victory cry. The evangelist John reveals this, when he says that Jesus knew “that all things were now accomplished.” All of the punishment required by God’s law to pay for the sins of the entire world of sinners was completed. The gospel message that, “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them” was ready and could not be proclaimed. God had indeed “made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:19, 21).
Jesus, therefore, said triumphantly, “It is finished!” The work of redemption, He had been sent to accomplish was complete, and the results of that work would last throughout eternity! You and I can tell every person we meet that Jesus paid for their sins. We can assure every sinner suffering the guilt, the shame, and the doubts brought on by sin, that God does not charge their sins against them anymore, for Jesus bore their sins for them. God has taken those sins and cast them in the depth of the deepest sea (cf. Micah 7:10). Yes, every repentant sinner can take comfort in these words for they speak personally to his situation. No one need worry that when Jesus said, “It is finished,≵ that somehow he was left out, that the words do not apply, that his salvation is still in question. No, Jesus here declares victory over Satan on our behalf, because He has finished everything He was ordained to do!
Consequently, He requested a drink to quench His thirst—a request that fulfilled a final prophecy and further demonstrated the truth that Jesus was indeed the Savior promised by His heavenly Father. He then committed His Spirit into the hands of His heavenly Father, bowed His head, and died.
BEHOLD, MY SERVANT—My Servant who died! Was Jesus’ death a victory for Satan? Outwardly speaking, some might suggest such. Satan may have even thought so. Had Jesus not arisen, surely it would have been so. Yet as C.F.W. Walther writes in his beloved Easter hymn:
The Foe was triumphant when on Calvary
the Lord of creation was nailed to the tree.
In Satan’s domain did the hosts shout and jeer,
for Jesus was slain, whom the evil ones fear.
But short was their triumph, the Savior arose,
and death, hell, and Satan He vanquished, His foes;
The conquering Lord lifts His banner on high.
He lives, yea, He lives, and will nevermore die!
In the end, there is no debate regarding the final result of the mystery of the gospel. The Servant who died would arise and nevermore die. Thanks be to God that you and I by God’s grace and through His mercy share in His triumph! Amen.
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting