Jesus Christ, Our Perfect Suffering Servant – Isaiah 53 

Last week we saw in Deuteronomy 21 the damage sin causes in the community and nation and the Lord’s requirement that sin be atoned for.

We learned that sin is deadly and severs our relationship with the Holy God.  We also learned that we are all sinners and are all guilty and deserving of death as a consequence for our sin.  We learned that the only way sin can be atoned for and forgiven is through the shedding of blood.  Therefore we have a problem that must be solved.  We desperately need atonement for our sins. That was the bad news…

Then we rejoiced in the Good news and learned that God has provided His own atonement for our sins through the sacrifice of His perfect Son, Jesus Christ.

In Isaiah 53 we see in great detail the humility and exaltation of our Lord Jesus foretold by the Prophet Isaiah 700 years before the actual events took place.

This text is considered the “forbidden text” by Jewish rabbis because it so clearly points to Christ as the Suffering Servant of the Lord.

Let’s dig into the feast starting at Isaiah 52:13….

The Humble/Exalted Servant of God

13 Behold, My Servant shall deal prudently; He shall be exalted and extolled and be very high.

  • Who is “My Servant?”  Israel, Isaiah, another prophet?
  • We know from the context that It cannot be Isaiah or Israel.
  • Isa 42:1 “Behold! My Servant whom I uphold, My Elect One in whom My soul delights! I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles.
  • Isa 49:6 Indeed He says, `It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant To raise up the tribes of Jacob, And to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, That You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth. “
  • Isa 53:11 He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, For He shall bear their iniquities.
  • From these verses and many more in our context we can discern that “My Servant” is someone other than Isaiah or Israel.  If so, then who could it be?  Who in history will perform these mighty acts foretold by Isaiah?
  • The Hebrew verb meanings and constructs convey this idea: That he will rise up, he will raise himself still higher, he will stand on high. The verbs in the Hebrew denote the commencement, the continuation, and the result or climax of the exaltation; the resurrection, the ascension, and the sitting down at the right hand of God.
  • And so we see at the outset of our text that the Servant of the Lord will deal prudently/wisely and as a result will be highly exalted.
  • I believe we will see clearly today from our text and its fulfillment in the New Testament accounts that this Servant is the Lord Jesus Christ.
  • Vs. 13 says that He will “deal prudently.”  What is meant by “deal prudently”?  What is so great about His actions that the Lord would be pleased to highly exalt Him?  Let’s continue through the text to find out….

14 Just as many were astonished at you, So His visage was marred more than any man, And His form more than the sons of men;

  • Just as His degradation was the deepest degradation possible, so His glorification would be of the highest kind. The height of His exaltation is held up as presenting a perfect contrast to the depth of His degradation.
  • It is interesting that the church before the time of Constantine pictured the Lord, as He walked on earth, as repulsive in His appearance; whereas the church after Constantine pictured Him as having quite an ideal beauty.
  • They were both right: He was unattractive in appearance as he lived and walked the earth; but He is ideally beautiful in His glorification.

15 So shall He sprinkle many nations. Kings shall shut their mouths at Him; For what had not been told them they shall see, And what they had not heard they shall consider.

  • The word “sprinkle” here is also used in referring to the sprinkling of the blood with the finger on the altar of incense on the day of atonement.  Thereby giving the image that the Servant will atone for the sins of the nations.
  • So even from Old Testament prophecy we can see that God’s plan of salvation has always been for Israel and the Nations.
  • The first section in the prophecy closes here: The servant of the Lord, whose inhuman sufferings excite such astonishment, is exalted on high; so that from utter amazement the nations tremble, and their kings are struck dumb.

53:1 Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?

  • Notice the shift to the first person plural “our.”  This cannot be Isaiah’s report, for he would have used the singular.  It cannot be the Gentiles, for we know from 52:14-15 that they have not heard and will be astonished when they do.  So from the context of the passage we can deduce that it is the nation Israel making this confession.
  • This verse is quoted in the New Testament…
  • John 12:36-37 –  37 But although He had done so many signs before them, they did not believe in Him, 38 that the word of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spoke: “Lord, who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?”
  • Romans 10:16 – But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report?”
  • Israel, the nation which acknowledges with penitence how shamefully it has mistaken its own Savior, laments that it has put no faith in the news of the high and glorious calling of the servant of God.
  • What is the “report/message” Israel is referring to?  None other than the humility and exaltation of Messiah, the Servant.
  • All that follows is the confession of the Israel of the last times, to which this question is the introduction.
  • This text is one of the greatest prophecies of the future conversion of the nation Israel, which has rejected the servant of God, and allowed the Gentiles to be the first to recognize him. A remnant in Israel will repent and trust Messiah Jesus.  Then this chapter will receive its complete historical fulfillment.

