Jesus is the Suffering Savior

He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. … He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities, the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. – Isaiah 53:3,5

Greeting cards contain words that are chosen very carefully. They are meaningful words of love and affection. Sometimes when we are sending a card to someone, we might even agonize over which one to select. We want to choose the right words that express the love we have.

How about the words printed above by the prophet Isaiah? Would you include any of his words in a card to your loved one? At first thought you would say, “Absolutely not!” Words like “despised…rejected…sorrows…suffering…punishment” would be the last choices for a such a card! But the Bible surprises us. These words from God are really a wonderful expression of his true love for people.

The first thing to understand is that Isaiah was writing about Jesus. Jesus, God’s Son, was sent to earth to be the world’s Savior. The Bible tells us that because of sin there was punishment looming for all people. But Jesus took that punishment on himself. Jesus is our Savior who suffered for sinners. He took all this suffering on himself, including death on a cross, so that people wouldn’t suffer eternally.

The second thing to remember is that we are talking about something very personal to all of us. We were the ones Jesus came to suffer for. We were the ones who were headed to the punishment of eternal separation from God. Our sinful thoughts, words, and actions condemned us. But as the prophet wrote, “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities, the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.”

Jesus’ love for us is deep and long-lasting. It’s much more than the love that we might receive from others, or a love that is here today and gone tomorrow. Jesus’ love is eternal. He promises that since he suffered and gave up his life for us, he will continue to love us each and every day.

Every time you open the Bible it’s like receiving a card from One who loves you very much. These are God’s words of love for you.

I Am the Morning Star

“I am . . . the bright Morning Star” – Revelation 22:16

Your stomach hurts. You have spent most of the night in the bathroom with very little sleep. You feel miserable all over. The night seems to stretch on forever. You just want the darkness to be over. You keep waiting for a new day, a better day to dawn.

If you live far from the city, you look for the rising of the Morning Star—the planet Venus. When Venus rises over the night horizon, hope grows in your heart because the new day is not far behind!

From heaven Jesus was watching his people struggle through a dark “night” of persecution and suffering during the late 90’s AD under the Roman Empire. Jesus promised to rescue them and bring them to heaven—a new and better day. He referred to himself as the bright Morning Star who brought them hope and light.

We understand what it feels like to long for a new day, right?

Our family is broken apart because of my anger or my addiction or other sinful behavior. We long for a new day where things will be different.

My husband just died. I keep thinking over and over “Why didn’t I check on him sooner?” “I didn’t get to say goodbye and I love you.” The “what ifs” keep running through my mind, giving me no rest.

Jesus is the Morning Star. He brings the bright hope of his love and forgiveness into my heart. Whatever harm I have caused others or myself, Jesus gave his life on the cross to earn forgiveness for me. He comforts me with his unconditional love and promises to care for me every day.

Jesus is the Morning Star. He brings the bright hope of a new day coming. Because he gave his life for me, I am going to heaven by trusting him as my Savior. I am going to spend eternity in perfection, with no more sorrows or regrets, with no more “what ifs” or struggles. Jesus promises that I will live with God in joy that will never end.

So when struggling through a long night of illness, or a year filled with pain or guilt, I can look for the Morning Star. Jesus is with me to bring me a new day of his love and a new day of hope that I will live with him in heaven.

Promised beforehand

“Don’t take my word for it—check it out!” With the important things in life, that’s the approach we take, isn’t it? When we buy a home, we don’t just take the owner’s word that the house is in good shape; instead, we have the home inspected. There’s too much at stake, so we check it out!

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could “inspect” Christianity, if you could check out Jesus to see if he’s the “real deal?”

We have that opportunity, because hundreds of years before Jesus’ birth, God made a bunch of promises about Jesus. Now we can make an inspection—does Jesus match up? Does He “check out?” There are more than 50 such promises—here is a sample:

  • Promise: The Savior would be from the bloodline of Abraham (Genesis 12:2-3), Isaac (Genesis 21:12), and David (Jeremiah 23:5). Reality: Jesus’ lineage included each (cf. Matthew 1 and Luke 3).
  • Promise: The Savior would be severely punished and pierced through (Isaiah 53:5). Reality: Jesus was whipped, then crucified (Matthew 27:26).
  • Promise: The Savior would ride a donkey (Zechariah 9:9). Reality: When Jesus entered Jerusalem in a formal, final way, he rode a donkey (Matthew 21:1-9).

