Man of Sorrows

( Sermon Outline by Ray C Stedman – adapted for Radio by Rev David H Greer )

At this Easter season of the year, as we begin to ponder again the passion and purpose of our Blessed Lord Jesus, I want today to look at one of the most unusual titles ever given to him. Turn with me in your Bible to Isaiah Chapter 53 for it is here that we find him called “A Man of Sorrows”

The first three verses of Isaiah Chapter 53 describe the Messiah’s strange rejection. These words express the feelings of the repentant nation when at last they recognize him at his return. The prophet cries out as the voice of the nation,

“Who hath believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or comeliness that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces, he was despised, and we esteemed him not”.

(Isaiah 53:v1-3 )

These remarkable words are felt by any person who comes to Christ and remembers how lightly he regarded him when he first learned of him. Here the nation asks, “Who has believed our report, that which we have heard. The arm of the Lord was revealed to us, but we did not understand who he was.”

Looking back, they can see how he fulfilled these words.

He grew up before Jehovah as a “young plant.” That speaks of his hidden years at Nazareth when, in the obscurity of the carpenter’s shop no one knew who he really was, except his Heavenly Father. He was also the “root out of dry ground.”

We have already seen Isaiah’s prediction that a root would rise up from the stem of David, from whom Joseph and Mary were both descended. But the House of David had fallen on evil days. The royal line had become impoverished and no one recognized its claims to leadership within Israel. When our Lord came he was indeed a root out of very dry ground.

The passage continues, “He had no form or comeliness that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.” Again, these are words that refer to our Lord’s appearance as he hung upon the cross. He was a pitiful figure to behold, hanging naked, blood covering his face, worn and shattered by suffering. Indeed he had “no beauty that we should desire him.”

He was truly “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.”

There is no record in Scripture that Jesus ever laughed, however I think he did laugh, for you cannot read some of his parables, or some of the things he said to his disciples, without sensing a smile on his face or hearing a chuckle in his voice. But there is no account that he ever laughed… rather

He was “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.”

We must remember that all through his boyhood, and even into his manhood, he was most likely pursued by nasty remarks about his birth, inferring that he was an illegitimate son, born to a faithless woman who had broken her vow of betrothal. His brothers misunderstood him and did not believe in him. They were embarrassed at some of the things he did and said. It was not until after the resurrection that they believed in him. He was called a drunkard and a glutton, and was said to be possessed by a devil. He was called a Samaritan, a disparaging term. They implied that he had no home to go to. He said himself, “Foxes have holes, birds have their nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head,” (Matthew 8:20). Sometimes his disciples left him alone to go about their business, but he had to

go out to the Garden of Gethsemane and sleep alone beneath the olive trees.

He became at one point “Public Enemy No. 1.” In that the weeks before his crucifixion the Pharisees offered a reward to anyone who would turn him in. Surely he was rejected of men! In the words of the Apostle John, “He came unto his own, and his own people received him not” (John 1:11) Truly a man of Sorrows. – yet there the sorrow does not end. We read on about our Lord’s substitutionary sacrifice: “Surely he has borne our grief’s 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; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with 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.” (Isaiah 53:4-6)

This, of course, is the very heart of the gospel, the good news. Jesus took our place. As Peter puts it, “He bore our sins in his own body upon the tree,” 1 Peter 2:24. He took our sins and paid the price for them. He had no sins of his own and Scripture is very careful to record the sinlessness of Jesus himself. He was not suffering for his own transgressions, but for the sins of others. One hymn writer has put it rather well,

It was for me that Jesus died, For me and a world of men
Just as sinful and just as slow to give back his love again.
And he did not wait until I came to him.
He loved me at my worst.
He needn’t ever have died for me
If I could have loved him first.

That is the problem, isn’t it? Why don’t we love him first?

Why is it that we can only learn to love our Lord when we have beheld his suffering; when we have seen him as the man of sorrows? Why is it we find such difficulty in obeying the first commandment, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and all thy soul, and all thy strength” Deuteronomy 6:5. It is because of our transgressions, as this passage declares. They have cut us off from the divine gift of love that ought to be in every human heart.

