After he has suffered,
he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
and he will bear their iniquities.
The Servant of God in Isaiah 53 suffers for the sake of others. Because he is righteous, and because he bears the sins of others, he makes it possible for them to be counted righteous as well.
For centuries, theologians have grappled with the implications of this verse, trying to express in limited human words how Christ, the righteous one, makes others righteous. The grappling continues even to this day. But however we work out the nuances, the basic truth of Isaiah 53:11 is clear. Here is what cannot be denied: We can never earn our own righteousness through our good deeds. We can never make ourselves right enough to have a right relationship with God. Without God’s help we are lost and without hope. But the good news is that we don’t have to do what we cannot do because our righteousness comes through Christ. In him we are forgiven for our sins and brought into intimacy with God. We are pronounced “not guilty” in the supreme court of God’s justice.
The mystery of our righteousness with God through Christ is marvelously expressed in 2 Corinthians 5:21: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” However we configure the details, the truth is clear, and in this we rejoice. You and I can be right with God because of what Christ has done for us as the Suffering Servant. In him, and in him alone, we are counted as righteous.
What fantastic news this is! It is news to be shared with others who desperately need it. We who have been made right with God are his ambassadors. It is also news to be lived. In our personal lives and in our shared life as the people of God, we demonstrate the good news through our words and deeds. We do this in every part of life, whether we’re coaching a soccer team, managing our staff, building a cabinet, feeding the homeless, caring for our aging parents, or preaching a sermon. We are to be a living billboard of the gospel.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
How have you experienced a right relationship with God?
Do you ever feel tempted to try and earn your own righteousness through good works and/or good intentions?
How might the right-making work of Christ set you free in new ways?
How does the truth of the gospel show forth in the way you live?
How might you embody the good news in your work today?
Lord Jesus, Servant of God, we praise you today for your perfect righteousness. You lived among us as a human being yet never chose to sin, even when you were sorely tempted.
We praise you today, not only for your perfect righteousness, but also for the fact that you have opened the way for us to be counted righteous as well. By your sacrifice, you have opened the door for us to have a right, intimate relationship with the Living God. You have taken our sin and given us your righteousness in return. What a wonder!
Help us, Lord, to speak truly of this good news. Help us to live it so that others might be drawn to you, the one who makes us right.
All praise be to you, Lord Jesus, Servant of God, because you are right and right-making, just and justifying! Hallelujah! Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentary: Reconciling the Whole World (2 Corinthians 5:16–21)
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