"He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with
The title in which Christ delighted more than all others was "the Son of man." It occurs eighty times in the Gospels and is applied only by Jesus to Himself. It is a glorious name, full of hope for the human family.
Had He been merely the son of Abraham, He would have been limited to one race. If He were only the son of David, He would be confined to one family. But as "the Son of man" Jesus Christ became the second Adam, sustaining a relation to all men everywhere.
The title implies that every man may find a response to his need in Him, for He is the Man of men, the glory of the whole human race.
It is said that one day Henry George, the great humanitarian and economist, returned to his home after an extensive tour of public speaking. A crowd of admirers awaited him and hailed him as "the friend of the workingman."
To this salutation he replied: "No! I am not the friend of the workingman: I am the friend of man." Like the Master, he included in his sympathies the whole human family.
Jesus Christ was the only begotten Son of God, and in that sense, unlike any other man born of woman. But while He was here on earth, He refused to be forced into a position of superiority over any one class. He responded without distinction to the needs and appeals of all classes-rich and poor, high and low. He was no respecter of persons.
HE WAS SINLESS
The Lord Jesus was the only sinless man the world has ever known. He Himself said, "Which of you convinceth me of sin? The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me" (John 8:46; 14:30).
To this challenge that He flung out to both Satan and the world, and which has come ringing down the corridors of time, no answer has been returned, and none ever will be.
On the other hand, the experience of every honest heart, especially of every Christian, is expressed in the words of Scripture: "All we like sheep have gone astray." "There is none righteous, no, not one." Christ alone is "holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners."
While He is sinless, He was not sorrowless. Indeed, He was "a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief." Someone has said, "God had one Son without sin, but not one without sorrow."
Those who doubt that we live in a fallen world find it difficult to account for this universal wail of mankind. Like the scroll of Ezekiel, human history is a book "written within and without" with "lamentations, and mourning, and woe." There is nothing more common or constant than sorrow and suffering. George McDonald expresses this thought in his well-known poem on "Baby," in which he asks a question and receives an answer from the newly born child.
"Where did you get that little tear?"
"I found it waiting when I got here."
From the cradle to the grave, sorrow is the portion of every man. Over the face of youth the tears fall fast; they furrow the cheeks of maturity; while to old age they come as the saltiest tears of all. "Man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward."
Next to a Saviour, humanity needs most of all a Comforter. Christ is both. He has come not only to save us from our sins, but to bear our burdens and to dry our tears.
Sorrow fills a large part of the life of each of us. But in comparison with the torrents of grief that swept the whole earthly life of our Lord, our woes are but tiny bubbles that rise and burst on the stream of our daily existence.
The elegy of suffering from which our text is taken begins in the 13th verse of Isaiah 52 and includes the whole 53rd chapter.
It is obvious that this prophecy refers to Christ, although some critics deny this. Some have thought Isaiah was referring to himself. Such a theory would necessitate some radical changes in the 8th chapter of the book of the Acts. There we read the interesting story of the conversion of a royal sinner.
A certain Ethiopian was returning from Jerusalem to his own country and was evidently much concerned about his soul. He had somewhere secured a copy of the prophecy of Isaiah; and as he crossed the desert, seated in his chariot, he was reading this part of the Scriptures in his quest for God.
Philip, an evangelist, drew near to the chariot and inquired if he understood what he read. The eunuch replied, "How can I, except some man should guide me?" Then Philip sat down by his side, and beginning at these very same Scriptures, he preached unto him Jesus.
How could he, from this portion, preach anyone but Christ? Who else was led as a Lamb to the slaughter with the iniquity of us all laid upon Him? So, if we delete the 53rd chapter of Isaiah because it does not refer to Christ, we must do away with the 8th chapter of the Acts. We must find another who is "the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world," on whose brow the crown of thorns will fit.
No being can justly lay claim to this likeness other than Jesus, God's only begotten Son. In Him sorrow was multiplied, and grief was His familiar friend.
