The Sin-Bearing Lamb
Text: Isaiah 53:6-7
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.
He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He opened not His mouth;
He was led as a lamb to the slaughter,
And as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
So He opened not His mouth.
In Christ Jesus, our suffering Savior, dear fellow-redeemed:
Welcome to another season of Lent. Each year we begin this custom and this season six weeks before Easter. Compared to last year when we began Lent on Ash Wednesday 2004 nothing has changed. For some, that is a reason for ridicule: “Nothing has changed, so why do we keep repeating the same story over and over again just like we do at Christmas? I’ve heard all the events of Jesus’ suffering before, I know that He dies, I know that He rises again what’s the point? It’s all the same. Nothing has changed.”
That is correct. Nothing has changed since last year’s Ash Wednesday and that is exactly why we are here. Nothing has changed. We are still sinners sinning daily in thought, word, and deed. As sinners we still need our suffering Savior and the redemption He provides. We need Him just as much now as we did a year ago and just as much as we will in each new day of our lives. We have sinned, Jesus has suffered for that sin, and He rose again to give us life.
There are a couple of other things we should observe about this season of Lent. Lent is a season of penitence—sorrow for our sin and trusting in Jesus for the forgiveness of this sin. But this is a penitence and trust that ought not be limited to a season of the year. Each day is a season of penitence and trust in Jesus.
During Lent we are remembering Jesus’ suffering and death. We read and remember the historical account of Jesus’ Passion but we need not pretend that we don’t know about Easter. Yes, during Lent we focus on Jesus’ suffering and death and our sins that led Him there, but we also know what happened on the other end. We know that Jesus did rise to life and thanks be to God that we know that and believe it.
So this Lenten season is a time of repentance, but not a repentance without hope as if without the confidence of Easter; and not a repentance as if only now rather than in every day of our lives.
During this particular Lenten season we will be meditating upon God’s Word under a theme that comes from a hymn title: A Lamb Goes Uncomplaining Forth. Each week we will sing one verse from that hymn which corresponds to our meditation. Jesus is the Lamb of God who went to the cross without complaint and died for us there.
Tonight the truth of God’s Word that we consider brings our attention to a particular characteristic of sinful human beings and it addresses how we should approach that characteristic. The characteristic to which we turn our attention tonight is the attitude: “I CAN DO IT MYSELF!” Very often, that is exactly how we feel. Maybe we have something to prove, maybe we don’t want someone else to know our weaknesses, but typically we can be pretty hesitant to let someone else help because, “I can do this, and I’m going to prove to you that I can!” That attitude exposed in the light of God’s Word leads to the question: “Who is going to bear our sin?”
Our human nature answers the question, “I want to! I can do it! I can bear my sin! I can be OK!” But God’s Word clearly tells us, “No you can’t For if you bear your sin you will bear it to the eternal judgment of Hell.” So we find reassurance in the truth that the Lamb of God is the sin-bearing Lamb of God.
Isaiah begins in our text: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way.” Simply put, we sin. Isaiah compares us, as many passages in Scripture do, to foolish, stubborn sheep. When the Bible uses this picture so frequently we are also reminded rather frequently that this a very apt description for us as sinners. Those who have had experience with sheep know just how good this illustration is. Having grown up on a farm that raised sheep, there are many examples that I could give to illustrate this point. I’ll share just one with you this evening.
Our sheep had the habit of finding a way underneath our pasture fence. They would get their noses underneath to what they felt was better grass, break out part of the fence, and through a very small space somehow squeeze through, “big wool” and all. They would then find their way to the garden and proceed to eat things they should not eat. The sheep knew they shouldn’t be in the garden because as soon as we would come they would start running. Could they ever find that same hole they used to get out of the fence? Absolutely not! That was too easy. Would they even go into the wide open gate if we did not give them direction? No! Even though the gate into the pasture was open wide they would go around it because they wanted to go on the other side of the fence. It took two or three people standing on every corner herding the sheep this way and that way to get them back into the pasture where they belonged—stubborn, foolish, and unyielding sheep! …All we like sheep have gone astray.
We like those sheep, enjoy choosing for ourselves what we will have. Those sheep didn’t like what they had in the pasture so they chose the garden for themselves. We like sheep often want to choose our own way. We like sheep are often discontent with what God gives to us and we want more, or we want something different. Those sheep didn’t like the boundaries we had set—big wide open pasture, though it be—they wanted what was on the other side. All we like sheep have gone astray wishing to choose for ourselves our own boundaries. We are, as Isaiah describes, like those sheep choosing our way, choosing our boundaries, wanting to do what pleases our sinful flesh rather than what pleases God. We have turned every one to his own way—there is not a one of us here, not one of us in the world who has not turned away and been a foolish sheep straying apart from God’s Word and will.
This is our burden of sin. Again, we ask the question: “Who is going to bear our sin?” It is our sin. We are responsible for it. The judgment against it is also rightfully ours. God clearly says: “The soul that sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:20). Eternal judgment and death in Hell is the result of sin. But Isaiah continues, “the Lord has laid on Him—on Jesus, the Lamb of God—the iniquity of us all.” Who is going to bear our sin? Jesus, the Lamb of God.
