A condensed and revised version of a Good Friday Sermon by Georg Stöckhardt
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 crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. 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 (Isaiah 53:4-6 ESV).
When Saint Paul says in First Corinthians chapter 15: Christ died for our sins according to Scripture, he means Jesus died for sins. Paul does not wish to say that Christ should be our example in our lives. No. Christ died for sins, full stop. He has redeemed us from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil with His innocent, bitter suffering and death. We preach Christ crucified, we preach the redemption that happened through Christ Jesus.
When we recognize that Christ is our Guarantor, our Substitute, then this godly mystery about our salvation is accessible to us by faith. We can only rejoice and receive true comfort about Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer. Christ died for us. Christ rendered perfect obedience to His Father in our stead. We are sinners. But because Christ died the death of a sinner in our place we are free. When we read Scripture, we find witnesses everywhere that Jesus took our place in suffering and death. That is what Isaiah chapter 53 is all about as well. Christ died for our sins.
Jesus took the place of us sinners. Isaiah says: Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. He stands in our place, for all we like sheep have gone astray. Christ is the Substitute for men. Martin Luther called this the “blessed exchange”. Jesus became what He was not, a sinner, in order that we might become what we are not, sinless.
Christ came in the likeness of men and has fulfilled the destiny of mankind on earth. He died in a human way; He gave us the Spirit. He had foreseen His death even in His incarnation. But what good is Christ’s life for us if not for His death? The Gospel testifies that Christ suffered and died as our Guarantor, in our place. Even the high priest Caiaphas, who wanted rid of Jesus, confesses in John’s Gospel: It is better for us that one man should die for the people than that the whole nation should perish.
Jesus paid our penalty. Upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace. Jesus has borne the chastisement. He suffered and atoned for our sins. We are free from eternal punishment, for God cannot pay the penalty twice. One died for all; in the One all have died.
Consider the griefs and sorrows Jesus bears. Sin has not brought happiness to men, as the serpent pretended to Adam and Eve, but misery and heartache. Men have tied this burden behind their back with their sins. An innocent Man is found on the earth, and now He must suffer this misery and heartache as well. Jesus Christ in the days of His flesh went hungry, thirsty, grieved, cried, and sighed. He felt deeply the distresses of life. He lamented: Foxes have holes, birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere that He can lay His head. As He healed the sick and demon possessed, Saint Matthew quotes Isaiah in saying, He has taken upon Himself our infirmities and He has borne our diseases.
Whoever looks at the agony of Christ with natural eyes must think, “He was still a sinner. God found His sins, unmasked Him as a phony, tied Him to the whipping post and put Him on display.” Even those who witnessed His death thought He was the One Who would be stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. He was the One Who was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace.
This is outrageous among men. Maybe someone is willing to redeem His friends from any repentance of guilt. But no courtroom accepts this if a criminal has forfeited his life. No courtroom kills the innocent and lets free the guilty party who deserves to die. Nevertheless, the chastisement is on Him, so we have peace. By His wounds we are healed. We were sick to death, but by the fatal wound that has struck Jesus, our Guarantor, we are healed, we are cured. Sickness, pain, and death are still there, but that is no longer chastisement for Christians. His cross was a wood of curse, but your cross and suffering is no punishment, but a blessed cross. Death was chastisement for Christ, but for you death is no chastisement, rather redemption from all evil.
Jesus has atoned for our guilt. The Lord cast all our sin on Him. Christ died for our sin in order that He would take away our sins. When we sin, the deed is usually quickly done. But the matter is not over. We could not so quickly forget what we did contrary to the commandment and will of God. We perhaps must confess with King David: My sin is always before me. The Law of God speaks: “You are the man, you have sinned, you are the guilty party.” We must admit this judgment of the Law is right. The pain and fear of an evil conscience is the greatest torment and pain on earth.
The Lord cast all our sin on Him. Isaiah says later in chapter 53: He shall bear their sins. He bore the sins of many. John the Baptist confesses: Behold the Lamb of God who bears the sins of the world. God has made Him to be sin Who knew no sin. Jesus has taken our sin and transgressions on His soul and on His conscience. Jesus cries out on the cross: My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me? There He feels the judgment of His Father poured out on Him instead of us. When Psalm 40 says: My sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see; they are more than the hairs of my head it is Jesus, as it were, saying these words in our place. The same thing can be said when God speaks to King David about the Son of David: When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men. Jesus Christ, as it were, sins in our place. We have sinned. But Christ takes the guilt, the responsibility for sin, on Himself.
Now we know how we can stand before God’s judgment. If our sins would offend us, if God again enters into judgment with us and says to us: What have you done? Give an account of your stewardship!, we must surely confess: “I have sinned and disobeyed.” But this is not our last word. We talk further with God and say: “My Father, look on Christ, Who has done enough for me. This is my Guarantor and Advocate. Demand from Him what you have to seek from me. He may fight out the matter. Yes, I know nothing more about my sins. My sins are His sins. He is the sinner and transgressor. He has sinned. I was not at fault. I am pure and righteous before God through Christ’s blood. Chastisement, sin, guilt, everything lies on Him.”
Take this comfort to heart so that you can stand before God in time and eternity. We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ!