Spurgeon said that “He is a fountain of astonishment to all who know Him, and the more they know of Him, the more are they astonished at Him.” As we look at Isaiah 52:13-15 we see that Christ’s sufferings are astonishing, we see that His exultation is astonishing, and we see that His gospel message is astonishing.
In these next few paragraphs it is my only desire to express how beautiful and marvelous, how wonderful and exquisite, and how awesome and astonishing is the person of Jesus Christ. Spurgeon said that “He is a fountain of astonishment to all who know Him, and the more they know of Him, the more are they astonished at Him.” As we look at Isaiah 52:13-15 we see that Christ’s sufferings are astonishing, we see that His exultation is astonishing, and we see that His gospel message is astonishing.
❖ Astonishing Sufferings
It is quite obvious that Christ’s sufferings were very astonishing. Christ endured tremendous suffering. Let me just mention that during His trial, Christ was spat upon, slapped and beaten with the fists of angry men. Jesus was blindfolded and mocked by Roman bullies. Strong soldiers grabbed the very hair of his beard and ripped it from His cheeks (Isa. 50:6). He was made to wear a crown of sharp thorns that both mocked His kingdom and pierced His brow. He was also scourged with a fashioned whip that was knotted with shards of glass and metal. A Roman scourging would literally rip the flesh off of the bones and the pain was so terrible that most prisoners would not survive it. Christ then carried the weight of a heavy wooden cross up the hill and once there, he was fashioned to that cross by nails that pierced through his hands and feet.
Perhaps you know this story, but have you ever considered how astonishing a scene like that would be? Isaiah tells us that he was marred beyond human likeness. His form was disfigured more than any man. People were astonished because when they looked at him they didn’t simply say, “Wow, that is horrible!”, but “What is that? Is that a man?” Christ’s sufferings were astonishing.
But those were just his physical sufferings. Have you ever considered how astonishing where his spiritual sufferings? Jesus Christ is one with the Father. He is the exact image and representation of the Father. And so — of all people who’ve ever lived on the face of the earth — Christ, while in human form, is the only man who would have understood true intimacy with God. And upon the cross we are told that Christ, who was perfect and knew no sin, became sin on our behalf. Scripture tells us that the Father turned aside — causing Christ to scream in agony, “Father, why have you forsaken me?”
Now I know, or at least I’ve been told, that hell, by definition, is the absence of God. And so imagine if you will, that while hanging on that cross, Christ takes upon himself the sins of the entire world. In that moment, the One who enjoyed true fellowship and deep intimacy with the Father, now experiences abandonment and the absence of the Father. He is enduring hell for your sin. Think about that, if you even can think about it, Christ’s sufferings are indeed astonishing.
Now just to put this in perspective, let’s imagine that upon the cross, Christ is not taking upon himself the sins of the world but just your sin. Do you know the weight of your own sin? Spurgeon boldly asks, “Have you ever felt that? – your own sin. No, you never felt the full weight of it; if you did you would have been in hell.” Let me ask you this – how old are you? How old will you be when you die? How many sins would Christ have to bear if he bore just yours? First imagine just the weight your sin. Get your mind around that. Now multiply that by the number of people in your family. The number in your city, your state. The entire world’s sin he did bear upon that cross — and not just the world of today, but yesterday’s and tomorrow’s world also. How astonishing is that weight?
If you could even catch a glimpse of the weight of your own sin, I am certain that you would quickly entrust Christ to bear that weight for you. Have you — or do you mean to bear it yourself? It is an astonishing amount of suffering. Can you bear it? I don’t believe you can. But let’s say, for argument’s sake, that you could bear the weight of your own sin – even though Scripture is clear that you cannot – why would you? Why would you want to endure that which has already been paid for. Why should your sin be suffered for twice? Can I make a suggestion? Why not let the One, whose sufferings were astonishing, bear that weight for you?
❖ Astonishing Exultation
Jesus was astonishing in both his physical and spiritual sufferings, and but he is also astonishing in his exultation. The passage tells us that He will be high and lifted up. These two terms are used in combination four
times in the Old Testament and only in Isaiah. Each time it is speaking of God – except for this time, where it is speaking of the Servant of God – or Christ. So what does that mean? Well, it means that Christ is God. Do you believe that Christ is God? Many find this unbelievable and that is exactly why it is so astonishing.
He will be exalted, or high and lifted up just like God, or as God. But why is He being exalted? Why is he high and lifted up? The apostle Paul tells us why in Philippians.
“Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but 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. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so 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
I mentioned earlier that it was my only goal to express how awesome and astonishing is the person of Jesus Christ. Can you imagine what it may be like to see Christ exalted in heaven? Can you just think about what He might look like sitting on His throne? Imagine the Lamb upon his throne? Isaiah and the apostle John saw him there. John was actually taken to heaven and saw Christ in glory. He tells us, “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead.” (Rev. 1:17) I’d say that is astonishing! Scripture says that one day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. The world will be astonished just like John. We will all fall as though dead! Folks — it doesn’t get more astonishing than that!
