Palm Sunday - The Crucifixion of Jesus and the Three Conflicting Pursuits of Father God
Sunday, April 13, 2014 - 10:00 a.m. Sermon #: 1723
Pastor Don Horban
Isaiah 53:10 - “Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him [The NASB says the LORD was “pleased” to crush him]; he has put him to grief; 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.
The whole message of the Bible makes no sense at all unless the events beginning with Palm Sunday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday are kept at the very center of its interpretation. There are major themes of the Biblical revelation that are totally at odds with each other until the event of the cross is thought through and digested.
I want to look at three seemingly conflicting pursuits of God in this message. Then I want to show how they must be knit together in our understanding if they are to make good sense. Here are three things that seem to drive the mind of God throughout the Scriptures: God goes to great lengths in spreading the glory of His Name through all the earth. God takes pleasure in being gracious and forgiving to sinful, wicked, undeserving people. And finally, the Bible actually says, God wills from the dawn of divine revelation - some translations actually dare to say takes pleasure in - the death of God the Son.
And the point of today’s teaching is, part from the great Christ event - the Incarnation, sinless earthly life, death, resurrection and ascension - it is impossible to hold these seemingly schizophrenic goals of Father God together,
1) THE BIBLE CONSTANTLY TALKS ABOUT GOD’S GREAT PLEASURE IN SPREADING HIS FAME AND GLORY THROUGH ALL THE EARTH
First, that is the whole reason God created this world - Psalm 19:1-2 - “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.  Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.”
The reason this whole created universe is here on display isn’t primarily for our pleasure. It’s to spread God’s glory. It’s to make visible a greatness that wouldn’t be observable to the naked eye otherwise.
Then, also, these words - Psalm 148:3-5 - “Praise him, sun and moon, praise him, all you shining stars!  Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens!  Let them praise the name of the Lord! For he commanded and they were created.”
And finally, David wraps up Psalm 103:22 with these exuberant words of creational praise - “Bless the Lord, all his works, in all places of his dominion. Bless the Lord, O my soul!” In fact, it wasn’t all that long ago we would still sing those words lifted right out of the song of those who sing around the throne of heaven - “...and for Thy pleasure they are created. Thou art worthy, O Lord!”
God’s ultimate reason for making this world wasn’t your pleasure. It is a very pleasurable world indeed. But ultimately, if you probe back far enough into the eternal purposes of God, it was all made, first and foremost, for His own pleasure. In fact, you were made for God’s pleasure. You were never designed for your own pleasure. That’s why all sinful self-centeredness is ultimately so self-destructive. When people live their lives as if they were designed for the pursuit of their own pleasure, they short circuit themselves. People turn their lives inward and forget that they were made, initially and ultimately, for God’s pleasure.
Then, the Bible moves on with equal passion to talk about God’s great pleasure in spreading His own glory through a people He has called to Himself. The central reason God redeems people is to spread His glory through their lives and their witness - Psalm 67:1-2, 5-7 - “To the choirmaster: with Stringed instruments. A Psalm. A Song. May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, Selah  that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations....5-7....Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!  The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God, shall bless us.  God shall bless us; let all the ends of the earth fear him!”
Paul puts the same idea in these great New Testament words: 2 Corinthians 4:6-7 - “For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.  But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.”
I hope you see Paul’s point. It has powerful theological implications. God’s whole plan in salvation isn’t to make us look great. His whole desire is to make Himself look great. He redeems to spread the reputation of His glory. For us this kind of pursuit would be egotistical. But for God this pursuit is loving and life-giving. That’s because our own lives are most enriched and most blessed when we become obsessed with God rather than ourselves.
So there we have the first great pleasure of God - the pleasure He has in spreading His glory through all the earth. Then, according to the Bible, there’s another thing that gives great delight and pleasure to God:
2) HE TAKES GREAT PLEASURE IN SHOWING GRACE AND LOVE TO SINFUL PEOPLE
Ephesians 2:8-9 - “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,  not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
Or, here’s the same idea in different words - this time from the lips of Jesus: Luke 12:32 - “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
Notice the emphasis on those words “good pleasure.” This is something that God enjoys in doing. This gifting of the kingdom makes His heart sing. In fact, there is a passage that specifically mentions God singing over us with joy: Zephaniah 3:17 - “The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”That’s right. Our God is a singer. He takes great delight in rejoicing over His people with songs of joy. You get just a small picture of this kind of happiness when you find yourself singing or whistling on a Sunday day while doing something you love doing.
