Palm Sunday – "The Justice of the Cross" – Isaiah 50:4-9 – 4/9/17


sermon-4-9-17

“The Lord God has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary.”

I. Word that Sustains the Weary

vindication-coverThat’s the Servant of the Lord who is speaking. We should mark, learn and inwardly digest His Words well, because they are INSPIRED WORDS. He speaks with a TAUGHT TONGUE.
He knows what to say and what not to say and whatever He says is always TRUE.

One word from His mouth and
• the WEARY and the worn out – “ARE SUSTAINED.”
• The oppressed and the taken advantage of – “ARE SUSTAINED.”
• The falsely accused who have no one to them, hear His Word and they – “ARE SUSTAINED.”

They are not PACIFIED or PUT OFF – told to ‘hang in there.’ ‘Things are sure to get better.’ Those are empty words that have no power to SUSTAIN THE WEARY because they no power to DO WHAT THEY SAY.

The ‘weary’ are “SUSTAINED” with TRUE WORDS that ALWAYS DO WHAT THEY SAY and ALWAYS GIVE WHAT THEY PROMISE.

The Sustaining Word that the weary ones are given is a word of VINDICATION.
“He who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who is my adversary? Let him come near to me.”

The WEARY are the lowly, the poor, the oppressed, those who have been robbed and cheated out of the life the way God created life to be. They will be VINDICATED. “He who vindicates me is near.” Justice will be done FOR THEM. And that’s what SUSTAINS THEM.

II. He Humbled Himself

The Servant of the Lord is in an UTTERLY UNIQUE POSITION to speak these SUSTAINING words to the WEARY. HE HIMSELF HAS BECOME ONE OF THEM.

He’s no ‘DO-GOODER’ who may mean well but doesn’t have a clue – because he’s never actually been that poor, or that neglected, or that abused – or wet and cold and hungry – or DESPISED AND REJECTED BY MAN.

The SERVANT OF THE LORD is one of them. So, it’s not just the Word He speaks – but WHERE He speaks it from. “He made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Phil.2:5)

Or as He himself puts it, “I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting.”

He has become LIKE THEM to the point that He is ONE WITH THEM. HE IS THEM.

So, what word does the Servant of the Lord speak to the weary that sustains them AND that even He Himself longs to hear that He too may be sustained in the work He has come to do? What “WORD” will SUSTAIN His poor, pitiful, wronged and mistreated, brothers and sisters?

I’ll tell you the Word that will do nothing to sustain them – “I FORGIVE YOU ALL OF YOUR SINS.” AT LEAST, NOT YET – BECAUSE FORGIVENESS WITHOUT VINDICATION IS CHEAP GRACE.

What WORD could be more UNSUSTAINING to hear pronounced upon your persecutor and the one who walked right by you while you were lying half dead in the middle of the road – than to hear the judge say to “YOU’RE FORGIVEN – GO IN PEACE”?

And what could be more INFURIATING than to hear the Judge say to YOU WHO HAVE HAD SOMETHING SO PRECIOUS TAKEN FROM YOU SO UNJUSTLY – your child by a drunk driver, your legs by a roadside bomb, your dignity by a picture on the internet, your reputation by a malicious rumor – “YOU NEED TO FORGIVE AND FORGET.”

That’s CHEAP GRACE and CHEAP GRACE does not SUSTAIN THE WEARY.

The only WORD that will SUSTAIN THE WEARY AND THE WEAK AND THE POOR AND THE LOWLY – is VINDICATION. “He who VINDICATES me is near.”

III. Vindication

In the Hebrew, “VINDICATION” is really the same word as ‘JUSTIFICATION.” It’s a JUSTICE word. “He who gets me JUSTICE is near.”

With His WORD, He tears off all the COVERS-UPS with which they thought they had COVERED UP their guilt – with their power or position or money or even with their PIOUS WORSHIP.

They thought they could cover up everything they did from Monday to Saturday if they just went to church and sung the hymns and prayed and received the Sacrament and GOD WOULD NEVER SEE their injustice to their neighbor. But His Word UNCOVERED IT.

“I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them; and the peace offerings of your fattened animals,
I will not look upon them.
Take away from me the noise of your songs;
to the melody of your harps I will not listen.
But let JUSTICE ROLL DOWN LIKE WATERS,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream,” says the prophet Amos. (Amos 5:21-24)

When the WEARU hear THAT WORD THAT JUSTICE will be done – THAT WORD SUSTAINS them. Because they know that no one is able to hide. No one gets away with it. Everything is uncovered. Everything is exposed. HE WHO VINICATES ME IS NEAR.

