Isaiah 52:13-53:12 The King: Prophesied to Suffer WC McCarter
In this poem which has been called a Servant Song, we read about the divine movement of redemption that sees God leave His place of glory, descend to earth to suffer in the place of the world, and return again to His heavenly place. Jews have most often claimed that the Suffering Servant in this song, and the three the precede it, is an “ideal Israel.” Yet, Christians have always interpreted this passage as Messianic, that is, the Suffering Servant is Christ and the song shows that the king was prophesied to suffer. This prophesy is the clearest Old Testament passage concerning what Christ would do on the cross. It is so clear to Christians that many have called it the “Fifth Gospel.” When the deacon, Philip, met the Ethiopian eunuch on the desert road between Jerusalem and Gaza, the man was reading from Isaiah 53. Look with me there at Acts 8:26-35.
Like Philip, I would like to preach Jesus to you this morning from Isaiah 53.
READ Scripture- This is the Word of God
The Report (13-15)
The last paragraph of Isa 52 serves as an introduction into Isa 53 which is called the Fourth Servant Song. The prophet introduces us to this figure in chapters 42:1-4; 49:1-6; and 50:4-9. This last Song is the climax of all the songs and is the clearest proclamation of the Gospel in the OT.
Isaiah becomes this proclamation with the word, “Behold!” which is one of his favorites to grab the hearer’s attention. He says that the Servant shall deal prudently or act wisely, which in wisdom literature is to say that He will be successful. A threefold exaltation is used for the Servant to show emphatically that He will be exalted far above all others. As astonishing as the height of His exaltation will be, the lowliness of His humility will be just as great. He is said to be so disfigured that onlookers would not only say on the individual level, “Who is He?” but they would also say on the corporate level, “Is this human?” He would not even look like the rest of the sons of men, or “humanity.” Despite this news, the Servant will still be exalted. He will still do something great, something that will influence the whole world. He will surprisingly sprinkle many nations. Kings will not know what to say and will keep their mouths shut out of honor and respect for Him.
Who Has Believed the Report? (1)
I believe that prophet poses the question of verse one and then answers his own question with another question. This is very artistic and poetic. Who could ever believe this report that Yahweh’s Servant could be successful and highly exalted when hearing and seeing His great suffering? Who can believe this? Who but the ones to whom the arm of the Lord has been revealed? Let me say the same thing in more straightforward language. Who in the world could believe that a suffering and severely marred man could accomplish anything? Only those who have turned to the revelation of God with an open mind and received what He has said about the suffering of the Servant. Only those who are willing to accept what God has said and what God is doing. Let me tell you plainly, only those who look at the cross with God’s perspective will ever see anything good and beautiful.
The world looks at Jesus on the cross and they see one thing while believers look at Him crucified and see another thing. Let me show you this from Isa 53, and let’s interpret the cross with this Scripture.
What the World Sees (14b, 2-3, 4b, 7a, 8b)
Why can the world not see that Jesus is the “Arm of the Lord”? They see something completely different because they are not looking through the lens of the revelation of God. They see a man whose appearance was completely disfigured from the beatings, torture, and crucifixion. But, even before that, the world could only see a mere human boy. He did not appear to be God (He grew up before Him), He had natural growth (tender plant), He was not expected (out of dry ground), and He was not physically special (no beauty, majesty, or desirability). He was simply despised and rejected, not only in His earthly life, but especially on the cross. The world only sees a man of sorrows who is acquainted with grief. The world hid from Him. They wanted nothing to do with Him. They despised Him and did not esteem Him at all. They thought that He died because of His own sins or because He could not keep His mouth shut.
What the Believer Sees (13-14a, 4a, 5-6, 8c-12)
When we look at Jesus Christ on the cross, we see the God-man bearing our sins and carrying our sorrows. We see Him wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities, and chastised for our peace. His stripes are for our healing (spiritually speaking), and the iniquity of us all was laid on Him. This is what we see. He was stricken for our transgressions. Here we see that His death was not merely a physical one. We have the theology, doctrine, and vocabulary here for what we believe happened on the cross. And, probably, the key to our understanding that His death was more than a physical one comes in verse ten. His soul was made an offering for sin. You see, He was in great physical pain because His death was human, physical, and literal, but He was in even greater agony than that. Jesus Christ took the sins of the world upon His sinless soul. His sinless soul absorbed the sin of the human race from history past and history future. His was a once-for-all death as an offering for sin. This is God’s one-and-only solution for the sin problem.
Penal Substitution: Christ paid the penalty for our sins as our substitute.
What the Reformers saw:
“That we may know his death to be connected with his condemnation. . . . He died so that the penalty owed by us might be discharged, and he might exempt us from it. But since we all, because we are sinners, were offensive to the judgment of God, in order to stand in our stead, he desired to be arraigned before and earthly judge, and to be condemned by his mouth, so that we might be acquitted before the heavenly tribunal of God.” He was “condemned in the presence of an earthly judge, that we should be absolved before the judgment seat of our God.” –John Calvin
"Since Jesus Christ became a substitute for us all, and took upon Himself our sins, that he might bear Gods terrible wrath against sin and expiate our guilt, he necessarily felt the sin of the whole world, together with the entire wrath of God, and afterwards the agony of death on account of this sin." –Martin Luther
Conclusion and Christian Application
So, you see, the Bible/Christianity/Gospel is unique in its doctrine of atonement. No other religion, whether big or small, on the face of this earth offers a true, once-for-all remedy for the sin problem. The Gospel says, Jesus has taken our place as our substitute to bear our penalty for sin. This doctrine is taught throughout the Bible. It was foreshadowed and prophesied in the OT, seen clearly in the suffering and crucifixion of Christ, and it was proclaimed throughout the world beginning with the Apostles.
We think of Abraham who said in Gen 22:8, God will provide Himself the lamb. The Passover lamb in Exod 12 was also a foreshadowing of God passing over our sins because of Christ. The scapegoat in Lev who took away the sin of the worshiper was also another foreshadowing. Of course, this message is declared no more clearly in the OT than in Isa 53.
And what was it the Apostles and early Christians proclaimed? 2 Cor 5:21 says that God made Jesus, who knew no sin, to be sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. Gal 3:13 says that Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us on the tree. 1 Pet 2 says that Christ suffered for us, bearing our sins in His own body on the tree.
You have to look at the cross with the perspective of God. You have to see beauty and success through the suffering and death of Christ. You have to see that His death was a sacrifice for your sin and my sin and our sin. You have to see that this was the divine plan from the beginning of time. He is the lamb who takes away the sin of the world. You have to see it, hear it, believe it, trust it, and treasure it. This is the Gospel, the Good News.