Sin is a disease that has afflicted our entire race. We cannot understand the depth of human depravity until we see the awful agony through which our blessed Lord Jesus passed; behold the hours of darkness and hear the terrible cry, “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46) All this spells out for us what we really are like. Most of us, think of ourselves as decent people, good people. We have not done, perhaps, some of the terrible things that others have done. But when we see in the cross of Jesus the depth of evil in our hearts we understand that sin is a disease that has infiltrated our whole lives. Man, who was created in the image of God and once wore the glory of his likeness, has become bruised and marred, sick and broken, his conscience ruined, his understanding faulty, his will weakened. The principle of integrity and the resolve to do right has been completely undermined in all of us. We know this to be true. No wonder, then, the verse comes as the best of news:

He was wounded for our transgressions. The bruising that he felt was the chastisement that we deserved, but it was laid upon him“ … Hallelujah!

There is no way to read this and fail to see that our Lord Jesus is the great divine Substitute for the evils of the human heart. We can lay hold of this personally by the honest admission stated in Verse 6: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned

every one to his own way.” How true that is of each one of us! Who can claim anything else? I grew up in the country, and I know something about sheep, my Father kept sheep. Sheep are very foolish and wilful creatures. They can find a hole in the fence and get out, but they cannot find it to get back in? Someone must go and get them every time! How true then are the words, “We have turned every one to his own way.”

Frank Sinatra made a song popular a few years ago, “I Did It My Way.” When you hear that, it sounds like something admirable, something everybody ought to emulate. How proud we feel that we did it “our way.” But when you turn to the record of the Scripture, you find that that is the problem, not the solution. Everyone is doing things “their way” so we have a race that is in constant conflict, forever striving with one another, unable to work anything out, because we all did it

“our way”.

The way to lay hold of the redemption of Jesus is to admit that “All we like sheep have gone astray. We have turned every one to his own way”; and then to believe the next line, “But the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” One Christian put his testimony in a rather quaint way. He said, “I stooped down low and went in at that first ‘all,’ and I stood up straight and came out at the last.” Notice that this verse begins and ends with the word “all”: “All we like sheep have gone astray.” The man said, “I stooped down low and went in at that ‘all.'” In other words, “I acknowledged that I, too, was part of that crowd that had gone astray.” Ah, “But I stood up straight

and came out at the last ‘all.'” He understood that

“The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

He bore our punishment and took our place. Praise God!

The next verse speaks of the silent sufferings of Jesus,

the man of sorrows” (reading from v7)

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth“. (Isaiah 53:7-9)

Once again, Scripture preserves carefully the sinlessness of Jesus himself. He was without sin, yet he bore the sins of others. That is why he did it in silence. He had no interest in defending himself, so he never spoke in his own defence. It is a striking thing that in the gospel accounts of the trial of Jesus he never spoke up on his own behalf or tried to escape the penalty. This amazed both Pilate and Caiaphas. When our Lord Jesus stood before the High Priest, he was silent until the High Priest put him on oath to tell them who he was. When he stood before Pilate, he was silent until to remain silent was to deny his very Kingship. Then he spoke briefly, acknowledging who he was. When he was with the soldiers, they smote him, they spat on him and put the crown of thorns on his head, yet he said not a word. Peter says, “When he was reviled he reviled not again,”

1 Peter 2:23

Truly, “As a lamb before her shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth.” When he went before contemptuous, sneering Herod, he stood absolutely silent. He would not say one word to him. He was returned at last to Pilate because Herod could find nothing wrong with him. “By oppression and judgment he was taken away.” (Isaiah 53:6)

It is very apparent to anyone reading the gospel accounts that the trials that Jesus went through were a farce. The Jewish trial before the High Priest was illegal. It was held at night, which was contrary to the law. Pilate several times admitted that he could find no wrong, no fault in him, and yet he pronounced upon him the sentence of death. How true are these words,

“by oppression and judgment he was taken away.”

He was “stricken for the transgression of my people.” Remember that as the crowd stood around they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him,” they added these significant words, “Let his blood be upon us and upon our children.” Thereby they acknowledged that he was indeed “stricken for the transgressions of my people.”

