Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted
Stricken, smitten, and afflicted, see Him dying on the tree!
‘Tis the Christ by man rejected; yes, my soul, ‘tis He, ‘tis He!
‘Tis the long expected Prophet, David’s Son, yet David’s Lord;
Proofs I see sufficient of it: ‘tis the true and faithful Word.
Text: Isaiah 53:3-5
He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. 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 for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.
In Christ Jesus, the Father’s Suffering Servant and our Substitute, dear fellow redeemed:
The prophet Isaiah paints two entirely different, in fact, opposite portraits of the coming Messiah Jesus Christ. They are, as it were, the opposite sides of a single coin. On the one hand he portrays Jesus as a sovereign King ruling with great judgment and true justice for all over an eternal kingdom as a descendant of David (cf. Is. 9:6-7; 11:1-10; 40:10). On the other hand he portrays Jesus as a suffering Servant rejected by men and dying a substitutionary death for all (cf. Is. 49:5-7; 52:13-53:12). This is one reason why so many of the Jewish people of Jesus’ day failed to recognize in Jesus the coming Messiah. They understood and embraced the first portrait of Jesus—the sovereign King. They looked forward to what they expected to be freedom from Roman rule and a return to the glories of a Davidic kingdom here on this earth, but they failed to understand and embrace the second portrait of Jesus—the suffering Servant. The apostle Paul sought to explain this phenomenon when he wrote to the Christians in Corinth: “We preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness” (1 Cor. 1:23). For the Greco-Roman world the thought that a Savior would suffer crucifixion and die as a condemned criminal was absolute foolishness. For the Jews, however, it was something else. The Old Testament Scriptures placed God’s official curse upon anyone who died by hanging on a tree (cf. Dt. 21:23; Gal. 3:13). How could the promised Messiah be someone whom God officially cursed? Such a thought was truly a stumbling block for many of Jesus’ fellow Jews. It remains so, by the way, for many Jewish people today. Recently I heard a conservative Jewish radio talk show host, whom I respect greatly, explain that he rejected any possibility that Jesus could be the Jewish Messiah, because He did not establish a political kingdom on this earth.
Today we want to examine this second portrait of Jesus as presented through the words of Thomas Kelly’s hymn Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted.” Just a brief word about Thomas Kelly—he was the son of a judge, born in Ireland in 1769. He intended to follow his father into the practice of law, but while studying to become a lawyer in England he became convicted of his sin and found comfort only in the gospel. He then left his studies in law and became a pastor in the Protestant Church of Ireland. His evangelical messages put him at odds with church leaders and he ended up building several chapels in Ireland where he preached for over sixty years to large crowds of people. He wrote 765 hymns, among them the hymn we are considering.
Isaiah wrote: “He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” Kelly paraphrased that statement in his opening line: “Stricken, smitten, and afflicted, see Him dying on the tree!” Like the two men on the way to Emmaus, Thomas Kelly came to realize that through this rejection and death Jesus fulfilled what God had prophesied in the Old Testament Scriptures. Consequently, rather than being offended and considering the message of Christ-crucified to be either foolishness or a stumbling block, Kelly identified Jesus as the Christ—He was STRICKEN, SMITTEN, AND AFFLICTED…FOR US! Yes, He was rejected by men…for us! Kelly proclaimed Jesus was that suffering Servant and consequently the promised Christ: “‘Tis the Christ by man rejected; yes, my soul, ‘tis He, ‘tis He! ‘Tis the long expected Prophet, David’s Son, yet David’s Lord; proofs I see sufficient of it: ‘tis the true and faithful Word.” [Let us sing the next stanza of our hymn.]
Tell me, ye who hear Him groaning, was there ever grief like His?
Friends thro’ fear His cause disowning, foes insulting His distress;
Many hands were raised to wound Him, none would interpose to save;
But the deepest stroke that pierced Him was the stroke that Justice gave.
