By Verse : Isaiah 53:4-6 Lent 2 Topic :

Isaiah 53:4-6 Lent 2

Feb 25, 2018

Have you ever run out of an ingredient while you were cooking, and you didn’t have a moment to run off to the store? What do you do? You look around for a substitute ingredient. Substitutes are fill ins, they take the place of another ingredient. It’s like me using Splenda instead of sugar. Or those who use Miracle Whip instead of Mayonnaise. Or some who use instant puddings instead of cooked pudding. Or using some other spice that you may have on your shelf used in place of what is called for in your recipe. In the office the other day I asked a few of the women about that, and one suggested that in the old days they substituted a little corn starch for flour.
It isn’t just for food. We see them used in sports. If someone is tired, they bring in a substitute. If a player gets hurt, they bring in a substitute.
We even have substitute teachers that fill in when a teacher is sick or goes on maternity leave. Even the pulpit is served by a substitute when the pastor goes on vacation, or they become ill. We have a great niece that is a stand-in as a stunt person for TV shows. She stand-ins for the actresses so they won’t get injured.
Thinking about this morning’s song the choir sang, which comes from our Scripture today, Isaiah 53:4-5, I thought this is what Jesus did for us. On the cross he stood in for us. On that old rugged cross, he took the punishment that was meant for us. He became our substitute. Isaiah gives a description of what the Messiah, the suffering servant was going to have to face. Let me read it for you in order for you to understand fully what Jesus was going to endure. “Surely, he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. BUT he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.”
God’s redeeming word for his people this morning.
This country and the word mourn the loss of a great evangelist when Rev. Billy Graham passed away. I can only imagine the reception that he received when he entered those pearly gates. Hundreds, even thousands upon thousands might have been there to greet him. Those are the ones he touched through his preaching about Christ. Those are the ones whose lives were transformed and now abide in heaven. He may not have known every name, but they knew his and could tell him exactly where and when it happened. Maybe a crusade in a city. Maybe while watching on TV they knelt before the screen, or just sat in their chairs with heads down and invited Jesus into their hearts. These are the ones that perhaps told God that through Billy Graham’s preaching, God’s grace flowed, and their lives were turned around.
Today we would call that the work of the Holy Spirit. Crusades were held in city after city, in state after state, even countries around the world where Billy Graham and his team spread the Good News of salvation to the people. Many looking for hope, perhaps found answers to some of the things they were dealing with. Night after night an invitation to receive Christ was always given, and he stood at the pulpit and waited while folks came forward to commit their lives to Christ. He stayed to the very last person, in the very last row high up at a football stadium made their way to the front to talk to someone about their lives.
Thinking back on some of that I watched it was powerful. But let me tell you when I was in Buffalo/Dawson and one was coming here to Springfield I was excited. Though Billy didn’t come some from his team substituted for him, I was honored to be part of that crusade. I was there helping some receive Christ, helping them understand what they just did and trying to connect them with a church if they didn’t have one. It was exciting to see the hand of God working in the crowds as people of all ages, backgrounds and races came forward to receive hope in their lives because they finally realized God loved them and that his son died for them.
Billy Graham’s message night after night could have been, “Surely he took our infirmities and carried our sorrows… He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities… by his wounds we are healed.”
That message is life changing. It still effects those who listen with their hearts to a message of love and hope. For one hour, he had a captive audience in a stadium and on TV. Great music with songs being sung to prepare the folks for what was to come. Great singing heard as George Beverly Shea sang touching hymns about the cross of Jesus. People gave a testimony about how Christ worked in their lives, some even though they still struggled. People like Joni Eareckson Tada, whose faith in Christ, though still paralyzed by a swimming accident, who had struggled with the why, one day she didn’t question God, but turned her life and healing over to God. It moved people.
Billy Graham was the voice of God to the people. He substituted, not Jesus’ pain, not his suffering, not his work on the cross, but his loving Spirit. He used words that could melt the sinners heart, just like Jesus did with the woman at the well and when he melted the heart of the great Apostle Paul while he was on the road to Damascus to arrest and persecute Christians.
“By his stripes we are healed” is the message of the cross. For you who know Christ well, it is a reminder of what he did for you and you can shout amen if you would like, for that means you are thanking God for what he has done in your life. For you who may not have a deep relationship with Jesus, God invites you to think about your faith. You see, there is hope for those who think they are lost or think God has written them off. That hope comes through his word to us this morning.
