The gospel in a verse
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. Isaiah 53:6
Here is the gospel in one sentence, and in an Old Testament prophet no less! First, we are told of our sin: "all we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way." Note the universality of sin: "all we like sheep have gone astray." That means you and me. No one can say they are exempt. We have sinned against God and fallen infinitely short of his glory (Rom. 3:23). We have turned to our own way, rejecting his will for our lives so we can carve out our own path. We want to be the sovereigns over our own lives; we want to decide what's good for us. We want to think we know better. And so we turn aside onto self-destructive lifestyles and choose the way that ends in death. We are rebels against God, all of us.
Second, we are reminded that God is God and we are not: "And the LORD..." This is the one who spoke to Moses, the I AM THAT I AM (Exod. 3:14). We are not merely sinning against our neighbor; we are sinning against God. "Against thee, thee only have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight," should be our confession, as it was King David's (Ps. 51:4). God created us, gave us life and every blessing we enjoy. In him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28). You breathe because God lets you breathe. And yet we are not thankful and we spurn his law. We don't have the right to decide what is right and wrong; only God does. And yet we act as if we do. The God who is a God of infinite glory, and to whom we owe infinite obligations, is the God against whom we have sinned. This is no light matter. It is the reason why there is a hell. The judgement of the wicked is and will be seen to be perfectly just.
But third, we see that though God owes us nothing, nothing at all, yet he has made a provision for sinful men and women so that those who are worthy of everlasting punishment may escape it and be received back into fellowship with the Most High. What provision is this? Is it the opportunity for us to make everything right? No, for we could never do that. Certainly, we should and must repent, but at the same time we must not seek our justification before God there. Rather, the gospel, the good news, is this: "the LORD hath laid on him [his righteous servant] the iniquity of us all."
Jesus is that righteous servant who came to do the Father's will (Jn. 6:38). What does this mean? It means that God put upon his Son the punishment of the guilt of our sins, so that all who believe on him will not perish but have everlasting life (Jn. 3:16). It means, as the apostle Paul put it, that God the Father "hath made him [God the Son] to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him" (2 Cor. 5:21). Here is a Great Exchange. God took our sins upon himself and bore its punishment so that we could have his righteousness and the forgiveness of sins.
Jesus, the Son of God, the Father's righteous and faithful servant, accomplished this on the cross. It was on the cross that Jesus bore the punishment due to sins. And he completely paid the price, and when he said, "It is finished" (Jn. 19:30), my friend you can believe it was fully and finally finished. He has "obtained eternal redemption for us" (Heb. 9:12).
But who are the "us all"? Who receives this incredible gift? It is not for those who come to God with their righteousness, not to those who plead their own merits, nor to those who yawn past their own sins and guilt. It comes to those who, burdened and weighed down by their sins, rest and repose themselves wholly upon Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. To them our Lord says, openly and unequivocally, "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Mt. 11:28).
Let us come to him then. Let us take our burdens and bring them to Christ, and he will according to his promise, give us rest. He took your sins and cast them into the deep, no more to be seen. To those who look to Christ: he has absolved you. That is the gospel. And that is what we need to preach to ourselves and that is what we need to preach to others.