Let us look at some of the kinds of suffering that He bore and seek a reason for His bearing it.
HE BORE THE SORROW OF LONELINESS
There are three kinds of loneliness. First, the loneliness of solitude. Solitude is not always a hardship. It may, and often does, prove a great blessing. I am sure Christ found it so. Often after a busy day, He withdrew Himself to the mountains to spend the night alone, or He went out into a desert place a great while before day in order that He might commune with His Heavenly Father. Such loneliness is a privilege to be frequently sought.
There is a second kind of loneliness that is hard to bear-the loneliness of character which makes a man feel isolated, although in the midst of other men. Our Saviour knew such loneliness. He was so different from those about Him, in His desires and purposes, in His hopes, yearnings and aspirations, that He was forever a stranger in this world.
No one understood Him. Even His mother failed to comprehend the meaning of His mission. When He was twelve years old, she "found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions.and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? Behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?" Then it is added, "They understood not the saying which he spake unto them."
His disciples were unable fully to appreciate His teaching or to understand the meaning of His sacrifice. It is evident from the final message that He gave to them before He went to the cross, that He would have made known to them many things concerning the mysteries of the spiritual life if they had been able to comprehend. "I have yet many things to say unto you," He told them, "but ye cannot bear them now."
Third, there is the loneliness of shame. The book of Job furnishes a vivid picture of this kind of suffering. Through no fault of his own, Job suffered reverses, losses and afflictions. Dispossessed of everything, he was deserted by family and friends. They passed him with averted look and cruel judgment. Even his wife wished that he were dead. So terrible was his suffering that poor Job cried out, "My soul is weary of my life."
There is no loneliness so painful as the loneliness of shame. It may be the result of any one of a number of causes. It may come, as it did to the patriarch, through no wrongdoing of the sufferer. Or it may come as the result of the sin of another.
An illustration of this is found in Victor Hugo's Les Misˇrables. It was the shame of suffering for another that Jean Valjean found hard to endure. Even little children looked upon him with distrustful eyes. As one reads of his experiences, one feels that out of Hades itself there can come no more poignant anguish than the suffering of shame.
Have you never looked into the face of a father or a mother who is bearing the disgrace of a wayward son or daughter? Have you not observed how quickly the hair has grown gray, how deep have become the furrows that wrinkle the brow, and how faded the smile? The cutting salutation of a neighbor or the haughty glance of a former friend falls upon that one like a scourge, yet he suffers on in silence.
No man ever endured such shame as did our blessed Lord. In that terrible night of anguish when God laid on Him "the iniquity of us all," not only His foes but His friends turned from Him. "They all forsook him, and fled."
Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
In my place condemned He stood.
HE BORE THE SORROW OF UNREQUITED LOVE
The sorrow of unrequited love is described by the Apostle John, whose affectionate disposition made him especially qualified to write on such a theme. Speaking of Christ, he says, "He came unto his own, and his own received him not."
There is perhaps no sadder picture in the whole New Testament than that contained in the 23rd chapter of Matthew. There Jesus stands, looking over the Holy City, and cries, "O Jeru-salem how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!" (Matt. 23:37).
Luke says, "And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it" (Luke 19:41).
There He had fed the poor, healed the sick, sought the lost and gone about doing good; but the people had refused to hearken. Nailing Him to the cross, they crucified Him as a criminal. He so loved the world that He gave Himself to save it, and yet only one here and there of the multitudes who heard Him responded to His love.
I have read of a lecturer in a large English city who gave a stereoptican address on the life of our Lord. Among other scenes he showed Holman Hunt's great picture, The Light of the World. The audience gazed spellbound at the thorn-crowned Saviour knocking at the barred door.
In the midst of the silence, a little girl in a front seat, sitting beside her father, asked in a stage whisper, "Daddy, why don't they let Him in?"
"Be quiet," said the father. "It is only a picture."
Again the little one, more insistent than ever, said, "O Daddy, I am sure they hear Him knocking! But they don't want Him in, do they?"
