“From Weakness to Glory”
If we were God and we were going to save the world, we would likely not write the same story that we know and read in the Bible. You may or not be familiar with how the story goes. In a nutshell, God creates a universe that is magnificent and perfect, and creatures that are perfect. Then something tragic happens. God’s prized and highest creatures (man and woman) turn their back on their Creator and taint the rest of creation. You and I would likely throw our hands up in the air and immediately wipe everything out because we had been offended. But not God. Though he is all-powerful and holy, he is also merciful and compassionate and he loves his people.
His plan takes another course. Knowing that a holy God cannot tolerate this “sin” that has now been introduced into the world, he decides that he will mercifully keep his people and allow provisions to be made for their sin. In fact, God had even hinted at an Ultimate Provision that would come in the future that would eradicate this problem once and for all. And this is found in the opening pages of the Bible within the context of Adam and Eve’s first sin.
Throughout the Bible, God continued to allow these provisions (called sacrifices) that would temporarily deal with sin so that his people could continue in relationship with Him. But all along, he told them of a future Messiah who would save them from their sins. To be sure, the Old Testament spoke of One to come who would be a Prophet and King and Deliverer. However, the people seemingly had a difficult time putting all of these together. Consequently, many people missed Jesus when he came.
Let’s explore our message this morning in two points. And as we consider these points, we will hear echoes of an ancient prophet that foretold of this coming Messiah. In fact, we quoted his words at the outset of the service. The prophet Isaiah penned his letter 700 years before Jesus Christ was born in our time and in our world. We will also see how Paul supplements these thoughts in a couple of passages in his letter to the Romans and Philippians. If you would like to reference these, please turn in your Bibles to Isaiah 53. When you get there put a bookmark or a finger there and turn also to Philippians 2. Other references, I will try to quote in their entirety if you would like to jot them down and investigate them later.
The first point is He Came In Weakness.
When Jesus first arrived on the scene, he did not come as the people expected. After all, when you hear of a King who would come from the line of the great King David, you would expect that he would be born in a Kingdom for the world to see. However, this King would come to a lowly town called Bethlehem to be born to insignificant parents, in a feeding trough, without any fanfare. His birth was not celebrated by nobility with an extravagant festival, but by shepherds and foreigners huddled in a stable with the animals.
Jesus did not walk around with a glowing halo around his head like many artists have portrayed him. He was not embraced by the royalty or even the religious leaders of his day. Jesus’ followers were a ragtag group of ordinary folks. And though Jesus was often surrounded by multitudes in times of great miracles, they often abandoned him at times of difficult teaching. Not the things that you might expect surrounding a King.
This is the way Paul describes it in Philippians 2. He is encouraging his readers to imitate the humility that Jesus had in his coming to earth. “5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” What Paul is saying is that true humility is found in Jesus. Jesus is the Son of God who has existed for all eternity. The Bible says that he has always existed with the Father and the Holy Spirit and was active in the creation of the universe. Consider that Jesus was under no obligation to lift a finger to help out those he created and who had rebelled against him. Consider also that he left a perfect environment to be born in the conditions that we already mentioned. Jesus came to experience the trials and heartbreaks and temptations of this life for us. This is divine humility. He who had everything made himself nothing.
Isaiah likewise spoke of the manner and form to which this promised Messiah would appear. In chapter 53, Isaiah writes “Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? 2 For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. 3 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 says in verse 1 that not many would see him coming and believe that it is him. “Who has believed what he has heard from us?” He also says that he didn’t come in grand fashion as a “Superman,” but like a regular Joe. Jesus’ apparel did not consist of royal robes. Isaiah says that he had no form or majesty that we should look at him and no beauty that we should desire him. The way to recognize his royalty was not through his appearance or clothing, but with the eyes of faith.
Paul goes on to say in Philippians 2.8 “8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” The cross was the symbol of a curse. It was the most horrendous and humiliating way to die. The victims were often scourged and then hung on the cross to die in front of everyone. They were ridiculed and mocked. Why would Jesus do such a thing? Why would he leave heaven for a cross? Two reasons. The events that we celebrate this reason are ultimately so that God would receive the recognition – or the glory. It isn’t because we are so great and worth dying for but that He is great and merciful. Secondly, God loves us. Paul said that God demonstrates his love for us in that, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Why did he have to die? Because the penalty for sin is death. Because all are born into the world with a sinful nature, there needed to be a payment for our sins. A holy and just God cannot merely look away from sin, he must deal with it. Jesus took it on himself… in our place. The prophet Isaiah wrote “4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. 6 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.”
And he did this willingly. Isaiah says that 7 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 silent, so he opened not his mouth. This is one of the most amazing things to me. If you joined us on Friday, we watched a powerful portrayal of the last hours of the life of Jesus. It began with Jesus sitting with his disciples celebrating the Last Supper. It was here that Jesus announces that he would be betrayed by the one who dipped his bread with him. And then Jesus tells Peter than he would deny him.