Interestingly, a number of promises concerned things over which Jesus had “no control.” For example, it was promised that he would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), and he was (Luke 2:1). Again, it was promised that Jesus’ garments would be divided up along with a casting of lots (Psalm 22:18), and the soldiers who crucified him did just that (John 19:23-24). Could Jesus have controlled the actions of the soldiers? Not from a human perspective. So even in things Jesus “couldn’t control,” we see fulfillment after fulfillment.

Peter Stoner takes us into the science of probabilities, picking out just eight promises: “We find that the chance that any man might have…fulfilled all eight prophecies is 1 in 1017.” Stoner then illustrates: “Take 1017″ [100,000,000,000,000,000] silver dollars and lay them on the face of Texas. They will cover all of the state two feet deep. Now, mark one of these silver dollars and stir up the whole mass thoroughly, all over the state. Blindfold a man and tell him that he can travel as far as he wishes, but he must pick up one silver dollar and say that this is the right one. What chance would he have of getting the right one? Just the same chance that the prophets would have had of writing these eight prophecies and having them all come true in one man” (Josh McDowell, “Evidence that Demands a Verdict” Here’s Life Publishers Inc. 1979, p167).

All of which leads us to conclude what? Either, Jesus is THE most unbelievable, incredible coincidence ever. Or, much more plausibly, this Jesus—he’s the real deal. After all, he checks out!

I am the Living One

“I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.” – Revelation 1:18

The Key to Life

Keys are small. Their importance is not. We don’t give keys much thought until we need them or lose them.

Have you ever misplaced your keys? There’s a feeling of frustration and fear when you lock yourself out of your car or house.

When Adam and Eve disobeyed God by eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they lost the key to life. The result of their sin was a verdict of death. And we have been held prisoner under the same sentence.

We have tried, in vain, to escape death’s prison. We have searched for the Fountain of Youth and the Tree of Life. We have spent an enormous amount of money on anti-aging creams and medicines. In spite of all our scientific advancements, the worldwide average life-expectancy is about 30 years shy of a hundred. After thousands of years of searching and researching, we have not managed to find the key—we cannot break free from death.

Frustrating? Frightening? Yes.

But not hopeless.

Jesus is the key. He entered our prison through the womb of Mary. So he was human like us. Like a human being, he suffered. Like a human being, he died. And like a human being, he was buried.

But unlike us, he broke free. Because unlike us, he is sinless. He is the Son of God and death could not hold him prisoner, because Jesus had committed no sin.

By his resurrection, Jesus has opened a door that no one can shut. Death is no longer a final destination. It is a doorway to an unending life where sin and death have no authority. In heaven death is gone, crying is gone, pain is gone.

You might not give your house or car keys much thought throughout the day. But don’t make that mistake with Jesus. He may be small in the world’s estimation, but his importance is not.

Everyone who lives and believes in him, does not ultimately die. Follow him and he will lead you through death to life immortal.

Conceived by the Holy Spirit

What would the “ultimate boss” be like? We probably want a person who had worked our job, so the boss would understand us. We’d want a boss who had a heart for his/her employees. We’d want a boss who was smart. And, of course, we’d want our boss to carry some clout, to get things done.

What would the “ultimate Savior” be like? Wouldn’t many of those same thoughts apply? We’d like him to understand us, we’d like him to have a heart for us, we’d like him to be smart, we’d like him to have clout.

Okay, who’s smarter than God? Who has more clout than God? Wouldn’t it be great if our Savior was truly God?

Sure!

Well guess what? Here we find another promise fulfilled. In Isaiah 7:14 God says, “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” (“Immanuel” is a Hebrew word meaning, “God is with us.”)

The fulfillment is found in Luke chapter 1, when the angel Gabriel comes to Mary: “Do not be afraid, Mary, …You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.”

Mary’s perplexed: “How will this be … since I am a virgin?”

Gabriel answers: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.”

There’s another person in the mix—Joseph, the man who was engaged to Mary. When Mary shows up pregnant—and Joseph knows he’s not the father—Joseph reached what seemed to be the logical conclusion: Mary had slept with another man. So he determined to quietly end their relationship. God then sent an angel to him, saying, “Joseph, … do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

Then God adds an explanatory note: “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us” (Matthew 1).

