Pastor Paul Waldschmidt delivers a sermon entitled “The Things You Don’t See” based on Isaiah 53:10-12 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.
Delivered on Sunday, July 29, 2018
Man, Chicago Cubs fans are real pieces of work. That’s what a lot of people were thinking—not to mention openly proclaiming—after they saw this video that went viral earlier this week. In case you missed it, Cubs First Base Coach Will Venable tossed a souvenir ball toward a little boy in the front row. The boy missed…the ball rolled under his seat…and the full grown adult sitting in the row behind him gleefully scooped it up and presented it to his significant other, totally ignoring the fact that the ball clearly wasn’t meant for him, but rather for the poor kid in front of him. TV cameras were rolling, soon people posted the video online, and as you might expect the internet responded in its usual gracious, measured, thoughtful manner. Not so much!
There was outrage, name calling, and not at all subtle suggestions for major acts of physical harm to be rained down on this joker. The only problem….it was all a misunderstanding. Eventually, the true story came out. Apparently, earlier in the day, from his seat in the second row, this guy had already caught a ball and given it to the kid in the row in front of him. Then he caught a second ball and gave it to a kid in his row. When this third ball came into the stands, he picked it up and gave it to his wife. But the third time was the only time that the cameras caught! Why am I telling you this story? Because it perfectly illustrates how one brief snapshot often fails to tell the whole story.
The same is true for Jesus’ life, and we see it in our text today. Imagine if our text ONLY consisted of the brief snapshot that we see in verse 10. Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer. What kinds of things do we crush? Aluminum cans and paper cups. (Things we have no use for.) Spiders and mosquitos. (Things that repulse or annoy us.) The Holy Spirit doesn’t use any words accidentally. He knew exactly what he was trying to convey when he talks about the Lord’s will (the original Hebrew word is even stronger—to delight!)…about the Lord taking delight in crushing Jesus.
Our text is talking about the cross, of course—where Jesus was crushed to billions of pieces under the mountain of our sins. When you see the blood oozing out from under that mountain, you realize that somebody paid an unspeakable price. Being crushed is gross, and it’s ghastly. And maybe that image sticks with us. So the next time we take inventory of our hearts and see ugly bitterness there, the next time we have opportunity to look at things we should not, and to lash out in hateful words, or to explain away our sins as if we are totally justified in giving ourselves to them…the next time those temptations come, maybe we remember that God is serious enough about sin to draw blood. So serious is he about sin, so much does he hate sin,
What you don’t see is often as important as what you do. If you only concentrate on verse 10, you don’t see what Isaiah says next, especially what he says at the end of our text. Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors.
He was numbered with the transgressors, so that we might be numbered with his holy ones. Through the pouring out of his life, he opened the doors to eternal life for you and me. Only if he first died, could he then rise from the dead three days later. And only a living Savior could hold our hands as we lay dying and say, “Because I live, you too shall live.” The snapshot of the crucifixion is a vital one, but only when we confess, “On third day he rose from the dead, he ascended and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty”—only then do we know the whole story.
God crushed him. But then he put him back together and exalted him. Through faith you and Jesus are inseparable. And so that’s what he does for you too.
I don’t know about you, but so many days I feel crushed. Not by God necessarily, although there certainly Biblical precedent for that sort of thing. Moreso though, we feel crushed by responsibilities and demands—family, work, financial, house and home—they come at us from every direction, there are always new ones being added to our “to do” list, and they all need our immediate attention. That’s enough to leave a person crushed beneath their weight.
Worry can be crushing as we wonder what problem is just around the corner, what issue might occasion our next trip to the doctor, what feather or firestorm will finally be the one that carries a tenuous relationship over the edge. Worry can crush a person beneath its weight.
But perhaps the most crushing weight one can carry is the cargo of conscience. Every day we want to do the right thing, say the right thing at the right time, make God happy, lift up the people around us. And every day, no matter how well we do, or how much good we do, we come to our bedtime prayers with things that haunt us, and a devil that taunts us. The past—be it long ago or quite recent can crush us beneath its weight.
But when you’re crushed, remember—you’re only seeing a snapshot. Even if it feels like you’ve been crushed for decades, it’s really only one page of your eternal story. The God who sees us crushed is also the God who gently, purposely, skillfully puts back together. And exalts us. As it was with Jesus, so it will be with the friends of Jesus.
So understand a few things as we try to tie this all together.
- Contrary to appearances and real live feelings, crushed isn’t all that bad of a place to be. In the Bible, it’s the people who appear to have it all together are actually the ones who are furthest away from the kingdom of God. “But a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”
- Even when he’s the one doing the crushing, Our God sees the big picture. When Jesus was crushed, the Father knew exactly how, when, where and why he was going with all of it. Though the humiliation was great, God saw the exaltation that was coming like unstoppable freight train barreling down the tracks. So it is with us. I think that’s one of the neatest things about believing in God. There are so many days, when all I see is the snapshot, a ten second video clip of our existence. I can’t make sense of much. It all looks like swirling chaos. But I believe, you believe, we believe that there is one who knows exactly where all this is headed. And even if he doesn’t explain it, he’s doing what’s necessary to get us to his side forever. Only then will the unseen be seen, and unknown fully known.
So we entrust ourselves fully to the One who is seated at the right hand of the Father. He’s living proof that what God breaks apart, he can beautifully restore. Today we may be crushed, but because of Jesus, we know—and we rejoice–that one day, our crown is coming. Amen.