Now remember where we started this message. I said there are some major themes in the Scriptures that don’t seem to fit together. First we see God’s number one passion to glorify His holy Name in all the earth. He does it through creation. And he does it through the redeeming of people whom He calls to spread His glorious, holy Name throughout the whole world, wherever they go.
And that’s the problem. These people whom God loves so much - these people over whom He shouts and sings for joy - are sinful people. They’re wicked people. How can a perfectly just God sing with joy over wicked people? And how can He so freely forgive them?
Think about it. Suppose a man came into your home and murdered your wife, or your children. Suppose he then got away, only to be caught later on by the police. And suppose, at the trial, after finger prints and testimony had established his guilt, the judge said, “You know what? I just feel like being gracious and loving today. I’m going to let this criminal get off totally free. In fact, I’m going to bless him and give him a financial grant to help him get on his way in society!”
Now, whatever you think of that criminal, one thing is for certain - your feelings about that judge will be totally changed. True, you may think he was very kind. But you will never think he was very good. In fact, you will probably be stunned beyond belief - perhaps even infuriated - at the lack of character - the lack of decency in that judge.
Now, multiply that outrage a million times, and you start to get close to the sheer incredibility - the incongruity of God - a holy, totally pure and just God - rejoicing and singing over blessing and forgiving sinful people.
“Well, pastor Don, I don’t think people are that wicked. Most of them are pretty nice.” Listen - you and I only feel that way because we’re among those wicked people. We can overlook and ignore sin because we’re sinful. But the Bible gives a very different description of people just like ourselves. Paul says that all people - all people everywhere, at all times - fall short of the glory of God: Romans 3:23 - “....for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God....”
Paul means we are nothing like God at all in our love of divine, glorious purity. He means we put our own interests and desires ahead of the glory of God. He means that we don’t value and prize His holiness and glory like He does. In Romans chapter one Paul talks about the fall of the human race. He says these people don’t value God at all. They don’t properly magnify His great worth. They commit the worst sin in the world. They trade God’s glory for new cars and boats and computers and smart phones and higher incomes and new homes.
These people, to whom God delights to show love and grace, constantly put themselves first when God says they should put Him first. They smudge God’s holy Name with disobedience and idolatry and greed and unholy affections.
So here’s what you have to face in the scriptures. God loves His own holy glory so much that he has created this whole universe simply to have a stage - a backdrop - in which to display His holy character. And then, at the same time, God persistently loves people who belittle His glory and bring disgrace on the very holiness He seeks to display.
Before you can really understand the cross you have to actually feel the Bible pulling in two opposite directions at the same time - and with equal force. We would usually call a person like God schizophrenic - of two opposing minds - pursuing two opposing goals at the same time.
If God were only delighted in justice there would be no problem. He would simply eliminate everything wicked and impure from His creation. Then everything would reflect His holiness in a way that was fitting. But we, of course, would never take another breath. There would be no grace. No second chances.
Or, if God only delighted in being kind to sinners He could simply forget about justice and holiness. He could simply choose to overlook all the bad things we do. But then, of course, He would no longer be truly just. He could no longer spread the glory of His holiness over all the earth - which, as we’ve already seen - He delights to do.
No doubt about it, God would be schizophrenic if it weren’t for one other pleasure - one other thing that brings Him great delight. And the solution to our dilemma is found in the first eleven words of our text:
Isaiah 53:10 - “Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; 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.”
3) AMAZINGLY, GOD SETS HIS WILL TO CRUSH HIS SON ON THE CROSS
Lest we rush over this too quickly, let me read verses 10 and 11 one more time: Isaiah 53:10-11 - “Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; 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.  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.”