The next scene is the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus encounters his agonizing prayer as he anticipates his pending death. Though Jesus had told his disciples to watch and pray, they prefer to sleep. Jesus captors enter at this moment and seize Jesus and his “faithful” disciples flee. From this point on Jesus encounters scorn and beatings at the hands of the Jewish religious elite. They spit on him and strike him. The same happens as he is handed over to the rulers Pilate and Herod. At one point it really struck me as one of his opponents gets right in his face. I thought, “if they only knew…” Can you imagine? They got up in Jesus the Son of God’s face and mocked and ridiculed him. He could have flicked them… He could have thought and the earth would have dissolved. And yet he didn’t…
That wasn’t the mission. He Came in Weakness. Instead of wiping out his opponents, he let them have their way with him. Isaiah 53.8 “8 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? 9 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. 10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief.”
Though Jesus had committed no sin, he bore the sins of his people. He was cut off out of the land of the living. Though he had created everything that existed, he allowed himself to be cut off from that which he had created. Baffling!! He Came In Weakness.
Notice what Isaiah says next in verse 10 of chapter 53. After Jesus is crushed by the Father, Isaiah says that “when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.” 700 years before the events of Easter weekend, the prophet spoke of the resurrection of Jesus Christ! Jesus Came in Weakness, but was Raised in Power! This is our second point, Raised in Power.
Paul begins the book of Romans by speaking of his ministry. Listen to how he describes his message. Romans 1:1–4 1 Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3 concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 4 and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.”
This has led many to believe that the reign of the Messianic King from the line of David began at his resurrection from the dead. In the events of Easter weekend, Jesus has conquered Satan, sin and death in one fell swoop. Satan thought he had won as Jesus lay dead on the cross. Sin’s payment was made that accounted many righteous. And finally death was defeated as Jesus’ tomb was empty! The tomb declares that the check has cleared. If Jesus remained in the grave, then all is a failure. He would be declared a liar. Satan would have won. We would be lost in our sins. And we would have no hope of eternal life.
Paul says it like this in 1 Corinthians 15:12–22:
12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. 20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.
And because Jesus was obedient to the point of death on a cross, Paul continues in Philippians by indicating 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Jesus no longer hangs from a cross. He is no longer in the grave. Jesus Christ is alive and well and reigns from heaven. By his resurrection from the dead, he is declared to be the reigning Son of God on the throne in heaven. You recall the “Lamb that was led to the slaughter” from Isaiah. Listen the current depiction of this same Lamb from the last book of the Bible.
Revelation 5:6–14 (ESV)
6 And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. 7 And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. 8 And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9 And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, 10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” 11 Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” 13 And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” 14 And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.
The Lamb of God, Jesus Christ is being praised because he came to the earth in weakness. By his voluntary submission to death on the cross, he has provided salvation to people from every tribe and language and people and nation. And he has made a new kingdom – for he is the reigning King of his kingdom. Paul said that God has highly exalted him and given him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
So here’s the deal. Jesus is now the reigning King. And the King is returning. However, his return will not be in weakness. That part is over. His mission has been accomplished and the resurrection confirms this. When Paul says that “every knee will bow” and “every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,” it will consist of voluntary and involuntary actions. In other words, when you see him, will you bow to him as your King? Will you confess Jesus Christ as your Lord? At this time it will be too late to change allegiances. It will be confirmed whether you belong to his kingdom or the kingdom of the Enemy.
Because of Easter weekend, Jesus has inaugurated a kingdom that will exist for all eternity. He is the King of kings and Lord of lords. Because Jesus died, was buried, and rose from the grave people no longer have to be lost in their sins and alienated from God. They can be transferred into this kingdom from the darkness.
Do not let this opportunity pass you by. Your standing with God is based entirely on what you confess of Jesus. Romans 10:9–10 “9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” And to do nothing is to reject the King.
It’s possible that have attended church for years and never bowed the knee to Jesus. Or you may have wandered in here this morning merely because it is “tradition” to attend a church service on Easter. You know, “It’s the right thing to do.” Perhaps the Holy Spirit of God is confirming the truth about Jesus this morning for you. Now you are convinced that he truly is the Son of God. He really did live a perfect life, died on the cross, rose from the grave and is seated on the throne in heaven. And you may not be ready for his return. Let me remind you that the love of God for you was demonstrated so powerfully on that cross 2000 years ago. The wrath of God for your sin and my sin was poured out on Jesus that fateful day. And he went willingly for you. That kind of love demands a response. How will you respond?
Jesus said to repent of your sin and to trust completely in him. Confess him as you Lord and Savior this Easter weekend. Let’s pray.