HOW GOD STAYS IN TOUCH WITH MAN: XXI

The Cross of Christ is the most powerful deterrent from going to hell. In the ancient world, the cross also was a deterrent against crime. The first horrifying use of the cross, to avenge himself, was Jannaeus, the grandson of Mattathias Maccabee, and not a Roman. Jannaeus crucified eight hundred Pharisees who had opposed him being their king and high priest (Note 2). To the contrary, Christ Jesus, the Son of God, used the cross to stop humans beings from destroying each other — and from following Satan into hell. The cross is the most powerful symbol of Salvation! God the Father, Himself, allowed His Son to choose the cross as the means and vehicle to leave this world. Paul, the Apostle, penned these immortal words:

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God (I Corinthians 1:18).

For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling-block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

For consider your call, brethren; not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth; but God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong. God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom, our righteousness and consecration and redemption; therefore, as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast of the Lord” (I Corinthians 1:22-31).

THE CROSS WAS AND THE CROSS STILL IS A SYMBOL OF HUMILIATION, SUFFERING, AND DEATH

God used the cross to humiliate and to confuse the world. Even in our twenty-first century, as God did with Jesus’ disciples, who longed for a godly power to change Israel and the world, God offers a simple cross as the best solution for man and his world. The disciples did not expect a cross — the disciples expected an army from heaven to restore Israel! In Israel’s history, the cross was a shameful embarrassment. And the cross was the lowest place a people could fall. The cross dashed the disciples’ hope! Even after the Risen Christ tried to explain to his disciples, why He had to die the shameful death for sinful man. The disciples had yet to learn that God’s kingdom was spiritual and not material or military (Luke 24:21; Acts 1:6; John 18:36). And at that time, the disciples had yet to understand, what Jesus had gone through. And the Gospels had yet to be written to help them understand. Philip, the evangelist, preached Christ to the eunuch of Ethiopia based on Isaiah 53:7-8. Luke regarded this service as an inducement of the Holy Spirit:

But and angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert road. And he rose and went. And behold, an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a minister of Candace the queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of all her treasure, had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. And the Spirit said to Philip “Go up and join this chariot.” So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “How can I, unless some one guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. Now the passage of the scripture which he was reading was this:

“As a sheep led to the slaughter or a lamb before its shearer is dumb, so he opens not his mouth.

In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken up from the earth.”

And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, pray does the prophet say this, about himself or about some one else?” Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this scripture he told him the good news of Jesus. And as they went along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What is to prevent my being baptized?” And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. And when they came out of the water, the Spirit of the lord caught up Philip; and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. But Philip was found at Azotus, and passing on he preached the gospel to all the towns till he came to Caesarea (Acts 8:26-40).

WHO WAS ISAIAH’S SERVANT?

The word servant in question is “‘Ebed” and it means a slave with special relationship to his lord and his master who trusts him with his life, loved ones, and property. The servant is not subject to the people he serves in his master’s name, but the servant is above them like a lord and master himself. In the English language this servant is a confidant of God and is similar to a knight. And in the German tongue, the servant is a “Knecht.” So, when we read Isaiah 52-13-53:12, we need to replace the word servant with the words “Son of God.”

Behold, my servant shall prosper, he shall be exalted and lifted up, and shall be very high. As many were astonished at him — his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the Son of men—so shall he startle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which has not been told them they shall see, and that which they have not heard they shall understand.

Who has believed what we have heard? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?

For he grew up before him like a young plant, an like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or comeliness that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.

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.

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.

But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed.

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his on way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

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 dumb, so he opened not his mouth

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?

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.

Yet it was the will of the LORD to bruise him; he has put him to grief; when he makes himself an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand; he shall see the fruit of the travail of his soul and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous; and he shall bear their iniquities.

Therefore I will divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he poured out his soul to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors (Isaiah 52:13-53:12).

ISAIAH’S SERVANT BECAME, IN A SENSE THE GOSPEL, LONG BEFORE IT WAS FULFILLED IN JESUS

Isaiah’s concept of the humiliating, suffering, and dying servant

was revised, gradually adopted, and it was applied to Jesus as the “Sacrificial Lamb of God.” Originally, Isaiah understood Israel as being the “Suffering servant of Yahweh,” and so were the leaders like Moses, David, some kings, and the prophets. To the first Christians, Jesus, who had stressed that He was sent from heaven to fulfill the Scriptures, did fit into the frame of the “Suffering Servant of Isaiah.” Isaiah, the prophet, understood that Israel, as well as the leaders, were servants of Yahweh (Isaiah 41:8-10; 42:1-4). Also, Isaiah 53 did describe the suffering of Israel and her leaders. In the ancient world, a nation was held responsible for their bad leaders and their good leaders for the bad people. Jesus, and particularly Paul, proclaimed the same idea that if one suffers all suffer and vise versa. For instance, Christ’s cross was not the only one, nor could He bear it alone. Simon of Cyrene had to carry the cross to where it could serve its purpose (Mark 15:21). To follow Jesus, his followers must also take up their cross and suffer like their Lord did (Matthew 10:38; 16:24; Luke 14:27). However, Israel and Judah did not play the “Atoning Redemptive” roles in Isaiah (Isaiah 52:13-53:12). That “Atoning Redemptive” task was assigned to a single “Suffering Servant.” The description of the “Suffering Servant” resembles Jesus as the Son of man. Isaiah, based on the Second Commandment, could not identify the “Suffering Servant” as the Son of God, neither could Isaiah allow the Son of God to be a Lamb that had to be sacrificed for the sins of mankind. No human being could be paired with God; for, that was the main reason why the Jews demanded that Jesus be crucified (Exodus 20:4; John 19:7).

THE CHRIST OF THE GOSPELS WAS NOT A SERVANT, BUT A SON AND THE LAMB OF GOD

Jesus Christ, begotten and born of the Spirit of God, as the Emmanuel — God among humans, insisted that He had been sent from God to fulfill the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 1:18-25; 5:17-2). The Law and the Prophets stretched from Abraham to John the Baptist. John the Baptist was the greatest because he had the honor to prepare the way for the Son of God, the Lamb of God with the power to set man free from Satan’s clutches (Matthew 11:7-19; John 1:19-34). Sin is Satan’s tool to control and incarcerate man in his way of life. The Apostle Paul received this superb divine insight when he described the Son of God’s descent into human form to be able to teach human beings how to serve by forgiveness, reconciliation, and restoration:

Have this mind among yourselves, which you have in Christ Jesus, who though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on the cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:5-11).

Jesus did not call Himself a “Servant,” but Jesus called Himself, “Your Lord and Master.” And often Jesus called Himself, “Teacher,” to teach man how to humble oneself and gain love, respect, and understanding by rendering services that are not honorable or rewarding, but which are necessary. There are times when one has to turn the other cheek, when one wants to keep his or her head a little longer (Matthew 5:38-48). Jesus deliberately washed the disciples feet, the princes, who wanted to rule the future Israel, and Jesus showed them what it took to be leaders by losing their lives, in order to gain them for eternity.

When Jesus had washed their feet, and taken (off) his garment, and resumed his place, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know know these things, blessed are you if you do them. I am not speaking of you all; I know whom I have chosen; it is that the scripture may be fulfilled. ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’ I tell you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he. Truly, truly, I say to you, he who receives any one whom I send receives me; and he who receives me receives him who sent me” (John 13:12-20).

Then Jesus told his disciples, “if any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in return for his life? For the Son of man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay every an for what he has done Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of man coming in is kingdom” (Matthew 16:24-28).

And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him, and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized? And they said to him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to it at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant; but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John. And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are supposed to rule over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:35-45).