IV. Justice

But now wait a minute. What if you are the guilty one who been participating in multiple COVER UPS like I do:
• “I know how much my words and actions hurt her, but I’m just going to act like everything is okay – because I’m the boss – what’s she going to do?”
• “I know what I did was totally selfish and I hurt him – but I’m only human – and that’s just how it goes.”
• “I know I should have spoken up and stood up for him – but it would have cost me big time – and I’ve got my own career / marriage / life / reputation to think about.

How many ‘cover ups’ are we involved in and how much injustice to our poor, defenseless, pathetic neighbor are we responsible for? Enough to make most politicians look like saints.

So, JUSTICE is the last thing I want. All I really want is to come to church and hear, “I forgive you all of your sins.”

Could it be that THE SAME WORD that SUSTAINS the WEARY – ALSO CONDEMNS THE GUILTY and THREATENS the daylights out of us because we know that we are the accomplices of the injustice that God hates?

Maybe this helps us to understand why Jesus got such a mixed reaction when He arrived on the scene declaring “the Kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe the gospel.” (Mk.1:15) The rich and socially secure and religiously connected got very nervous.

But the poor and disenfranchised were glad – “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” (John 12:13)

They both knew their Old Testament and understood that when the Servant of the Lord comes, “He will not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established JUSTICE IN THE EARTH.” (Is.42:4)

Maybe this also helps us better understand what the SERVANT OF THE LORD is doing when
• He suffers the gross INJUSTICE of a rigged trial,
• Under corrupt judges who were only interested in preserving their own power,
• Even while the poor, powerless and INNOCENT One suffers utter shame and humiliation of being stripped naked and crucified because He is too poor and weak to defend Himself and all of His friends desert Him.

God’s outrage with ALL of our INJUSTICE is carried out by the cross on THE SERVANT OF THE LORD. All of the cover ups and the false pretenses and the hypocrisy and our stupid self-justifications – WERE NEVER HID FROM HIS SIGHT LIKE WE FOOLISHLY TRIED TO CONVINCE OURSELVES THEY WERE. He saw them ALL. And punished them all on the cross.

Because He is the GOD OF JUSTICE. The guilty must be exposed and punished so that the innocent may be VINDICATED.

V. Grace

But who could have ever imagined that He would not only HUMBLE HIMSELF AND BECOME THE WEARY ONE on behalf of all the WEARY ONES – but that He would ALSO HUMBLE HIMSELF and become the GUILTY ONE on behalf of all the GUILTY ONES?

Who could have ever imagined that God would place HIMSELF under HIS OWN WORD and CONDEMN HIMSELF under His own righteous judgement and execute perfect JUSTICE – so that in the ONE MAN, JESUS CHRIST,
• THE VICTIMIZER is PUNISHED,
• AND THE VICTIM is VINDICATED?

Because the hard truth of the matter is – these are not two separate people. We are VICTIM AND VICTIMIZER. The line between good and evil, just and unjust, oppressed and oppressor- doesn’t run between us and them – BUT RIGHT THROUGH EACH AND EVERY ONE OF US. We are all simultaneously victim and victimizer.

Which means that the cross of Christ and Him crucified is FOR YOU. In the cross, we see that NONE of the injustice which HAS BEEN DONE TO US has escaped His notice. AND WE SEE that none of the injustice that WE HAVE DONE TO OTHERS has escaped His notice.
• He has seen it all and PUNISHED it all in His Son.
• He has seen it all and VINDICATED it all in His Son.

Where you are the WEARY ONE who suffers because wrong and injustice has been done against you, by others, but ultimately by your adversary the Devil, know that justice has been done on the cross and no one has escaped – THE GUILTY HAVE BEEN PUNISHED IN THE INNOCENT ONE. You have been VINDICATED in Christ.

You can let go of the anger and the resentment – against your OPPRESSOR – and against your God. Justice has been done. Now, you can forgive and forget. “Forgive those who trespass against you, because God, in Christ, has forgiven you.”

Where you have been THE OPPRESSOR and have done injustice to others – no matter the measure, know that the JUST PUNISHMENT that you deserve has already been carried out on THE SERVANT OF THE LORD. THE GUILTY HAVE BEEN PUNISHED IN THE INNOCENT ONE.

You too can let go of the burden of guilt and REPENT and take up His burden which is easy and light and do what is just and right before the Lord.

The one who believes this, and ONLY THE ONE WHO BELIEVES this, can move on with their life in the JUSTICE and the PEACE that the Servant of the Lord has accomplished FOR YOU. For the believer, the Kingdom of God has come – and the word of the Lord SUSTAINS THE WEARY.

Both VICTIM and VICTIMIZER may say TOGETHER WITH ONE VOICE, “He who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me?”

Both the OPPRESSED and OPPRESSOR may hear His Word of such costly grace that SUSTAINS THE WEARY – I forgive you all of your sins.

And now may the peace of God which passes all human understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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