2 For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, And as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; And when we see Him, There is no beauty that we should desire Him.

  • Notice the words:  “tender plant”, “dry ground”
  • Both figures depict the lowly and unattractive character of His humble beginning.
  • The expression “out of dry ground,” brings out the miserable character of the external circumstances in which the birth and growth of the servant had taken place.
  • The “dry ground” is the state of the enslaved and degraded nation Israel; The dry ground is the corrupt character of the age and nation into which He was born.
  • Here we see the humility in our Lord’s coming.  He did not come in majesty and glory, but in humility as a baby.  Born in a barn and laid in a feeding trough.
  • His appearance was also humble:  the rest of verse 2 could be said this way:  “We saw Him, and there was nothing in His appearance to make us desire Him, or feel attracted by Him.”
  • He dwelt in Israel, so that they had Him bodily before their eyes, but in His outward appearance there was nothing to attract or delight their senses.

3 He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.

  • Following from verse 2, the impression produced by His appearance was rather repulsive and contemptible.
  • The chief men of Israel and the great men of this world, drew back from Him.
  • He was a man of sorrow of heart in all its forms.
  • His life was one of constant painful endurance.
  • The wrath instigated by sin, and the zeal of self-sacrifice burnt like the fire of a fever in His soul and body.
  • Those who saw Him hid their faces from him, and considered him worthless.
  • Of Jesus they claimed:”He has a demon and is mad. Why do you listen to Him?” (Joh 10:20)
  • Jesus was despised and rejected by those in power and leadership and was a man of no reputation or esteem.
  • The second section closes here. The preaching concerning His calling and His future was not believed; the Man of sorrows was greatly despised and rejected.

4 Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted.

  • This verse is quoted in the New Testament in Matthew.
  • Matthew 8:16-17 – 16 When evening had come, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed. And He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were sick,17 that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: “He Himself took our infirmities And bore our sicknesses.”
  • The meaning is not merely that the Servant of God entered into the fellowship of our sufferings, but that He took upon Himself the sufferings which we had to bear and deserved to bear, and therefore not only took them away (as Mat_8:17 might make it appear), but bore them in His own person, that He might deliver us from them.
  • Here we have the image of Jesus as our substitute.  Bearing our griefs and sorrows upon Himself.
  • Here Israel confesses its own blindness in that as Christ carried their sorrows and griefs, they reckoned them to be His own sins rather than theirs.  They saw this punishment from God as a result of Christ’s own sins.  How blind Israel has been!

5 But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.

  • He was pierced and crushed because of our sins and iniquities. It was not His own sins and iniquities, but ours, which He took upon Himself.
  • In this way He made atonement for them in our place.
  • This was the cause of His suffering so cruel and painful a death.
  • The Apostle Peter when describing how we will suffer as Christians said this of our Lord Jesus’ sufferings…
  • 1 Peter 2:19-25 – 21 For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: 22 “Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth”; 23 who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; 24 who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness–by whose stripes you were healed. 25 For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
  • We were sick unto death because of our sins; but He, the sinless one, took upon Himself a suffering unto death which was the essence of the suffering that we deserve.
  • It is this submission to the Father through suffering unto death on the cross that became the source of our healing.

6 All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

  • Here we see Israel’s confession and repentance.
  • Israel in its exile resembled a scattered flock without a shepherd; it had lost the way of the Lord (Isa_63:17), and every one had turned to his own way, in utter selfishness and estrangement from God (Isa_56:11).
  • But as Israel heaped up guilt upon guilt, the Servant of the Lord was He upon whom God Himself caused the punishment of their guilt to fall, that He might make atonement for it through His own suffering.
  • We also should make this confession.
  • We as Israel should see the depth of our sin and depravity and the infinite grace and mercy of our Lord.  We are great sinners, but He is a Great Savior.
  • Psalm 14:1-3 – The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, They have done abominable works, There is none who does good. 2 The LORD looks down from heaven upon the children of men, To see if there are any who understand, who seek God. 3 They have all turned aside, They have together become corrupt; There is none who does good, No, not one.
  • Ephesians 2:1-3 – And you were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.
  • We are sinners and the Lord laid our sins on Jesus…
  • 1Peter 3:18 – For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit,
  • All this great multitude of sins, and mass of guilt, and weight of punishment, came upon the Servant of Jehovah according to the appointment of the God of salvation, who is gracious in holiness.
  • The third section ends here. It was our sins that He bore, and for our salvation that God caused Him to suffer on our account.

