Chapter 53 of Isaiah begins with some bad news. Isaiah basically says that no one will understand Jesus. No one will believe He’s the Messiah. And he explains in verse 2 why:
Jesus didn’t come in an appealing package.
Why did people reject Christ 2000 years ago? Why do they reject Him today? Jesus was the arm of the Lord but no one recognized that because He declined the opportunity to be outwardly appealing to our fleshly appetites.
For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. (Isaiah 53:2-3)
My puppy is kind of weird-looking. He has a big head but short legs. He used to be cute, but now, he is sort of disturbing looking. Because of his weird proportions he has to try a little harder to get attention, but boy is he a pro. Seriously. He knows all the tricks in the book. He has a whole routine he does when we go outside to get people eating out of the palm of his hand.
If my puppy knows how to do it, surely the God of the universe could have found a way to win people over. Surely He could have spoken over the very crowd that gathered to crucify Him and convinced them to love Him. All it would have taken was a couple of persuasive words, maybe some encouragement or some appeal to our worthiness.
But Jesus was rejected by men precisely because He didn’t come with any attempts to lure people in. Piper says in this way:
[Jesus’] whole demeanor, his style, his view of life and money and possessions and lust and prayer and worship and pride and humility and fear and faith—none of it endorsed our own rebellion. We didn’t feel endorsed around Jesus…
And so to protect ourselves we despised him.
We protect ourselves by despising Him.
I understand what Isaiah is describing here because I’ve seen it in my own life. I understand a heart that rejects Jesus because He doesn’t come with praise and worship for us.
I’ve been in sin. I’ve been in pits so deep and so dark that I was willing to turn to anyone who would offer me hope. Anyone except Jesus, because Jesus didn’t respond to my sin in a way that appealed to me.
Despite what people will tell you, Jesus doesn’t always respond to our failure with gentle hugs. Sometimes He talks like the King that He is. And despite what people will tell you, Jesus never meets us in our sin and condones our behavior. His love never affirms and assures children of God when we walk actively in disobedience. His love is too great for that kind of deceit.
Aside from Jesus, most people will respond to your sin by telling you that you’re really not that bad. They will reinforce the lie that you’re a good person. They will pat you on the back and say ‘well, at least you’re trying‘. Not Jesus.
In the darkness and in the pit, in failure and despair there is nothing that will draw you to Jesus except the greatness of Jesus. He holds out no promise of endorsement of us. He holds out no promise to make much of us. He holds out Himself.
So, here are my two exhortations:
1. If you are drawn to Jesus in this moment, praise God for His great mercy and grace. It’s not that you were exempt from Isaiah’s statement that no one recognizes Jesus as Lord; it’s just that there’s another reality that trumps our rebellion. Isaiah 52 tells us that Christ will be revealed. God will overcome our rebellion and drawn us to Himself. So today, be humbled, not puffed up, that you recognize Christ as valuable.
2. If you are running from Jesus, slow your weary legs. There are those of you reading this who are in the pit today. Maybe it’s dark and you can’t bring yourself to turn to Jesus because you know that He won’t let you keep one hand on your sin and one hand on Him. Maybe you are scared of the cost of obedience.
I know you. I know where you are. I know satan’s techniques. I know he will seek to twist the truth and keep you in darkness by whispering to you the lie that if you belong to God it doesn’t matter what you do. I know he will tell you that Jesus has no ability to understand. I know he will tell you that Jesus wants to take from you and not give.
There is nothing about Jesus that will seem appealing to you today. He kind of promised that’s how it would be.
Unlike Satan, Christ will not clothe himself in robes that appeal to your fleshly desires.
But seek the grace of God. Seek the mercy of the King. Beg Him to give you eyes that see our God is not trying to take from you today, but give to you. Ask for eyes to see the hand of the Lord in the face of Christ.
Don’t lose heart if you feel like you are just breaths away from throwing this all away. Cling with feeble fingers to the ledge of His great grace. Trust what God says about Christ, not what you perceive. God says the flesh is a demanding and abusive master, but Jesus’ yoke is easy and His burden is light. God says sin will fail you, and Jesus will prove faithful. God says Satan will steal from you, but Jesus will provide.
Remember what we looked at yesterday. Remember the ending is written.
On one thing, Rob Bell and I do agree: love wins. God wins. Christ reigns in victory. Our rebellion is greater than we grasp. We reject our Savior because He makes much of Himself and not us. But our rebellion will crumble in the face of His power and sovereign will and His mercy will endure.