The Cross. It struck fear in the hearts of the world. It was Rome’s ruthless means of control. Excruciating torture. Prolonged agony. Humiliating death. According to Roman custom, the penalty of crucifixion was always preceded by scourging. After this initial punishment, you carried your cross, or at least the transverse beam of it, to the place of execution. Besides the physical pain there was also the psychological torture. Because crucifixion was a public form of execution. The crosses were located by the roadside or at a crossroads. There was no hiding.
You were exposed to the jibes and insults of the people who passed by. Stripped naked, you were bound to the cross with cords and fastened with nails like these here. Roman nails, 2000 years old. Finally, a placard called the titulus bearing your name and your crime, was placed above your head. You would not die of hunger or thirst, but might hang on the cross for days. To breathe, you must stretch upward and stand to take the weight on your legs and off your arms and chest. So if your legs were broken, death would come mercifully swift from asphyxiation.
Good news is infectious isn’t it? You can’t stop talking about it. It just comes out. You don’t have to think about it. You don’t need training in how to communicate good news. The more immediate, personal and life changing, the more likely we are to want to share it. Its the same with Jesus. That is why on this, Good Friday, I would like us to spend a few moments contemplating Psalm 22, contemplate the cross of Christ. If people know one passage of the Bible, it is most likely Psalm 23. And yet I believe Psalm 22 is the most precious of all the Psalms, for it reveals the passion of God which made possible the promises of God contained in Psalm 23. No one can read Psalm 22 without being vividly confronted with the Crucifixion.
The Book of Isaiah, written around 700 years before the coming of Jesus Christ, is quoted more times in the New Testament than any other book of the Hebrew Scriptures. Why is that? 754 of Isaiah’s 1292 verses are predicting the future. That means 59% of Isaiah is prophecy. Isaiah contains 11 direct prophecies concerning Jesus and it is cited or alluded to in at least 50 NT passages. Why? Lets find out. Isaiah 53 is so explicit in predicting what happened to the Lord Jesus it doesn’t need much by way of explanation. Indeed it became so obvious that Isaiah was referring to Jesus after he was crucified and rose again from the dead, that, as the Church separated from the Synagogue, Isaiah 53 was no longer read as part of the Jewish lectionary. There are five paragraphs, each of three verses, and it begins in chapter 52:13.
The Predicted Saviour: The Servant’s Role (52:13-15)
The Rejected Saviour: The Servant’s Life (53:1-3)
The Representative Saviour: The Servant’s Suffering (53:4-6)
The Crucified Saviour: The Servant’s Death (53:7-9)
The Glorious Saviour: The Servant’s Resurrection (53:10-12)
The Predicted Saviour: The Servant’s Role
“See, my servant will act wisely; he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted. Just as there were many who were appalled at him his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness—so will he sprinkle many nations, and kings will shut their mouths because of him. For what they were not told, they will see, and what they have not heard, they will understand.” (Isaiah 52:13-15)