When I was a new Christian, I didn’t want to go to Good Friday services, for I felt it was so hard to think about the enormous suffering of Jesus.
Steve and I were in a little church in Oregon and Steve was coming alive to the Lord. He had been coming with me to church and Bible study from the beginning of my conversion three years earlier, and was in agreement with what he heard. It was when he was helping with the homeless in downtown Indianapolis and passing out blankets, food, and tracts (and reading them) that he realized he was going to hell and put his trust in Christ. Yet, still, I didn’t see a passion there. When we moved to Oregon, our pastor (who happened to be our own Sharon’s future father-in-law) took a special interest in Steve and even called me to make sure we were coming on Good Friday! I told him I didn’t think I could bear it, but he urged me to bear it. I told Steve I didn’t want to go — I’d stay home with our babies. So Steve went alone. When Steve came home, he was so quiet, so contemplative.
God was melting him through the great love he saw on the cross. Everything in his head was falling to his heart. It was the LORD, (and not his wife!) who was penetrating His heart with His amazing love. After that night, I saw a passion growing in my husband. Steve’s testimony is that he doesn’t know exactly when he became God’s child, but one day he looked at a cross on a church and thought, I know Him and I am His.
So though it is true that the suffering of Christ is hard to look upon, (His disfigurement, Isaiah 52:14, tells us, was so great that he didn’t even look human) it is also true that beholding this love has a power to transform us like nothing else.
Having said that, I think of Lizzy’s little Philip, who at his tender age doesn’t want to think about the cross. I have heard it said that until a child is old enough to understand the whole gospel, the bad news and the good news, we should wait. God will show us when the time is right — the child may even initiate the discussion. We can trust God and wait upon Him for our children.
But we are adults. And so though it isn’t easy, please let us walk together through some passages leading up to Isaiah 53, and then that great chapter itself. Let us take off our shoes, for indeed, this is Holy Ground. Let us sacrifice time from other things to be with Him.
1. What stands out to you from the above and why?
2. Will you walk with us through His suffering this week? If so, why?
Monday: Regarding Things to Come, Question Me! (Isaiah 45:11)
Here is the test Moses gives for a true prophet:
Now if you say to yourselves, “How can we tell that a message is not from the Lord?”— whenever a prophet speaks in my name and the prediction is not fulfilled, then I have not spoken it; the prophet has presumed to speak it, so you need not fear him.
Alec Motyer says that we have become so used to the fact that the Lord fulfills his predictions that we fail to see how important this is. No other “god,” whether stone or wood or man, can or has prophesied so specifically and never failed to be wrong. Indeed, consider just a few of Isaiah’s prophecies leading up to the amazing prophesy of the crucifixion in Isaiah 52-53. We have already seen how God prophesied through Isaiah the Babylonian capture and captivity in Isaiah 39, now God also tells who it is who will set the captives free. This was 150 years before Cyrus was even born.
3. Read Isaiah 45:1-7
A. Whom does Isaiah name in verse 1, and what do you learn about him?
B. What other interesting thing do you learn about Cyrus in verses 4-5?
C. What thoughts do you have on God using those who do not know Him?
D. What is one of the purposes of prophesy according to verse 6?
E. What else do you learn about our Lord from verse 7? What does this mean to you?
4. Read Isaiah 45:22-25.
A. What warning do you see in verse 22?
B. What prophesy that has not yet been fulfilled in in verse 23? How accurate do you think this will be?
Tuesday: I Have Set My Face Like Flint (Isaiah 50:7)
There are those who claimed that there had to be a different Isaiah who described the crucifixion, for no one could have described this in such accurate detail before it happened. Yet the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls proved that indeed, all this was written down long before Jesus was even born in Bethlehem.
Here is Alec Motyer’s translation of Isaiah 50:6-7:
My back I determined to give to the floggers,
and my cheeks to those who pluck them bare,
not to cover even my face from any ignominy and spitting.
The Sovereign Yahweh
will help me,
therefore I will not be abashed;
therefore I have set my face like flint,
and I know that I will not reap shame.