Who is Jesus? He’s the “Son of God,” he’s “God with us.” That means he’s REALLY smart, and he has all the clout which you and I could possibly want or need. Most importantly, he has the ability to do what we needed him to do—to save us from our sins. He can do that because he’s God! Smart! All-powerful!

But what about those other qualities we’d mentioned, like being one of us, and having a heart for his people? Does Jesus have those qualities, too? Keep reading!

I am the resurrection and the life

“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” – John 11:25-26

An Important Question

“Do you believe this?” Many in this world maintain that it does not matter how you answer Jesus’ question. In fact, many say that it doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you believe in something. Others will say that what you believe is good for you and what they believe is good for them—to each his own. We live in a world that downplays absolute truth and rejects the idea that there can be any definitive answers about what happens after we die. For a time, people are content to put off thinking about Jesus’ question.

But there are times in life when it becomes clear that Jesus’ question demands an answer. Times that demand knowing the right answer. Times like when you are in lying in the hospital bed not knowing whether or not you will recover from surgery. Times like when you are in the waiting room hoping that the doctors can somehow save your loved one. Times like when you are sitting with a friend in the funeral home as she mourns the loss of a loved one. At times like those, Jesus asks us the question: “Do you believe this?”

Jesus made quite a bold claim before he asked that all important question. He said: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies.” Jesus offers what no one else can. He offers the answer to death. He offers forgiveness of sins and eternal life in heaven. He offers a chance to live with him now and forever. “Do you believe this?”

Jesus’ good friend Martha knew the answer to that question. Her brother had died, yet she found faith and hope in the words of Jesus. Martha believed in her Lord and trusted in him. She knew the answer to his question. Do you?

The Way

How do you get to heaven?

Are there many roads? Do they all lead to the same place?

Or are you just crossing your fingers, hoping you’re on the right one?

Jesus says there is only one road to heaven. “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

How arrogant! Arrogant?

You have a friend. Your friend asks you for directions to your home. Road construction has closed the normal routes. There is only one road which will bring your visitor to your house.

Is it arrogance to share the one open path with the one you love? You give your friend directions to the one open road because you don’t want your friend to be frustrated, confused, or lost.

Jesus doesn’t want you to be frustrated, confused, or lost. He doesn’t want you to live your life driving down a dead-end road. He doesn’t want you to live imagining that your good actions will be enough to earn life forever. God expects perfection, not a good try. Working hard to earn heaven by human action earns hell.

Jesus doesn’t want you to be frustrated, confused, or lost. He doesn’t want you to live imagining that anything calling itself “god” really is God. Any religion which denies that Jesus is true God is a false religion. It may be a road. The road leads not to heaven, but to hell.

Jesus loves you. He doesn’t want you to live imagining that all spiritual roads lead to the same place.

Only one road leads to heaven.

Arrogance? No. The ultimate in love. If there is only one way, we need to know it.

Jesus is the only way. Why? Because he is the only one who died to pay for your disobedience. Without Jesus, you will stand before God guilty. Without Jesus, you will stand before God afraid. Without Jesus, you will stand before God deserving punishment.

Covered by Jesus’ blood, you will stand before God innocent. Covered by Jesus’ blood, you will stand before God at peace. Covered by Jesus’ blood, you will stand before God certain of eternal reward.

Without Jesus’ blood, the road is a dead-end.

Through Jesus’ blood, the road leads straight to heaven.

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Truth

Politics and religion. You just don’t talk about those things. With politics one can understand that perspective. It’s hard to know who’s telling the truth. So many have a reason to twist the truth.

With religion the devil wants you to think the same. That it’s so hard to know who’s telling the truth, because so many have a reason to twist the truth.

Have you wondered, “Maybe no one can ever know what is true?”

Or maybe you’ve become so frustrated with your search for truth in religion—all the different denominations—that you’ve concluded, “Well, maybe they’re pretty much the same, so it doesn’t matter.”

They’re not the same. And it does matter.

But still, how do you know what is true?

Jesus stood accused by powerful enemies of crimes he did not commit. Jesus stood before Pilate, a Roman governor. Jesus’ enemies said, “He claims to be a king,” suggesting that Jesus had designs on Caesar’s throne.