God’s delight in the relentless display of the unsmudged glory of His Holy Name, and God’s incredible delight in doing good to wicked people, finally merge in a way that makes sense in a third relentless commitment - Father God’s eternal plan for the death of God the Son, Jesus Christ. This is the single, anchoring event that knits the revelation of Scripture into a unified, God exalting, sinner saving whole.
Our Isaiah text describes how this whole, stunning process works. These verses are a prophetic picture of Jesus Christ, crucified and raised from the dead, seven hundred years before it happened.
Very quickly, what the text so graphically describes as the crushing of the Son is His crucifixion, His offering His life as a sacrifice for our sin. The prolonging of His days is His resurrection from the dead to eternal life. And when Isaiah says He will see His offspring, he means that, being risen from the dead, He will see the fruit of His suffering. Many people will be saved from sin and judgement because of the crushing of the Son.
All of that is explained beautifully in these verses. But what I want to deal with right now is this question - Why is the Father crushing the Son? What could possibly make Him do this? Is God some kind of divine sadist who gets morality all mixed up and punishes the wrong person for a crime he didn’t commit?
Here is the simplest way I know how to say it. The cross isn’t a mistake. Isaiah says it wasn’t done blindly or carelessly. It’s lovingly, and deliberately thought through. It is the “will of the Lord to crush him”(53:10) because only in the death of the Son are the two main goals of the Father’s heart achieved at the very same time.
a) The glory of God’s justice and holiness is magnified and displayed. The fifty-third chapter of Isaiah is repeatedly clear that the Son is not being crushed for anything He has done: Isaiah 53:5 - “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.”
Then the prophet says the same thing in different words: Isaiah 53:6 - “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.”
The Son steps in as our substitute. In the crushing of the Son the Father punishes the sins of the wicked. In the crushing of the Son the Father magnifies the glory of His divine justice. He doesn’t make any compromise with wickedness. On the cross you are beholding close up the high cost of God’s display of justice and uncompromising holiness. He is still displaying His justice and glory.
The longer I live the Christian life, the more I’m certain that I am just scratching the surface of the staggering event of the cross. We all take these truths far too lightly. These are mind boggling events. This spectacle of Calvary is what sets Paul groping for words. He almost shocks us when he says, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God”(2 Corinthians 5:21).
Underline those words in your mind - Jesus didn’t just assume the guilt of your sin in some cool, detached way. Paul says he became sin for us. Think about that for a minute. Jesus became everything Father God hated when He was on the cross.
You don’t understand His tears and agony in the Garden unless you see that truth. He wasn’t afraid of the nails or the whip. It wasn’t the thorns or the thirst. When Jesus cried “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” it was because, at that very moment He experienced, in a way he could never have known before due to His sinless nature, the holy justice of God being poured out for the sins of the world. The punishment of those sins became His on the cross!
Remember when you look at that cross that Jesus didn’t experience some fake wrath from the Father. What He felt was actual wrath - the Father’s actual, full blooded hatred of sin - being unleashed in all of its unmixed fury.
So God’s passion for His own holy Name - God’s glorious, untainted hatred of sin, and His unwillingness to let it go unpunished - all of that was accomplished when the Son was crushed. All the world could see that God was just - that God was holy - that God never takes sin lightly.
b) Through the crushing of the Son, Father God is able to be merciful to wicked sinners. This is the second of the Father’s great delights. Our text points to the results of the Son’s suffering. The Father rejoices because He sees the fruit of Calvary:
Isaiah 53:10 - “Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.”
Then the prophet says the same thing again in the very next verse: Isaiah 53:11 - “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.”
“My Servant will make many to be accounted righteous....” That’s the second great pleasure of God - the offering of merciful, redeeming love to people bent toward wickedness. Notice the way our text says many will respond to what Jesus accomplished on the cross. Many will see that He didn’t die for His own sin. Many will see the payment for their sin in the death of Jesus Christ.
Finally, don’t miss the fact that our text says the risen servant will see the fruit of His anguish and death. Not only the Father, but the Son as well, will beam with delight in the full bloomed fruit of redemption. The Son is included in the song of the Godhead over the beloved, redeemed family of God. Yes, in the lyrical description of Zephaniah the prophet, the entire Godhead will rejoice over them with singing!