Isaiah doesn’t simply say that he will be exalted, but that he will be very exalted, or highly exalted, or greatly exalted — depending upon your translation. It has been said that the term “very” reveals that Isaiah could not tell us just how high. It is incomprehensible to him, so he just says very high. Would you agree? I wonder – how high is your Christ? Are you astonished by His glory? I believe, with Spurgeon, that “He is not yet exalted and extolled in any of our hearts as he deserves to be.”
❖ Astonishing Message
Some will be astonished at the One who was marred beyond human recognition, others will find his great exaltation astonishing, but the world has proven that it will always be astonished at his message. Believers and unbelievers alike find it unbelievably astonishing. The message, of course is the gospel message. We learn in Isaiah 52:15 that a message, which has not been told will be seen, and a message, that has not been heard, will be understood. The apostle Paul quotes this very passage and tells us that the message is the gospel. (Romans 15:21) And the gospel is astonishing.
The message is unbelievably astonishing to both unbelievers and believers. It is foolishness to those who are not saved. (1 Corinthians 1:18) If you cannot see Jesus dying for sinners, if you cannot see Jesus exalted as God and worthy of all worship, then the gospel is foolishness to you. You might ask yourself, “How can Jesus be God, or how can the death of one man atone for my sin?” But if you are asking that question, it is because the gospel is astonishing. It doesn’t make sense that God would humble himself to suffer such a horrible death for sinners who do not appreciate his gift. It doesn’t make sense that God would become a man in order to pay a debt for the very men who would kill him. The gospel is astonishing to those who are perishing in their sin, yet to those who are being saved, it is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:18)
The message may be the power of God to save sinners, but saved sinners are still unbelievably astonished at its simple truth. The gospel is a very dangerous message. It is open to great abuses. Paul dedicates most of the book of Romans to deal with those abuses, but still he was willing to risk it. Paul did not attempt to weaken the free grace offer of the gospel. As early as its first proclamation, this astonishing message has been the center of tension. Jesus had to battle the Pharisees, Paul the Judaizers, Luther the papists, Spurgeon the fundamentalists. For centuries the astonishing simplicity of the gospel had to be fought for and defended because man simply cannot, will not, believe it is that easy. Please let me add — it is not cheap! It cost Christ more than we will ever know, but it is free!
Now, even as I am writing this, I know that there are some who will want to finish this paragraph. There will always be those who want to add something to this astonishing message. I can hear it now, “Yeah, but you must be good, you must stop sinning, you must go to church and study the Bible, you must cease from cussing and listening to rock-n-roll.” But that is because they are afraid of the gospel. They are afraid that if you tell people that all of their sins were forgiven 2000 years ago at Calvary, and that they are saved by grace and not by any work of their own (Ephesians 2:8), then people will naturally take advantage of that kind of gospel and use it as a license to sin. That is precisely why this is an astonishing message, and that is exactly why Paul had to deal with the risk. If there were no risk, then Paul would not have to answer questions like, “What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace?” (Romans 6:15)
Consider this — where in this servant song do you see that man must do anything? Jesus does it all. He is wounded for our transgression. He was bruised for our iniquities. In fact, the only thing Isaiah tells us concerning man is that we are like sheep who have gone astray and have turned to our own way; but the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6) Jesus does it all.
Isaiah also tells us that he will sprinkle many nations. Not only does he suffer for our iniquities, but he atones them through the sprinkling of his own blood. The term sprinkle recalls the Day of Atonement. On that glorious day, when God in mercy allowed the sins of humans to be covered by the blood of goats, the high priest would sprinkle, with a hyssop branch, the blood of that goat upon the mercy seat of God. It is the blood that atones, or covers sin. What does man do? He waited outside the outer walls of the tabernacle to see if God would accept the blood.
There is yet a similar picture found in the story of the Passover lamb. The Hebrew slaves were told to “take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and touch the doorposts with the blood that is in the basin. Scripture says that when he sees the blood on the doorposts, the LORD will pass over and will not allow the destroyer to enter your house to strike you.” Exodus 12:22. It was the blood of the lamb that saved them and Jesus, very purposefully, calls himself the Passover lamb.
Jesus is our passover lamb whose blood protects us. I just love how Spurgeon says it, “God does not say, ‘When I see your estimate of the blood of Christ, I will pass over you; no, but when I see the blood.’ It is not your estimate of that blood, it is the blood that saves you. As I said before, that magnificent, solitary blood, must be alone!”
God does not say, “When I see that your faith is real, and that you truly believe with all your heart.” No, he simply says, “When I see the blood.” And again, what did man do? He went into the house, and waited to see if God would accept the blood.
This is an astonishing gospel. If you have never heard it, I invite you to see it and be astonished. Isaiah says, that which has not been told them they see, and that which they have not heard they understand. We are invited to see the gospel. See how much God loves us!