Isaiah wrote: “And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.” STRICKEN, SMITTEN, AND AFFLICTED…FOR US! Jesus was indeed despised by men…for us! Kelly asks whether there was ever grief like Jesus. The answer, of course, is “No!” While it is true that the Romans crucified thousands of people over centuries of time and so many others certainly knew of and endured the physical suffering that was involved with crucifixion, no one else had ever or would ever suffer as did Jesus. Jesus was, after all, the perfect Son of God. It was only concerning Jesus that anyone could ever say as did Paul, “He…knew no sin” (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21). He, who spent His life in perfect, loving service and was now making the ultimate sacrifice of love, was now disowned by those He called friends (cf. John 15:13-14). He, who enjoyed the honor and praise of angels while sitting on heaven’s throne, was now insulted by His foes (cf. Matthew 27:39-44). The crowds cried out, “Crucify Him” and demanded the release of a murderer instead of Him(cf. Mark 15:11-15), while neither Pontius Pilate or King Herod, both of whom recognized that Jesus had done nothing wrong (cf. Luke 23:13-16), were unwilling to stand up to the crowds in the name of justice to prevent the injustice from occurring.
Yet, was Jesus’ death a matter of injustice? The answer to that question is ultimately once again, “No!” Kelly explains: “But the deepest stroke that pierced Him was the stroke that Justice gave.” Jesus’ grief was so great and His suffering so very severe, because God “laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6). Jesus was “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29). As previously cited, Paul writes: “He (God) made Him (Jesus) who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus bore the punishment of hell for us. He took our place and endured the full wrath of God, so that we might be freed from that judgment! Truly, He was STRICKEN, SMITTEN, AND AFFLICTED…FOR US! [Let us sing the next stanza of our hymn.]
Ye who think of sin but lightly nor suppose the evil great
Here may view its nature rightly, here its guilt may estimate.
Mark the Sacrifice appointed, see who bears the awful load;
‘Tis the WORD, the LORD’s ANOINTED, Son of Man and Son of God.
Isaiah wrote: “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.” Jesus carried griefs and sorrows…for us! Yes, Jesus Christ died as our Substitute! There is no better place in all of Scripture to see that substitution described than here in Isaiah 53. Listen once again to those words, focusing on the pronouns: "He bore our griefs; ....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." It could not be clearer and, consequently, it ought give us cause for reflection.
Jesus died to pay the penalty for our sins. Our sins are the cause of Jesus’ death. The responsibility cannot be laid alone at the feet of the Jewish high priests, or Pontius Pilate, or his soldiers, but it can and must be laid directly at our feet. Consequently, let us not “think of sin but lightly!” Let us not minimize the greatness of the evil of sin! It took the blood of the very Son of God to atone for our sins. He was the “Sacrifice appointed.” He bore “the awful load.” He was “the LORD’s ANOINTED!” To be our Savior He was and remains the “Son of Man and Son of God!” [Let us sing the next stanza of our hymn.]
Here we have a firm foundation, here the refuge of the lost;
Christ’s the Rock of our salvation, His the name of which we boast.
Lamb of God, for sinners wounded, sacrifice to cancel guilt!
None shall ever be confounded who on Him their hope have built. Amen.
Isaiah concludes our text with this observation: “The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.” Jesus was STRICKEN, SMITTEN, AND AFFLICTED…FOR US! He thereby secured peace…for us! The substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ on our behalf is our “firm foundation” for both faith and life. The apostle Paul, after assuring us that “by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Eph. 2:8-9), goes on to assure us in the same chapter: “You are…members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone” (Eph. 2:19b-20).
Jesus is “the refuge of the lost.” He is the One who beckons to troubled, lost sinners with that comforting invitation: “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Mt. 11:28). He promises: “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me, I will by no means cast out” (Jn. 6:37). The LORD tells us in Psalm 46: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear!” (Ps. 46:1-2a)
Truly, Christ is “the Rock of our salvation.” He cannot and will not be moved, and we cannot and will not be removed from Him as we cling to Him and “boast” in His name. To that end the apostle Peter admonishes us near the end of his 2nd Epistle: “Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things (the end of this present age and the beginning of the age to come), be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless; and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation…. since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:14-15a, 17-18a).
Jesus is the “Lamb of God…wounded for sinners.” He is the “sacrifice” that “canceled” our guilt. Absolutely no one who builds his or her future hope upon Jesus will ever be confounded, for Jesus is our Savior and Lord! Glory in Christ, therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, for Jesus was STRICKEN, SMITTEN, AND AFFLICTED…FOR US! Amen.
--Pastor Paul D. Nolting
To God alone be glory!