Take a moment to consider what you are thankful for tonight. Is it family? Friends? Food to eat, clothes to wear? A warm place to stay?
You probably didn't say, "The gruesome execution of an innocent man." In fact, though, that is precisely what we are here to remember, to celebrate, and to give thanks for.
Tonight, we remember our abject failure, both individually and collectively, to do things God's way. We remember our willful treachery toward a loving Father. (And let us not deceive ourselves: ours was a betrayal every bit as vile – and every bit as permanent – as Judas Iscariot's.) We remember the dark, despairing night of our sojourn among the hopeless dead.
We remember, too, a blameless man who loved, healed, and forgave as freely as He breathed. He was the obedient son, a perfect foil for Adam’s rebellious race. He gave of himself with an intensity greater even than our self-seeking greed. Everything he did was perfect, since he followed in his heavenly father’s perfect steps.
And this faultless one, this perfect son, was the man who stood in our rightful place under the wrath of a just judge. He bore our iniquities and the punishment for our sins without a word of complaint. He drank the cup of God’s wrath down to the last bitter dregs.
Isaiah wrote this about the suffering servant:
1 Who has believed our message?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
2 For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot,
And like a root out of parched ground;
He has no stately form or majesty
That we should look upon Him,
Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.
3 He was despised and forsaken of men,
A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
And like one from whom men hide their face
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
4 Surely our griefs He Himself bore,
And our sorrows He carried;
Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten of God, and afflicted.
5 But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
And by His scourging we are healed.
6 All of us like sheep have gone astray,
Each of us has turned to his own way;
But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all
To fall on Him.
7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He did not open His mouth;
Like a lamb that is led to slaughter,
And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers,
So He did not open His mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment He was taken away;
And as for His generation, who considered
That He was cut off out of the land of the [k]living
For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due?
9 His grave was assigned with wicked men,
Yet He was with a rich man in His death,
Because He had done no violence,
Nor was there any deceit in His mouth.
10 But the Lord was pleased
To crush Him, putting Him to grief;
If He would render Himself as a guilt offering,
He will see His offspring,
He will prolong His days,
And the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand.
11 As a result of the [p]anguish of His soul,
He will see it and be satisfied;
By His knowledge the Righteous One,
My Servant, will justify the many,
As He will bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great,
And He will divide the booty with the strong;
Because He poured out Himself to death,
And was numbered with the transgressors;
Yet He Himself bore the sin of many,
And interceded for the transgressors.
So, tonight, we remember this prince who died the ignoble death of a slave on our behalf. We remember the one who willingly braved a dark, deadly path to redeem the lost souls of his straying people. And we are thankful, more than words could express, that he was willing to be utterly broken so we might be made whole again. Only God’s matchless mercy could have achieved this. Let’s thank Him for the provision of such a marvelous savior.