John writes that we all sin. But here is the answer to that. John writes that if we confess those sins no matter what they are, or how often they have been committed, the grace of God will flow, and the blood of our Lord Jesus will wash away those sins. King David received forgiveness for his transgressions, and boy did they snowball after his encounter with Bathsheba. But he found forgiveness. The fellow that was let down by his friends into a house heard Jesus say because of the faith of his friends who brought him here, his sins were forgiven, and on top of that, Jesus said, “Son, pick up your mat and head home.” INSTANTLY that cripple who had had to be carried on a stretcher by his four friends, got up, looked at Jesus, looked at the religious leaders, looked at those in and out of the house and went skipping, jumping heading home singing songs of praise thanking God for a complete healing inside and out.
This is the message of Lent. This is the message of why God sent us his son. Because of God’s great love for all people, he did what had to be done. He tried to do it with kings and priests, but they failed. He tried to do it with Noah following the flood, but that failed. It wasn’t because God’s creations were bad. It was because the heart of mankind was bad. They made wrong choices. Still do. Mankind needed and still needs a spiritual heart transplant.
But that was not the end. God didn’t give up. What he did was send his son to be our substitute on the cross. Isaiah had it right. He took the blows so that we wouldn’t have to. He went to the cross and said to Satan “give me all you got, for I’m standing in place of each sinner of yesterday, today and tomorrow. By my stripes the world is healed. And all who repent, who turn from their sinful nature I forgive.
That’s what Pepper Choplin wants to convey to us through his cantata COME TO THE CROSS AND REMEMBER. That’s what Rev Billy Graham would want the world to remember through his life and ministry. He doesn’t want to be remembered for all his brilliance and his many crusades. He would want to be remembered for each life that was saved through his message. He would want to be remembered by each soul that found peace within. His glory came when he was welcomed home to heaven with George Beverly Shea singing “Just as I am without one plea, but that thy blood was shed for me, and that thou bidst me come to thee, O Lamb of God I come.” Billy Graham was coming home just as he was, a sinner saved by the grace of God, as he took the hand of Jesus and humbly entered the pearly gates to rip roaring, thunderous applause from all whose lives he had touched.
In heaven it isn’t what you have accomplished on earth that will matter, or how much money you donated to a church or university that will get you through those pearly gates. No! It is when you reach those pearly gates who ever is standing there is going to ask your name and they will check the Book of Life to see if it is there, to see if you responded to the message of the cross.
That’s the message Christ came to bring to the whole world. That’s the message I humbly try to convey week after week from this pulpit, and hopefully by the life that I live. I’m not perfect, but I can say this, it is only by the grace of God that I, a sinner, saved by the grace of God, stand before you with God’s messages of hope and eternal salvation.
The message is as clear as a bottle of water. God loves and cares for you. He loves you enough that he sent his son to be a substitute that all who turn to Christ will not have to suffer for their sinfulness, for he took our sins to the cross, every last one of them and by his stripes we are healed.
There was a man who had been condemned to die and was waiting in his cell for that to happen. He was a murderer, robber, and had been found guilty of many wrong doings. He waited that day for the guards to come and he began to reflect on his life. He thought it was to late for him. He was lost. He heard sounds coming from outside his cell. It was the guards coming for him. They took him upstairs to where a crowd was standing and very emotional about something he didn’t understand. Pilate sat in his seat and another man stood there with blood coming from his wounds. He had a purple robe on, and a crown, but not a regular crown, but a crown of thorns. Pilate said to the crowd, “Who do you want me to release, Jesus who did nothing wrong, or this crook, this thief, this murderer, Barabbas?” “Release Barabbas” they chanted. “What should I do with Jesus” Pilate asked. “Crucify him” they yelled back. Pilate looked at Barabbas and said, “You are free to go. This man will take your place today on the cross.” Barabbas jumped at the chance of freedom and when he realized that this innocent man was taking his place, it might have changed his life forever.
We are Barabbas’. And Christ is our substitute. An innocent man took the punishment that was meant for us.
Each Lent we are reminded of that one fact. Our salvation cost God his son. Our salvation was purchased from the depth of hell by God’s son. He did it because he loves us. He did it because we are worth it. He did it despite the things we did and still do. We are in the process of our salvation. It starts at the cross and the journey begins.
When Billy Graham concluded his crusades the invitation hymn that was played each time is a familiar one to many of us.
“Just as I am, without one plea, but that thy blood was shed for me, and that thou bidst me come to thee, O Lamb of God, I come. I come.”
That invitation hymn that was written back in 1835 is as relevant today, as it was then. It’s been sung in Baptist, Christian, Presbyterian, non-denominational and Methodist churches as well as outdoors in city after city. We are invited to come just as we are, sinful, but hopeful to find that peace within that only our God can give us through his son.
Who is God speaking to this morning? Is it you, you, you, me? Come, just as you are because our Lord and Savior is the substitute for your sins. He has payed the price for your salvation.
Who will be bold enough to come this morning? Who has the courage to admit you need Jesus in your life? Who is willing to make that life changing decision for Christ this morning? Who will humbly stand up for walk down these aisles to receive Christ or renew your faith? Who is willing to cry out, “O lamb of God, I come!”

Mason, Chris, Kendra Schmulbach with Reverend Piscatelli

Mason Schmulbach being baptised

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