That is the attitude that thousands are taking toward Christ today. Again and again He has come to their hearts, seeking entrance, speaking through the death of a loved one, perhaps, or through disaster, or in numerous other ways; but there is no response to His pleading voice. They do not want Him in.
HE SUFFERED AS A SUBSTITUTE
Every kind of sorrow was known to the Son of God. There is only one answer that can be given to the question, Why should this sinless One be the greatest sufferer of the whole human race? It is because He suffered as a substitute. "He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows." As He hung upon the cross, one of His enemies, when he saw His dying agony, shouted from the crowd, "He saved others; himself he cannot save."
He spoke the truth, and quite unknowingly offered one of the most profound explanations of the suffering of the Saviour. Because it was vicarious, He could not be released from it.
There are preachers and teachers today who ignore the substitutionary work of the Lord Jesus Christ. They go even further and ridicule the thought of His vicarious death.
A minister said to me, "People no longer believe in the Gospel of substitution. We are coming to see that we must live for ourselves and do our own dying."
I could not refrain from remarking, "Yes, my dear friend, if you live for yourself, you will surely do your own dying."
The hope of the Christian described by Paul is centered in One "who loved me, and gave himself for me." When men and women say that they do not believe in vicarious suffering, they state what is not actually true. We heroize those who give their lives for others. We build monuments to commemorate the deeds of brave men who have sacrificed their own lives for those of their fellowmen.
D. L. Moody used to tell of a mechanic in Wisconsin who, during the Civil War, was drafted into the army. He was poor, with no reserve funds to provide for his large family and invalid wife. But he had a friend, a young man, unmarried, who came forward and volunteered to take his place in the service; in fact, he insisted on doing so.
In the Battle of Gettysburg, that young man was mortally wounded. When news of his death reached his home city, no one was more deeply grieved than the poor mechanic.
What could he do to show his gratitude? He decided to make a headboard of hard wood; and when it was finished, he took it to Gettysburg and placed it at the head of that lonely grave. It bore the name of the young man who had been killed, and underneath were just four words: "He died for me."
That is substitution. The young man went to war in another's place; he fought the battle for him; he received the fatal wound and died in his stead; and all that the mechanic could do was to declare, "He died for me." "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13).
The death of that Wisconsin boy exemplifies the substitution of a friend for a friend. There is something greater still. As an abiding example of amazing grace and love, "while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." He took our place; He died in our stead. When once that stupendous truth dawns upon one, the most natural thing to do is to acknowledge His love, accept His sacrifice; and, taking a stand before the cross of Christ, confess to the world-
It was for me the Saviour died,
"HE SHALL BE SATISFIED"
What recompense shall the Lord of glory receive for the sorrow He has borne? In Isaiah 53:10,11, we are told how we may requite and compensate Him, at least in some measure:
"When thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied."
In other words, when you accept the offering that God has made for sin, the gift of His Son, "He shall be satisfied." When you receive as your Saviour the One who bore the agony of the cross for you, He will be glad that He died in your place. He Himself has told us that there is joy in Heaven over one sinner that repents. To know the joy of saving the lost, He "endured the cross, despising the shame."
Over forty years ago I received my first soul-vision of Calvary. Without a thought of God in my heart, I passed a street meeting where a little woman was standing on a box, singing. She had a wonderful voice, and in her heart there had been shed abroad the love of God. Oh, how sweetly she sang!
When I survey the wondrous cross,
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.
See, from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down:
Did e'er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?
There was a refrain:
O Calvary, dark Calvary,
Speak to some heart from Calvary.
God answered the prayer of that hymn and spoke to me then and there. Like John Newton:
My conscience felt and owned the guilt
And plunged me in despair;
I saw my sins His blood had spilt
And helped to nail Him there.
That was the greatest moment of my life. I have had thousands of blessings since. My heart is full of assurance and gladness now, and I know that I shall be with Christ throughout eternity; but the beginning of it all was the vision of the cross and the realization that Jesus, the Man of Sorrows, died for me.
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