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  • Writer's pictureRev. Gerald (Jerry) Reiter, Emeritus

In Captivity, The Lamb

Fifth Wednesday in Lent


Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.


Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.


He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away. Yet who of his generation protested? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was punished. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.

Isaiah 53:1-9


When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. And while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.”


They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely you don’t mean me, Lord?”


Jesus replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”


Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, “Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?”


Jesus answered, “You have said so.”


While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”


Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the[a] covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”


When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

Matthew 26:20-30


The life of Moses, and the 40 years of wandering about in the wilderness came to an end together. The Bible tells us that Moses climbed to the top of Mount Nebo, God showed him all of the promised Land, and Moses died there. All Israel wept for him for 30 days. Leadership fell to Joshua, and the people followed him willingly.


The time for the conquest of the Promised Land had come. Joshua proved to be an able leader. Under his leadership assault began on the tribes that held the territory. Jericho fell, at the sound of trumpets. Then tribe after tribe was conquered. When Joshua’s days ended, a loose federation of the 12 Tribes of Israel dominated the land. The period of rule by Judges came next. The Judges provided leadership, rising to meet the need of a tribe against an invading enemy, then returning to their regular occupation.


At the insistence of the people, Samuel anointed Saul as their first king. Saul had a genius for organization. Under his leadership the tribal federation was welded into a kingdom.


David, the shepherd boy, succeeded Saul. David brought power and prestige to the new nation. He was a great commander in chief of the army, and a most noble leader in peace. In spite of his sinful lapses, he was committed to the God of Israel. At his death he left a strong, influential, rich kingdom to his son, Solomon.


Solomon, the man of wisdom, brought culture to the nation. He built the temple on Mount Moriah, and the stables at Megiddo to defend the nation. But he left behind him a divided kingdom. The kings of the northern part of the division left the worship of God, despite the efforts of the prophets – Elijah, Amos, Hosea – to call the kings and the people back to the true God. In 721 B.C. the Assyrians attacked the northern kingdom and carried its people into slavery and oblivion.


In the southern kingdom, the rulers were both evil and good. God called them to faithfulness through prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. But in the end, in 597 B.C., the Babylonians led by King Nebuchadnezzar, marched in and destroyed the temple, took all the religious articles, and took great numbers of the people into exile in Babylonia. It was the judgement of God.


Then, in the midst of their growing homesickness, the voice of the prophet Isaiah sounded in the land. “Comfort, comfort my people says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.” (Isaiah 40:1-2)


God had not forgotten them! Soon, soon, they would be returning home!


In the book of the prophet Isaiah we find what’s called the Song of the Servant of God. It reaches its climax in the 53rd chapter of Isaiah, with its detailed description of the Suffering Servant of God.


There’s no doubt that the song is speaking of the Messiah, for in detail after detail, Isaiah describes the Passion of Jesus! And in the very center, the Lamb appears! The words are familiar: “He was led like a lamb to the slaughter.” (53:7) Of all the “lamb” pictures of the Old Testament, this one is the blossoming of the type into reality. The lamb, in the Song of the Suffering Servant, has taken on a new meaning, new purpose, and above all, an identity. It has unmistakenly become a person!


The prophet thinks of the human family as a great flock of sheep. He notes that, “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way.” (53:6) We – all mankind – are like sheep without a shepherd, scattered willfully about the wilderness.


The judgement of God was upon the sheep. Gone astray, disobedient, they were marked for slaughter. God’s justice and God’s judgement are absolute and inevitable. There is no escape.


But wait, the Lord singles out one lamb from the flock. One without blemish or spot. On that one the Lord lays the iniquity of all the sheep. He, of all the sheep, is singled out for slaughter for all the sheep. “He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.” (53:7)


How amazingly the prophet points to Jesus: He was “stricken by God, smitten by Him, and afflicted.” “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities." "Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows – and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all!”


It was for “us all” – for “all we like sheep, have gone astray.” The Song of the Suffering Servant is the Song of the Passion of Jesus.


There are lessons to be learned from Isaiah’s prophetic song. Our Savior is indeed the supreme example of love. In love He identified Himself with sinners, a sheep among the sheep. “He took upon Himself the form of a servant and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself – even unto death.” Love does that kind of thing. It identifies with people who need love.


In our commitment to Jesus, can we do less than to commit ourselves to each other – and to the unlovely and unloved of our community? Can anyone be helped in his predicament if we are silent and aloof?


Jesus put Himself between us and the judgement of the Father. When we can – as we can – if we can, we ought to come to the aid of those whose immortal soul is in danger. We can’t all be great evangelists, but we can do our best to love our neighbors as ourselves. And we can tell them about the Lamb of God who paid for their sins. The Lord will help us!


Amen

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