You might remember when we began this series I said that you can’t start the Christmas story with the baby in the manger and understand the bigger picture. The gift of the Jesus is rooted and founded in the grief of the broken heart of God, and in order to understand that, you have to go right the way back to where sin first entered our world.
One of the things the Spirit of God does is to convict us of our sin. God’s holiness is contrasted with our brokenness, and this leads to a remorse and a broken heart within ourselves. One of the first steps to salvation is that our hearts too are broken as we grasp something of the great need we have of a Saviour.
The good news is that God hears your cry, and His response is the sending of His Son. Salvation and redemption enables us join that wonderful song the angels sang, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to all mankind.”
There’s always great joy at Christmas, but we should not forget the bigger picture of God’s great plan of salvation. The story of the manger is wonderful. Anyone who has ever held a newborn baby will know how the emotions are stirred at a profoundly deep level. There really is nothing quite like it in the human experience. But we need to look beyond the cradle to a crucial detail of God’s great plan – the Cross of Calvary.
You probably wouldn’t expect to hear Isaiah 53:10 read that often during the Christmas season, but it gives us another amazing look at the heart of God.
“The Lord was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief.” (NASB)
The story of the salvation of humankind has its roots in the broken heart of God, but it is also intricately connected to pleasure in the heart of God.
There is no clearer, greater and more pointed demonstration of the love of God than the offer of His Son. “The Lord was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief.”
Just think about this for a moment, especially our parents and grandparents: How could it be that God the Father would ever find pleasure in the crushing and the grief of His Son? That’s what this verse tells us.
Undoubtedly the greatest human instinct is to try and protect our children, and to do whatever it takes to keep them from harm and suffering.
Yet it was God’s plan and it pleased Him to see His Son crushed and suffering. How do we even begin to make sense of this?
What could be so powerful, so motivating in the heart of God, that He would be willing and even find pleasure in allowing His Son to suffer? The simple answer is love. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.”
God so loved the world, that He would be willing to do the unthinkable in order to accomplish the unachievable. He looked at this broken world, He looked at us, broken inside, now separated in relationship from Him - the one thing we were created for - and God was so full of love, so full of grace, so full of compassion, that He was not willing for us to stay separated from Him. So He sent His Son to accomplish His great plan for you and I. That’s what love really is.
Because of the nature of sin, we were unable to help ourselves. We were unable to escape this dilemma that grips all of our hearts. We were unable to fix the world and ourselves. God had to do it on our behalf. He so loved the world, that He gave, and that is what pleased Him – not the actual suffering of His Son, because that broke His heart, but He finds pleasure in what that suffering brings.
It’s the story of Christmas and Easter – all the same story, and depicted so graphically for us at Calvary. This incredible gift of salvation. To think that we who deserve nothing other than eternal separation from God are loved so much, that He would be willing to subject His Son to unthinkable suffering. Why? And why is it so important for us to be reminded so often of His love and what He has done for us?
Quite simply, because maybe tomorrow, maybe next week, maybe in 10 years’ time you will for all kinds of different reasons be tempted to doubt the love of God.
Maybe it will be a time of physical suffering, and you’ll wonder why God has allowed this pain into your life. It might be a love betrayed and the broken heart that goes with it. It may be financial ruin and the uncertainties and fears that brings. The list is endless, but remember that Jesus told us “in this world you will have trouble.” Whatever that trouble is, you will be tempted to cry out, “God, where are you? Where is this love I keep hearing and reading about?”
If you only remember one thing from today, let it be this: When those moments do come, look to the manger and the cross. The reason is that not only does the gift of Jesus show you the power and nature of God’s love, but it affirms that He will continue to love you, even and especially when everything inside of you tries to deny that truth.
Paul writes in Romans 8, “He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all - how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?” The logic of Paul’s question here is that if God loved us enough to be pleased enough to allow Jesus to suffer for us, then what possible reason could there be for Him to stop loving us?
Once we begin to grasp this great truth it makes it possible for us to begin to make sense of Isaiah 53:10. “The Lord was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief.”
Crushing speaks about the physical suffering of Jesus. Every moment of His life was physical suffering. Jesus’ suffering didn’t just begin on the cross, although this is certainly where it reached its climax. His whole life was one of suffering. Just look at His birth for instance. Forget the warm, cozy manger scenes we’ve grown up with for a moment. Jesus was born in an unhygienic shed and allowed to sleep in smelly straw in a feeding trough. Who knows what kinds of saliva-borne bacteria and diseases were lurking in that manger? The manger was just the start of Jesus’ suffering. He suffered every day as He subjected Himself to the harsh realities of life in a fallen world.
Of course, there was the emotional and spiritual suffering too. He was despised and rejected – not only by us, but by God Himself as He hung on that Cross. Have you ever considered that it is only because of Jesus and what He did that you will never have to repeat that awful cry of His on the cross? “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” In that terrible moment the Father turned His back on His Son, so now in Romans 8 Paul argues that if God would subject Jesus to that kind of torment on our behalf, why would He suddenly stop loving us? If He would do that for you, would He not also give you everything else you need? It would make no sense whatsoever for God to do what He did for you at Calvary, only to turn His back on you in your moment of need.
Paul argues that your guarantee that God will be faithful to you, and that He will be with you and in you and for you and meet all of your needs as you walk through this life towards eternity is the cross of Jesus Christ.
If God did this for you, He will meet all of your needs.
God knows your need, and He is totally committed to meeting them. You no longer need to be afraid, haunted by all of the ‘what ifs’ that keep going around in your mind. You will find peace in coming to terms with the fact that you don’t need to fully understand God, His ways and His sovereignty. There are many times when God will confuse you. Psalm 13:1 says, “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?” We don’t always understand the things that God allows into our lives, but you can be at peace with that reality.
Tim Keller says that the importance of believing in the sovereignty of God is not that life will make sense to you. The importance of believing in the sovereignty of God is precisely because life won’t make sense to you.
Part of God’s great plan for us is that we have Him to go to when life confuses us. When satan says, “Where is your God now?” we run to God, instead of from Him, standing on His promises: “The Lord was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief. He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all - how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?”
We remember those promises and say, “If God would do this for me, will He not meet all of my needs?”
We hear the word ‘peace’ a lot in late December every year. Do you have peace in your heart? Really? Do you live with peace, even when your circumstances are not?
The gift of Jesus Christ to you, that great plan of salvation is the ultimate demonstration of God’s faithful love to you. If God would give His Son for you, then you need to know this: There is nothing that He will not do for you.
“The Lord was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief.” That’s God’s great plan of redemption. The plan was that a second Adam had to come; the first Adam failed the test, and a second Adam had to come. Jesus was that second Adam, and He had to be willing to live in the middle of the harsh realities and the temptations of life in a fallen world.
But He had to be willing to be obedient in every way, in every thought, in every desire, in every word, and every action. That obedience included going to the cross as the perfect Lamb of God who carried our sins, satisfying the righteous anger of God to bring us forgiveness, acceptance into the family of God, righteousness and eternal life. That’s the plan.
We had a problem that we could not solve. It’s called sin. You can’t escape it and you can’t defeat it. You can’t redeem yourself, let alone the world from its fallenness. We needed to be rescued, and that’s why the promise of a Saviour is so precious to us. And so, from day one, that little baby was destined to die.
What all of this means is that the Cross of Calvary was not a defeat. It is not plan B.
The cross of Jesus Christ was the Great Plan of salvation. As Max Lucado so eloquently put it, “As the echo of the crunching of the fruit was still sounding in the Garden, Jesus was leaving for Calvary.” He came as a baby, but He came to be the Lamb, the offering that would finally satisfy God’s anger. In that one cruel death, life would be given to many.
“The Lord was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief.” But that’s not the end of the story. It doesn’t begin and end with Christmas Day and Good Friday. Isaiah 53:10 continues with these words: “If He would render Himself as a guilt offering,
He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, and the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand.” Jesus, and those who love and serve Him, will live on. Isaiah 53:10 speaks not only of the Cross, but also of eternity.
Galatians 2:20 says, “It's no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” He gives life to many.
Jesus would be faithful to the Great Plan of the Father. He did everything that the Father asked Him to do, and in so doing, provided for us not only eternal life, but eternal hope.
You don’t need me to remind you that life is hard. At times it’s just unfair.
We all have more than enough hardships, griefs and struggles. Many of you here today are there right now.
And there will be times, no matter how strong your faith may be, when you will be tempted to wonder where God is and what He’s doing.
You’ll hear that voice taunting you: “Where is your God now? Where is His grace and His power now?”
In those moments remember the words of Isaiah 53:10. God’s love is so faithful, so powerful and so willing, that He would be pleased to subject His own Son to cruel suffering and cruel death so that you would know life. If He would do that for you, is it conceivable that He would abandon you in your moment of need?
There is no greater evidence of God’s immeasurable love for you than the gift of Jesus.
He knows your great need. He hears your cries, and He has given you great hope in and through His great plan of salvation. Remember - that hope is a person, and that person’s name is Jesus.