By Pastor J.D. Link
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Today’s message is simply titled Isaiah 53. It has been said that the New Testament is the Old testament revealed; and the Old Testament is the New Testament concealed. This is why it is important for us to read the Old Testament, because the entire NT – specifically Jesus Himself – is hidden therein. As Jesus told the Pharisees, “Search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life – but they all testify of me.” And Paul said the OT is written for our example and our learning. So today, in preparation for Resurrection Sunday next Sunday, we are going to look at the most revealing chapter of the sufferings of Jesus Christ contained in the OT. To fully understand the Gospel accounts of the passion of Jesus Christ, we need to understand what Isaiah prophesied about Him over 700 years before it happened. I encourage all of us to sit down in our homes this week, and meditate on the sufferings of Jesus from the four Gospels: Mt 26-28, Mk 14-16, Lk 22-24, Jn 18-21. I encourage us to saturate ourselves in meditating on the cross, so that we fully appreciate celebrating Resurrection Sunday.
Isa 53:1 “Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?” Who has believed our report? The Gospel is the most glorious, wonderful and powerful message on the planet, and there consist ample proof that it is factual and true. Yet, it is apparent that most of the Jews of Isaiah’s day did not believe His prophecy; and we know most people in the times of Jesus and His apostles did not receive it. And today, it is no different. Though the gospel is proclaimed throughout the whole world via movies, radio, internet and satellite TV – as well as the traditional methods of personal evangelism; mass production and distribution of Christian literature, including Bibles, books and tracts; as well as churches, Christian book stores, home groups, Bible colleges, seminaries, etc. – yet only around 30% of the earth’s population of 7 billion people identify themselves with Christianity. Undoubtedly less than that are actual born again Believers.
“To whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?” To whom will Jesus be revealed? How few will receive Him? Mat 7:13-14 “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” This should not cause us to boast, but rather stand in fear and awe of God’s amazing grace, and to be eternally full of thanksgiving and gratitude that God foreknew us; predestinated us; called us; justified us; and glorified us (Rom 8:29-30).
Isa 53:2 “For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.” Isa 11:1-2 “And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD.” Their was a famine in the land at the time of Jesus’ birth. A spiritual famine. A famine for the words of God, as the prophet Amos spoke about in Amos 8:11. There had been no word from God since Malachi – which had been 400 years ago, at the time of the birth of Christ. This is why John the Baptist was sent as His forerunner – to prepare the hearts of the people – to get people ready to receive their Messiah. “He hath no form (beautiful appearance) nor comeliness (magnificence); and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.” This does not mean Jesus was ugly. It just means He was plain. He was average. And He came into the world in simplicity. He was an obscure, small town boy. He didn’t live in a royal palace or wear kingly garments. He didn’t have a famous name (that would come later). There was nothing that would draw the world’s attention to Him. He was just an itinerant Galilean rabbi who attracted hot-headed fishermen (Mk 3:17) – and various sorts of what some might call “riff raff and rabble” – like tax collectors and prostitutes. However, people didn’t remain in these states when they became His followers. No, he set them free. They were delivered.
Isa 53:3 “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. He is despised (disesteemed, disdained, thought of as vile) and rejected of men (thought of as vacant, destitute and frail); a man of sorrows (anguish, affliction, grief & pain), and acquainted with grief (who knows sickness, disease, malady, anxiety & calamity).” Jesus was despised and rejected. He wasn’t welcomed into the company of most important people. He grew up in a town (Nazareth) that people said “nothing good comes out of”. He was hated by the religious rulers – the priests, scribes and Pharisees. He was called a mad-man, a deceiver, and told he was possessed by Satan. He was uneducated, a carpenter by trade. His following were considered at the time a lower class people – ex-fishermen, ex-harlots, ex-publicans – and women. He was accused of being a drunkard and a glutton. He was accused of being a Sabbath breaker. He was accused of Blasphemy against God.
In the end, His closest friends failed to even pray with Him; and then abandoned Him. One of his own disciples betrayed Him with a kiss. One of His inner circle denied Him three times. And though He taught and fed and loved and healed and delivered multitudes; in the end the masses rejected him and called for His execution by crucifixion; and requested a murderer be released instead.
“He was a man of sorrows and acquainted grief.” Through the mad-man Herod, Satan sought His life from His very birth, through the order to execute all the young children in and around Bethlehem. He endured the brutal beheading of His cousin and forerunner, the greatest prophet of all, John the Baptist. He was moved with compassion as He looked upon the multitudes as being sheep without a shepherd, and as He cried out for Jerusalem, who He longed to gather to Himself as a mother hen does her chicks under her wing – He lamented that they instead killed the prophets and stoned those sent to her. He wept at Lazarus’s tomb, as He witnessed the grief and sorrow of Lazarus’s sisters and friends. And in the garden of Gethsemane, He was under such duress and sorrow, that he sweat great drops of blood.
“And we hid our faces from Him.” Mankind hid their face from Him. When you hide your face, it is on purpose. Mankind in general hides their face from Jesus. They hide from His deity. They hide from His righteous requirements. They hide because of their sin and shame, and instead of running to the cross and falling at His feet in worship and repentance to receive cleansing and forgiveness; they run from Him – or mock and criticize Him. And as He hung on the cross, bearing the weight of the sin & evil & disease & filth of the entire world, He was unrecognizable as a man, and His form so disfigured and wretched, that man was hardly able to look upon Him. Such was the suffering of our Beloved Savior.