Pilate asks, “Are you a king?” Jesus answers, “My kingdom is not of this world.” Pilate says, “You are a king then!” Jesus answers, “You are right, [. . . and] everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

You might imagine Pilate thinking, “That’s the problem, right there. You want me to listen to you, and your enemies want me to listen to them. How do I know who’s right?”

Frustration.

“What is truth?” Pilate asks.

Sometimes when we hear lies spoken to us again and again, we begin to wonder if there is anything true. We feel lost. We drift. We become afraid.

Frustrated. Like Pilate. He concluded, “Maybe no one can ever know what is true.”

Rejoice. Pilate’s frustration did not make Jesus’ words less true. Pilate’s frustration did not make the lies of Jesus’ enemies more true.

My friends, there is truth. Jesus’ words are always true.

It’s easy to become frustrated when so many lies are being passed off as truth. You need not be Pilate. You need not throw up your hands and permit lies to convince you that there is no such thing as truth.

There is truth. Listen to Jesus: “Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

Light of Our Lives

Light is certainly one of the most precious things in our world. Without it, we can’t do much of anything. The most simple tasks become all but impossible when darkness envelopes us instead of light.

A lack of light can also strike fear into our hearts and be quite dangerous. If you have ever tried navigating your way through complete darkness, you know this to be true. When you can’t even see your hand two inches in front of your face, it is impossible to walk with purpose and confidence. That is what life is like without Jesus.

Without Jesus there is no purpose in life. Every reason our world produces for our existence comes up empty in the end. Without the light of Jesus, we would be forced to stumble our way through life, bumping into blessings without knowing where they come from; and tripping over trials and problems. As we stumble we would always have the terrifying understanding that death could be right around the corner.

Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).

Jesus is the Light that illuminates our lives. He gives us hope and purpose. He came to remove the darkness of sin by shedding his blood and scatter the shadow of death by rising from the grave. Since our sins have been paid for by his blood, we have the sure confidence that every one of our sins has been removed—even the ones that weigh us down with the most guilt. Since he rose from the grave we have the rock-solid guarantee that death is not the end for us. By faith in him, we too will rise with him to live eternally.

With Jesus lighting up our lives we can live with confidence and purpose. The confidence comes from knowing that nothing can change the fact that our sins have been washed away by his blood, and our eternal life guaranteed by his resurrection. Our purpose now is to live every moment to his glory. We strive to make the best use of all the gifts he has given us and do everything we can to share Jesus with others, so they too may walk in his light.

Love

All power is mine. May I wash your feet, please?

Not what you’d expect from the richest, most famous, most powerful person in existence.

“All power is mine. May I wash your feet, please?”

That’s servant work. We expect the wealthy and influential to hire “little” people to wash cars, mow lawns, scrub bathrooms.

Yet the most powerful, Jesus, offers to wash feet. We shake our heads in confusion. What a waste!

Unless, of course, serving others is the ultimate honor.

Our human nature would disagree. We aim high, grasp for power, seek influence so that others can serve us. How can I get ahead? How can you help me? Our eyes so naturally see others as opportunities to exploit.

Our human nature is selfish. It thinks first about me. Though God says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind.” Though God says, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Selfish. God punishes selfish people. Forever.

We rightly are afraid.

To the disobedient who recognize the justice of divine punishment, the Lord invites, “Watch Jesus washing the feet of his friends.”

Why did Jesus, most powerful, so humble himself? He did this in our place. We do not perfectly love our neighbor. We deserve eternal pain. God loved us and sent his son Jesus to love perfectly in our place.

To see Jesus washing the feet of his friends is to know that he did this as our substitute. Jesus, the Creator of heaven and earth, washes dirty toes and then tells us that as many as are baptized in the name of Jesus have been clothed in the perfect life of Jesus. You get credit for his perfect love.

Jesus didn’t stop with foot washing. Later in the week, he gave up his own life for his friends, you and me. He suffered the eternal hell we deserved. God put our sin on Jesus and treated him like he should have treated us, so that in Jesus we are washed clean of all disobedience and made perfect in God’s eyes.

What love!

Why should a great God love sinners like us? I don’t know, but he did. The greatest served the least.

This is now your privilege. Serving others is the greatest honor that exists.

Let us love, as he loved us.

May I wash your feet, please?