His suffering, death, and burial

7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So He opened not His mouth.

  • We see clear fulfillment of this by Jesus in the all the New Testament Gospels…
  • Matthew 26:63 – Jesus kept silent. And the high priest answered and said to Him, “I put You under oath by the living God: Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God!”
  • Matthew 27:12-14 And while He was being accused by the chief priests and elders, He answered nothing.
  • Mark 15:5 – But Jesus still answered nothing, so that Pilate marveled.
  • Luke 23:9 – Then he questioned Him with many words, but He (Jesus) answered him nothing.
  • John 19:9 – and went again into the Praetorium, and said to Jesus, “Where are You from?” But Jesus gave him no answer.
  • John 1:29 – John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

8 He was taken from prison and from judgment, And who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; For the transgressions of My people He was stricken.

  • Perhaps a better rendering:  “He has been taken away from prison and from judgment; and His generation considered that: ‘He was snatched away out of the land of the living; for the wickedness of my people punishment fell upon Him’?”
  • The meaning here is not that prison and judgment were removed from him, but rather that it was out of the midst of suffering that He was carried off.
  • Jesus was killed for our transgressions.

9 And they made His grave with the wicked—But with the rich at His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was any deceit in His mouth.

  • Jesus also clearly fulfilled this prophecy in the New Testament
  • He was crucified between two thieves.
  • Matthew 27:32-38 – 33 And when they had come to a place called Golgotha, that is to say, Place of a Skull, 34 they gave Him sour wine mingled with gall to drink. But when He had tasted it, He would not drink. 35 Then they crucified Him, and divided His garments, casting lots, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet: “They divided My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots.” 36 Sitting down, they kept watch over Him there. 37 And they put up over His head the accusation written against Him: THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS. 38 Then two robbers were crucified with Him, one on the right and another on the left.
  • He was buried in a rich man’s tomb.
  • Matthew 27:5757 Now when evening had come, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus.58 This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be given to him. 59 When Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, 60 and laid it in his new tomb which he had hewn out of the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the door of the tomb, and departed.
  • In His burial the exaltation of our Savior begins because he was sinless till the end.  The humiliation is complete.  Atonement has been made.

His Exaltation

10 Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, And the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand.

  • His sacrifice was of both body and soul.  Therefore His sacrifice redeems both our bodies and souls.  The self-sacrifice of the Servant of Jehovah is complete and the end of all sacrifices.
  • The suffering of His Servant was to be the way to glory, and this way through suffering to glory was to lead to the establishment of the church of the redeemed.
  • The reference here is to the new “seed of Israel,” the people redeemed by Him, the church of the redeemed out of Israel and all nations, of which He would lay the foundation.
  • He should live long days, as Jesus says in Revelation 1:18 – “I am the First and the Last. 18 “I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.”
  • Verse 10 looks forward to Jesus as the mediator of a new covenant, and the restorer of Israel, the light of the Gentiles and salvation of the Lord even to the ends of the earth.
  • We also see that the Father takes much pleasure in the Son:
  • Isa 42:1 “Behold! My Servant whom I uphold, My Elect One in whom My soul delights! I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles.
  • At Jesus baptism:  Matthew 3:17 And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
  • At Jesus’ transfiguration with Moses & Elijah: Matthew 17:5 While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!”

11 He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, For He shall bear their iniquities.

  • The dead yet living One, because of His one self-sacrifice, is an eternal Priest, who now lives to distribute the blessings that He has acquired.

12 Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, And He shall divide the spoil with the strong, Because He poured out His soul unto death, And He was numbered with the transgressors, And He bore the sin of many, And made intercession for the transgressors.

Philippians 2:5-11 Sums this up perfectly – 5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. 9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

  • Christ is the exalted King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  He is Savior of Israel and the Nations.
  • Remember, our text today is Israel’s confession.
  • In the person of the Servant of the Lord the idea of Israel is fully realized, and the true nature of Israel shines forth in all its brilliancy.
  • Israel is the body, and He the head, towering above it.
  • Jesus is the the Suffering Servant of Isaiah and the fulfillment of Deuteronomy 18:15 where Moses said – “The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear,”
  • The Servant of the Lord goes through shame to glory, and through death to life.
  • He conquers when He falls; He rules after being enslaved; He lives after He has died; He completes His work after He Himself has been apparently cut off.
  • His glory streams upon the dark ground of the deepest humiliation.
  • Jesus is the perfect Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.
  • Believe in Him and have abundant and eternal life today!
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