Friday, January 16, 2009

The Silence of the Substitute

From Sinclair Ferguson's forthcoming chapter in The Power of Words and the Wonder of God:
[Christ] our Savior is our Exemplar. But he is not only, nor is he first of all, an Exemplar. To be that, he needed first to become our Savior. All this is part of the grand vision of Isaiah’s Servant Songs (so influential in Jesus’ own reception of God’s word!). The Father opened the ear of his Son; the Son was not rebellious. He was willing to be “oppressed and afflicted.” As he experienced this in his trial and condemnation, “he opened not his mouth . . .” (Isa. 53:7).

Why was Jesus silent? Is there more to this than meets the eyes?

Indeed there is!

He was silent because of every word that has proceeded from your lips; because of every word that provides adequate reason for God to damn you for all eternity, because you have cursed him or his image.

The Lord Jesus came into the world to bear the judgment of God against the sin of our tongues. When he stood before the High Priest and the judgment seat of Pontius Pilate, he accepted a sentence of guilt. But that was my guilt. He bore in his body on the tree the sins of my lips and my tongue.

Do you wish you could control your tongue better? Do you want to follow the example of Jesus? Then you need to understand that he is Savior first, and then he is Example. You need to come, conscious of the sin of your lips, and say:
God be merciful to me a sinner.
I thank you that Jesus came and was silent
in order that he might bear the penalty of all my misuse of my tongue.
And when you know that he has taken God’s judgment and wrath against your every sinful word, you cannot but come to him and say:
O, for a thousand tongues to sing my great Redeemer’s praise.
He is able to answer that prayer, and its companion petition:
Be of sin the double cure, cleanse me from its guilt and power.
All the guilt can be cleansed away! Christ can deliver you from the misuse of the tongue. And when you come to him conscious of that sin, you discover what a glorious Savior he is. Delivered—albeit not yet perfected and glorified—your tongue now shows forth his praises. Taken out of the pit and from the miry clay on your lips is now a new song of praise to your God. Then people not only hear a different vocabulary, but they hear you speak with a different accent. That is what leaves the lasting impression of the power of Christ and the transformation of grace in your life.