Isa 53:4-5 “Surely he hath borne (lifted and taken) OUR griefs (anxiety, calamity, sickness & disease), and carried (been burdened with) OUR sorrows (anguish & afflictions): yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded (profaned, stained, polluted, defiled) for (because of, in, through) our transgressions (revolt, rebellion, sin, trespasses), he was bruised (beaten to pieces, broken, crushed, destroyed, humbled, oppressed, smitten) for (because of, in, through) our iniquities (perversity, evil, faults, mischief, sin) : the chastisement of (for) our peace (shalom – completeness, safety, health, prosperity, tranquility) was upon him; and with his stripes (bruises, wounds, and blows) we are healed (mended, cured, repaired, made whole).”
It is true that Jesus was indeed stricken, afflicted and smitten by God. However, it was not for any sin He committed, for He was without sin. At the time of Jesus’ death, men believed that if one suffered these things, it was God’s judgment for some sin in one’s life. But Jesus had no sin. He bore upon Himself OUR disease and calamity. He carried OUR anguish and affliction. He was profaned, polluted and defiled with OUR transgression, rebellion and sin. He was crushed and oppressed because of OUR iniquity, perversity and evil. He did nothing wrong. He sacrificed His life for us – the Just for the unjust; the Righteous for the unrighteous. The Pure and Holy, for the sinful & wicked. The perfect Man and God; The Lover of our souls; the kind and gentle Shepherd gave His life for His sheep. The punishment that we deserved – in order for us to have everlasting peace with God – was upon the Lord Jesus Christ.
Isa 53:6 “All we like sheep have gone astray (wandered, erred, dissembled); we have turned every one to his own way (course of life, mode of action); and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity (perversity, evil) of us all.” Rom 3:10-18 “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understands, there is none that seeks after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open tomb; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: Their feet are swift to shed blood: Destruction and misery are in their ways: And the way of peace have they not known: There is no fear of God before their eyes.” All of us have sinned and come short of God’s glory. Therefore, the Father laid upon the Son the iniquity of us all.
Isa 53:7 “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opens not his mouth.” Jesus is the Lamb of God, the Passover Lamb; the perfect Sacrifice of God. He willing gave Himself, and opened not His mouth in His defense. Though He could have called 12 legions of angels; or simply spoken a word and stopped it all – Love compelled Him to fulfill His mission on this earth. Selah.
Isa 53:8 “He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? For he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.” Jesus was falsely arrested; falsely accused; falsely tried; falsely convicted; He was mocked, slapped, beaten with a rod, spat upon, crowned with thorns, His beard plucked from His face, scourged with a Roman whip – all under false pretense. And ultimately He was falsely executed, in the most painful and barbaric way. When we use the term “excruciating pain”, we are saying, “pain that comes out of the cross.” Even worse, add to this the suffering of spirit and soul. For our wickedness He was cut off out of the land of the living. For our transgressions He suffered and died. It is unimaginable.
Isa 53:9 “And He made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.” He died in a wicked way, as if we was a wicked man; between to wicked men. But yet His Father saw to it, that He was buried in honor, and placed in a rich man’s tomb (Joseph of Arimathea). Jesus had done no violence, neither was deceit in His mouth. He was a man of peace, humble and caring; and He only and always spoke truth. The Father honored the Son, who so courageously fulfilled His mission, with a proper burial.
Isa 53:10 “Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt 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.” Though wicked men were used as God’s instruments, it was essentially The Father Himself who bruised Jesus and put Him to grief; and made His soul an offering for sin. It was God’s divine will. It was Jesus who cooperated fully. No man took His life. Jesus said, “No man takes my life from me. I lay it down, and I take it up again.” He gave it in accordance with God’s divine plan. God saw the sufferings of His Seed. He saw the suffering anguish of His Son; and now God has prolonged His days, raising Him from the dead and glorifying Him forever more; and giving Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philp 2:10-11). And the Lord’s good pleasure and will has prospered in His hand. Jesus perfectly fulfilled His Father’s will, and accomplished all He was sent to do.
Isa 53:11 “He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.” No further sacrifice is required. No other blood needs to be shed. No other payment needs to be made. Jesus died on the cross – one time – one sacrifice – for all men – for all sins – for all time – and is now seated at the right hand of The Father (see Heb. 10). The Father is satisfied. The wrath of God against sin has been settled. It was poured out in full on Calvary’s Hill 2000 years ago. Jesus cried from the cross “It is Finished!”, and it was. The law for righteousness was fulfilled (Rom 10:4). The Father’s plan to make an abundant entrance for all mankind into eternal heaven was finished. It is indeed finished. Jesus bore the iniquities of all mankind, and now as God’s righteous servant, He justifies all that humble themselves, and cry out to Him in faith.
Isa 53:12 “Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” Jesus poured out His soul unto death. He emptied Himself of His precious life blood. He became sin with our sins, that we might be made righteous with His righteousness. He was numbered with us, the transgressors. God the Son became incarnate – He put on flesh and became one of us, that He might die in our place, and redeem us with His blood, and wash away our sins, and give us eternal life when we turn to Him with all of our heart, and call on His name, and put faith in Him alone as our Lord and Savior. Jesus is now highly exalted, above any earthly king that has ever existed. He has been given the name above all names. He is King of kings and Lord of Lords! The Apostle and High priest of our confession! And our soon coming Redeemer.
So what is the conclusion of the matter? What is the message of Isaiah 53? God so loved mankind, that He gave His only begotten Son, That whosoever believes on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, and no man comes unto the Father but by Him. For by grace are you saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works lest any man should boast. For their is no other name under heaven, given among men, whereby we must be saved. For whosoever confesses with their mouth the Lordship of Jesus Christ and believes in their heart that God has raised Him from the dead, shall be saved. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God (1Jn 5:13). Selah.