5. Read the above and answer:
A. What lay ahead for Christ and how was this fulfilled? (Matthew 27:27-31)
B. What was Christ’s attitude concerning what He knew lay ahead?
C. What helped Him to set His face like flint? (And what is flint?)
6. Isaiah 52:13-15
A. What did God the Father know about His Servant Son according to verse 13?
B. What was so shocking about Christ upon the cross according to verse 14?
C. Why do you think this will cause Kings to shut their mouths?
Wednesday: Crushed Because of Our Iniquities
C. S. Lewis said he believed Christianity, in part, because it was so strange. No man could have thought up this plan of salvation. And only those whose eyes have been opened by the Spirit can believe. We can be so thankful if we believe.
7. Read Isaiah 53:2-9
A. What do you learn about Jesus in verses 2-3?
B. Why was he crucified according to verses 4-6?
C. Describe how Jesus went to the cross according to verse 7. Why, do you think?
D. List all the prophecies you see in this passage that were fulfilled.
Maundy Thursday: And Yahweh was himself pleased to crush him.
This is love incomprehensible. The closest I can come to understanding is the example Motyer gives of the joy of sending a child into the Lord’s service, even knowing it may cost that child’s life. I remember how after Deitrich Bonhoeffer was hung, his father, who has already lost a son and two sons-in-law in resisting Hitler, said he was “sad but proud.” This is how they had raised their sons — to do what was right, no matter the cost. They also knew this was not the end of the story. Motyer quotes Philippians and talks of “for the joy set before him he endured the cross.” What was that joy for Jesus? Us!
8. Read Isaiah 53:10-12
A. Surely this was suffering for God our Father as well, and yet, it was His will. Why,
according to this passage?
B. Meditate on verse 11 (Motyer translation) “Arising from the toil of his soul he will see and be satisfied.” What thoughts do you have on this?
Read this from Kevin deYoung and share your thoughts.
How can one so righteous be so brutally punished, so willingly slaughtered, and that for the sake of those who deserved to die? This is the problem mounting in the first three stanzas of the chapter. This is the mind boggling plight that has Isaiah asking, “Who will believe this report?!” Who has heard of such a thing? How can such violence, such tragedy, such injustice be tolerated? How can the righteous suffer and the guilty go free?
Verse 10: “Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he [the Lord] has put him to grief.” There’s the answer to all our mounting questions. It was God’s hand that pierced him, his purpose that afflicted him.
“This only makes it worse,” you may think to yourself. “I could scarcely accept such punishment befalling an innocent. I could barely embrace the idea that the righteous would suffer in the place of the guilty. But this is altogether too much. How does it help to know that it was the Lord’s will to crush him?”
But don’t you see what good news this is?
Because it was the Lord’s will to crush him we can behold the glory of our Triune God in planning and procuring our redemption. The Father did not punish the Son as a helpless victim of cosmic child abuse. The Son went to the cross freely and willingly. Likewise, the Son did not appease an angry God as some sort of divine good cop to the Father’s divine bad cop. The Father sent his Son to the cross freely and willingly. We do not have to look askance at Good Friday as if there were some rift of purpose, some difference in character, between the Father and the Son. The good news of Good Friday is that the Father did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all (Rom. 8:32) and that the Son drank the bitter cup of God’s wrath for our sakes (Mark 14:36).
Because if was the Lord’s will to crush him we can marvel at the love of God. In the mystery of divine redemption we must not think that the cross changed God’s mind to love us. Good Friday did not happen so that God could love us, but because he already loved those whom he had chosen in Christ. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). God shows his love for us in this that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8). In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins (1 John 4:10).
And finally, because it was the Lord’s will to crush him we can be sure that full satisfaction has been made for our sins. “Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities” (Isa. 53:11). If the cross is something other than divine judgment upon the divine Son of God, if Good Friday is not the eternal, redemptive plan of God executed fully and finally on a hill outside Jerusalem, if what we are singing about is something other than the Lord’s will to crush his own Servant, than we cannot know if our sins have truly been forgiven. We cannot be sure that Christ’s death was enough. We cannot be certain that it is finished.
9. Share your thoughts on the above.
Listen to this from Eric Alexander and share your thoughts and comments.
10. Share any thoughts or comments from the above?
11. Where will you be tomorrow and how do you plan to celebrate the resurrection?
12. What is your take-a-way this week and why?