Thus the church is in herself, guilty, vile, depraved--as guilty as the world, or the mere professor--man must be laid low in the dust, under a sense of guilt and sin. Nothing really humbles any man but God's grace bringing home to the heart the charge of personal wickedness and sin. Paul felt, Paul knew this--"For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth not good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not." (Rom. 7:18) Mark his words--"that is, in my flesh," he speaks not of the new creation! but of his flesh, in that was "not good thing"--and Paul knew what John knew when he wrote those memorable words in 1 John 3:9)--"Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God." That is the secret of all experimental truth. We heard read just now in the desk, 1 Tim. 1:15--"Sinners, of whom I am chief." Paul by nature and by practice was a guilty, a transgressing man! Hear his own confession of his own guilt--"A blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus." (1 Tim. 1:13,14) Paul was guilty, Paul was a transgressor--and so am I, and so are you--but for "the transgression of My people was He stricken." In Acts we read that Ananias could not understand his case! "Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to Thy saints at Jerusalem: and here he hath authority from the Chief Priests to bind all that call on Thy name. But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way, for he is a chosen vessel unto Me, to bear My name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: For I will show him how great things he must suffer for My name's sake." (Acts 9:13-16) And yet, honored as he was, elected not only as a chosen sinner to everlasting salvation in Christ, but chosen also as a minister "to bear Christ's name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel"--yet see how he suffered, how he realized that which he addressed to the church in Romans 7:24,25--"O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin."
There is a reality in those words which test the discipleship of every man who experiences that conflict and warfare, and at times, that deliverance in Christ which they so blessedly declare. Satan may, (if I may so speak) dress up a hypocrite, and counterfeit many things--but the enemy cannot make a sinner humble, cannot counterfeit the warfare between the flesh and the spirit. The Pharisee in the temple may profess and deceive--"Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a Publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this Publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the Publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, "God be merciful to me a sinner." (Luke 18:10-13) It was the poor and humble, sin-burdened Publican who really prayed to God. Nothing really humbles a sinner but a sense of his own sinfulness. O! my brother, what wretched deceitfulness is in your heart and mind! What a prey should we become to the many and varied temptations continually besetting our pathway, enemies ever watching to take advantage of us--but the Heavenly Watcher guards and keeps His own! "Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me." (Isa. 49:15,16) "Thy walls are continually before Me." "Salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks." (Isa. 26:1)
But to come to the point that the text supplies--"For the transgression of My people was He stricken." It was for this that our glorious and gracious Christ came down from heaven! For the transgression, for the sins of the church He was stricken! The text declares this in all the reality of truth--"For the transgression of My people was He stricken." Can there be anything so comforting, so humbling to the cast down, exercised sinner as this? It was for sin! for transgression, that Christ died, the sin of the church, the transgression of His people! O! what words! "For the transgression of My was He stricken." The picture cannot be drawn too dark, we cannot paint it too black, in portraying the state of man by nature and by practice--sin! depravity! transgression! and for this Christ was stricken!
Why was He stricken? Mark my text--"For the transgression of My people." And here is the tremendous fact--mark the display of Jehovah's justice--sin was to be pardoned, but justice, Jehovah's justice must be satisfied--"That He might be just and the Justifier of him which believeth in Jesus." (Rom. 3:26) O! as Christ was suffering, stricken, dying, how God's justice was displayed! In the sweet and touching words of Kelly's Hymn--
"Many hands were raised to wound Him,
None would interpose to save;
But the awful stroke that found Him,
Was the stroke that Justice gave."
O! what a stroke was that! O! how it agonized the suffering of the dying Jesus! And O! my hearers, that bitter cry of distress and anguish, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" What a rich display of mercy and of justice is here set forth. How blessedly the Psalmist's words are on Mount Calvary's top declared in actual fulfillment--"Mercy and truth are met together, righteousness and peace have kissed." (Ps. 85:10) Mercy, love, pardon to the sinner; but justice righteous judgment, stern and true, inflicted on the sinner's Surety, on the Church's Redeemer. Will a man die for his enemy? "But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." (Rom. 5:8) Does the fact touch your hearts as I am preaching here the love and the sorrows of Christ? Does the gospel which proclaims it warm and penetrate your souls? "For the transgression of My people was He stricken."
A word or two more on this great subject of the "Stricken" One! Remember! Mark Him when He stood arraigned before Pilate--hear the judge--"Knowest Thou not that I have power to crucify Thee, and have power to release Thee?" And then that amazing answer--"Thou couldest have no power against Me, except it were given thee from above." O! that meekness, that gentleness of Christ! He that had all power! Jehovah the Son! Mark the submission to His Father's will. Mark His determined purpose to suffer and to save. O! had He shown His power! "Judah is a lion's whelp: from the prey, my son, thou art gone up: he stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as an old lion; who shall rouse him up? The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be." (Gen. 49:9,10) O! had He roused up Himself! had He not "stooped down" and couched, the purposes of love and the errand of mercy on which He came would have failed. But see Acts 2:23--"Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain." He "was the Lion of the tribe of Judah!" And in His hour of suffering and of sorrow He did stoop down, He couched, He submitted to insult, derision, and agony, and scorn! And as He bore the stroke for the transgression of His people, the Lion of Judah's tribe was content to be "led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He openeth not His mouth." "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world." (John 1:29) Again! "He was stricken." O! that agony and bloody sweat, that cross, that passion! The scourging, the stripping, the crown of thorns! the spitting on Him! and then, from that suffering scene and scorn and insult, led forth to death, even the death of the cross. "Enduring the cross, despising the shame"--and all this for His people. "For the transgression of My people was He stricken!" O! what a scene of suffering and of love! It is written--"Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God." (Heb. 12:2) Mark His session there! How changed is now the scene! That brow once pierced and crowned with thorns is coroneted now with glory, and though He remembers still the anguish, and the sufferings, and the cross, yet the triumphant Conqueror over death, and sin, and hell, He clams for His people the purchased of His blood, and heaven records the fact, that "For the transgression of My people was He stricken."
And how many men, how many women, now assembled here, can hope, and hope on Scriptural ground, that he was stricken thus for you? I speak in love!--"Wherefore seeing we are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race set before us." (Heb. 12:1) Let us examine these witnesses, some of them! Let us, in imagination, call them (as it were) into Court, and take their evidence! I would take Hezekiah first, and then Manasseh! and Mary Magdalene: we have their recorded evidence in God's own written word! and Peter, you know the testimony he affords! Seeing then that we are thus compassed about with such a cloud of witnesses, not only the ones I have just named, but innumerable others--O! may the blessed effect of it all be, that we, each one of us, for whom Christ was stricken, may "lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God." "Looking unto Jesus!" O! has the Holy Ghost made us poor and needy, and in poverty and in need do we look to Jesus Christ for all things?
No one ever looks to Christ but the sinner made sensible of his sin. And as you look unto Jesus, do you view Him by faith as your Advocate before the throne? Do you experimentally know what it is to go to Him in your troubles, in your exercises, distresses, and need? Do you believe that He was indeed stricken for you? wounded, crucified for you? And looking at, and looking to, Jesus, as the once stricken, suffering Saviour--and now the Almighty intercessor in heaven, do you know what it is to use in all the reality of prayer, that sweet petition in our litany--"By Thine agony and bloody sweat--by Thy cross and passion--by Thy precious death and burial--by Thy glorious resurrection and ascension--and by the coming of the Holy Ghost." "Good Lord deliver us." "In all time of our tribulation, in all time of our wealth, in the hour of death, and in the day of judgment," "Good Lord deliver us."