God did an incredible thing when He sent Jesus to be our Savior. He sent His Son—true God and true man—to live a perfect life to fulfill God’s Law for us. All of the sheep-like straying should have been a straight line according to God’s Law. Jesus kept that line for us All of the straying deserves eternal judgment in Hell. Jesus endured the judgment on the cross. God took our sins from us and put them on Jesus—He laid on Him the iniquity of us all. Bearing those sins, Jesus went to the cross. When Jesus was dying on the cross it was as if He Himself was guilty of every single sin that you and I and everyone else in the world has ever or will ever commit. He was bearing every sin and He was punished for every sin.
The apostle Paul reflects upon what Isaiah wrote and what Jesus accomplished when He writes to the Corinthians and says, “[God] made Him who knew no sin (Jesus-the sin-bearing Lamb of God) to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). What a remarkable exchange! Our sin was placed on Jesus. Jesus’ righteousness is placed on us. Who will bear our sin? Jesus has already borne it. He died for it and we stand holy and pure in God’s eyes. The cost of this redemption is also described by Isaiah when he writes: “He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth”
Who is going to bear the sin? Jesus has borne it, but in this life we face the effects of sin. We still sin, people react to our sin, people sin against us, and all of this activity in a sinful world still creates problems. Who is going to bear the weight of those effects?
We bear the effects of sin in the sense that we live through them. the apostles tell us, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). But how we react to things in this world will be very revealing as to who we think is bearing our sin.
When we commit a sin and face the guilt of that sin, how do we respond? If I sin and my response is to find someone else whom I can blame and shift the responsibility of my sin to that person, then I’m looking for someone to bear my sin—“Not me, I don’t want to face the responsibility of my own sin!” In that case I’m also acting as if Jesus never bore my sin because I’m trying to shift the guilt. Or if I make excuses: “Well, I..I didn’t know,” or “I did it because…” or “Only because someone else did something first.” In that case, I’m still acting as if my sin has never been borne to the cross and the guilt never been. If this is our response to sins we commit, then we are acting as if we have to bear the sin, but we don’t want to bear it so we’re going to shift it to someone else and let him deal with it.
When we remember that Jesus, the Lamb of God, has borne our sin then we will humbly and sorrowfully acknowledge that sin, accept the responsibility, come to our Savior, and ask for forgiveness. We don’t need to hide from our sin. We don’t need to shirk responsibility. We don’t need to be afraid of it. We need to recognize it and come, turning it over to our Savior. Jesus assures us: “I have borne your sin and I have washed it away.”
When we face troubles in this life—people sinning against us, or a some consequence because of sin—how will we bear it? If we conclude: “Woe is me, I don’t know how I can continue, this isn’t fair,” we’re forgetting that Jesus bore our sin, took it to the cross, and got rid of it. When we remember that Jesus is the sin-bearing Lamb we’re able to say: “I’m living in a sinful world, God will be my strength, I will persevere, and He will bless me even in these hardships.”
When we remember that we have a sin-bearing Lamb of God we cast all of our cares on Him because we know how deeply He cared for us (cf. 1 Peter 5:7). He cared so much that He bore the iniquity of us all to the cross. Our pride says, “No, I can do it myself.” Remember you have a sin-bearing Lamb who has done this for you.
The psalmist captures all of this very well in Psalm 49 when he writes:
Hear this, all you peoples;
Listen, all who live in this world,
both low and high, rich and poor alike:
The message the psalmist is going to give applies to everyone. It doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor, young or old. All people, listen!
Why should I fear when evil days come,
when wicked deceivers surround me-
those who trust in their wealth
and boast of their great riches?
No man can redeem the life of another
or give to God a ransom for him-
the ransom for a life is costly,
no payment is ever enough-
that he should live on forever
and not see decay.
There is no way that any of us can bear sin and find redemption. It is impossible for us as sinners to redeem one another.
For all can see that wise men die;
the foolish and the senseless alike perish
and leave their wealth to others.
Their tombs will remain their houses forever,
their dwellings for endless generations,
though they had named lands after themselves.
But man, despite his riches, does not endure;
he is like the beasts that perish.
This is the fate of those who trust in themselves,
and of their followers, who approve their sayings.
Like sheep they are destined for the grave,
and death will feed on them.
The upright will rule over them in the morning;
their forms will decay in the grave,
far from their princely mansions.
This is a rather bleak picture which the psalmist paints. Young and old, rich and poor, no matter how famous they may have been, no matter how many lands have been named after them, they’re all going to decay and be gone. There is no way for any sinner to escape the reality of sin and death “BUT,” the psalmist continues…
God will redeem my life from the grave;
he will surely take me to himself.
The difference is the sin-bearing Lamb. Without Him all is lost. With Him all is forgiven and we have life. We have the sin-bearing Lamb who went forth to give you forgiveness and life everlasting. Amen.
—Pastor Wayne C. Eichstadt