But when at last the deed was done and he cried with a loud voice, “It is finished” (John 19:30), his friends came to take him down from the cross. No enemy hands touched his body after his death, only those who loved him. As they removed his lifeless body, the dear lips were silent, the wondrous voice was stilled, the light had gone from his eyes, and the great heart-beat was no more. But instead of throwing him on a rubbish heap, as the authorities intended, they “made his grave with the rich” Just as Isaiah had predicted and written 720 years before the event. Joseph of Arimathea, a rich man, offered to put the body of Jesus in his new tomb that had never been used. Someone has put

that rather remarkably, saying; “He who came from a virgin womb, must be laid in a virgin tomb”.

Then in the last verses his ultimate triumph is pictured.

Yet it was the will of the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief; when he makes himself an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall

prosper in his hand; he shall see the fruit of the travail of his soul and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous; and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide him a portion with the great; and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he poured out his soul to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors“.

The Hebrew in Verse 10 is rather remarkable. Our version says, “It was the will of the Lord to bruise him,” but the Hebrew literally says, “It pleased Jehovah to bruise him. He has put him to grief.” The question then comes, – How could it please God to put his Son to death, in the agony and torture of a crucifixion? How could God find any pleasure in that?

When the question is asked, “Who is responsible for the death of Jesus?” the world rather blatantly answers, “It was the Jews who put him to death.” And that is true. The Jewish rulers did deliver him up to be crucified. But it is also true that the Gentiles crucified Jesus. Pilate, as the representative of the supreme government on earth at that time, put him to death, so that both Jew and Gentile are responsible. But that still does not exhaust the matter. We must go beyond that to this mysterious statement … “It pleased Jehovah to bruise him. He has put him to grief.” When we face the question of why and how could God the Father ever take any delight in the death of his beloved Son, the only clue we have is that remarkable promise in Verse 32 of Romans 8, “He who spared not his own Son but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” As hard as it is to believe, we must understand that God loved the lost race of mankind more than he loved his Son, and was willing to deliver him up to death –

that our race may find a way out of the disease and death of sin. That is all we can say on that.

Perhaps the hymn writer puts it best, when he penned these words …

On Christ almighty vengeance fell,
That would have sunk a world to hell.
He bore it for a chosen race,
And thus becomes our Hiding Place.

Verses 10 and 11 describe a resurrection, and the satisfaction that Messiah feels when he sees what his sorrows and sufferings have accomplished. We are told, “He shall see his offspring, he shall prolong his days.” That cannot be said of any human being who dies. How can a dead man see his offspring? How can a dead man prolong his days? But clearly, after death, after he has “made his grave with the wicked,” here is ONE who shall

“see his offspring and prolong his days.”

Resurrection is clearly in view.

“He shall see the fruit of the travail of his soul and be satisfied.” What a remarkable statement! Nothing else could satisfy Jesus than to see the redeemed brought to his Father. Nothing else could do it. This was the relentless desire that drove him through pain, tears and death ( hell itself ) to achieve what he always wanted: a world freed from pain, torment, death and injustice;

a world of men delivered from crying, sorrow, sickness, sadness and heartache; a world in which men and women would live in peace and in power, fulfilling the tremendous possibilities that God incorporated in man when he made him in the beginning. This is what he is after, and nothing can satisfy him but that. As the writer of Hebrews says, “For the joy that was set before him he endured the cross, despising the shame thereof,” (Hebrews 12:2). This will at last bring satisfaction to his heart.

Verse 12 summarizes all this: “He will make many righteous and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide him a portion with the great and he shall divide the spoil with the strong.” This is a reference to Paul’s word in Romans 8, that we are “heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17), and that we shall share with him the inheritance that he has achieved. It is for those who “out of weakness have been made strong” (Hebrews 11:34) by faith in his death and life. So the chapter ends, “Because he poured out his soul unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”

This is a love story. What kind of love is this that awakens within us a response of deep and abiding gratitude, a willingness to admit that we need help? Our only adequate response is found in the words of the hymn,

Oh, love that will not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in Thee.
I give thee back the life I owe,
That in thine ocean depths its flow
May richer fuller be.

I believe today that there is nothing that gladdens the heart of the “Man of Sorrows” more, that the repentant words of the Sinner who comes seeking the Saviour! and as our closing Hymn reminds us … Hallelujah, what a Saviour he is!